Thursday, December 31, 2009

VC investment in green technologies approaches $5 billion in 2009

CAMBRIDGE, USA: Greentech Media Inc., the industry-leading online media company covering green technology news and analysis, released year-end venture capital figures showing that VC investment in green technologies totaled $4.85 billion in 356 deals in 2009. Although the dollar total is down from 2008's $7.6 billion, the number of deals exceeded last year's total as entrepreneurs and venture firms look to the greentech sector to help lead the economy back to health.

Ira Ehrenpreis, a General Partner at Cleantech VC Technology Partners, comments on this year, "Although the fundraising numbers are slightly down from last year, 2009 was still one of the strongest years ever in the history of the cleantech sector with almost $5 billion raised. More importantly, the quality of the deals and entrepreneurship is likely the strongest we've ever seen."

Consistent with the last four years, solar power was once again the leading investment segment at more than $1.4 billion in 84 deals followed by biofuels at $976 million in 44 rounds. As forecast by GTM Research -- investment in Smart Grid, Energy Storage and Automotive is gaining momentum along with overlooked sectors such as Wind, Water and Lighting. Water has finally made it onto venture capital radar screens with more than $130 million invested in 33 deals.

Driven by the optimism of a recovering economy, plentiful government funding for renewable energy and a recent successful Greentech IPO in battery maker A123 Systems -- venture firms have returned to investing in all stages across all greentech sectors.

Notable and sizeable deals in 2009 included:
* Silver Spring Networks' $100 million investment from Google Ventures, Foundation Capital, Kleiner Perkins and Northgate Capital.
* Solyndra's $198 million VC investment from Argonaut Private Equity, et al. for the Fremont, Calif.-based thin-film solar firm and a $75 million C round for crystalline silicon solar vendor, Suniva.
* Synthetic Genomics' $300 million multi-year commitment from Exxon for the development of algae-based biofuels.
* eMeter's $32 million investment from Sequoia Capital and Foundation Capital and Tendril's $30 million round from VantagePoint and Good Energies for smart grid management software and hardware.
* Tesla Motors' $82.5 million round from Fjord Capital and Daimler Motors and Fisker Automotive's $85 million round from Kleiner Perkins et al, for their groundbreaking electric vehicles.
* Serious Materials' $60 million round from Mesirow Capital et al, for green building materials.

Some of the most active VC investors in greentech this year included NEA, CMEA, Khosla Ventures, Kleiner Perkins, NGEN Partners, DFJ, Foundation Capital and the Quercus Trust.

Although entrepreneurs have expressed some frustration with the difficulty in closing middle-stage rounds at less-than-profitable companies -- there is a marked trend of a return to early stage deals with more than 110 Series A and seed rounds this year.
Also remarkable was the increasingly global nature of greentech investment this year. Approximately 20 percent of greentech deals came from outside the United States, with many deals from the UK and France.

M&A picks up as does IPO activity
In the fourth quarter of 2009, Solel, a solar thermal power components vendor, was acquired by Siemens for $418 million and MEMC acquired Sun Edison, a solar PPA pioneer for $200 million in a sign of the consolidation sure to come in solar and greentech in 2010.

Also in 2009, battery maker A123 Systems' IPO was successful with the promise of the electric vehicle market buoying its valuation. STR Holdings, a maker of solar power module encapsulants, raised $123 million in its IPO, and although initial reaction was not overwhelming -- as of press time -- the stock is holding strong.

At the end of the year two VC-backed firms, Solyndra, a thin-film solar vendor and Codexis, a biofuels firm, filed their IPO registrations with the SEC in a hint of the wave of Greentech IPOs due to come in 2010.

Erik Straser, a partner at Mohr Davidow Ventures adds: "In 2009, private investors reaffirmed their interest in cleantech which is now garnering nearly 20 percent of all dollars invested by VCs. In 2010, we'll see public investors get into the action with several IPOs, but be careful to discern a good IPO from a good business."

According to Straser's colleague, Marianne Wu, also a partner at Mohr Davidow Ventures: "We saw tremendous innovation in 2009 as entrepreneurs addressed pressing opportunities across the cleantech spectrum. We continue to see talent turn to the massive opportunities in this new industrial revolution combating climate change. Some of the early market leaders are poised to go public in 2010 and companies are getting increasingly sophisticated in their approach to both the capital and industrial markets. We look forward to another great year!"

Atlantic Wind and Solar Inc. recaps highlights for 2009

TORONTO, CANADA: Atlantic Wind and Solar Inc. (PINKSHEETS: AWSL) is pleased to provide the following summary of significant achievements and corporate developments during 2009.

AWSL began 2009 focused on a singular corporate goal: To establish itself as a significant player in the Renewable Energy (RE) industry through Solar and/or Wind Power, thus opening up avenues for strong corporate growth in what management regards as the true Growth Industry of the 21st Century.

Management is gratified to note that its efforts toward achieving its primary goal met with unqualified success, paving the way for rapid growth as it accelerates its marketing efforts and expands its Solar Park revenues in the months ahead.

A promising first half
During the first half of 2009, the Company completed the important acquisition of a 47.5% ownership interest in key RE affiliate, Ontario-based Hybridyne Power Systems Canada Inc.; contracted with Geneva Bancorp Inc. (GBCorp.net) for Investment banking and Investor Relation services; entered into discussions regarding a working relationship with Centripetal Dynamics Inc. (CDI) regarding its revolutionary new wind turbine; and launched a marketing program for AWSL's Micro Energy Park, a cutting edge, high efficiency electricity generating system for roof and/or ground mounted RE installations.

A record second half
The accomplishments of the first half led to rapid progress in the latter half of the year, accelerated by the Ontario Government's introduction of its lucrative, long term Feed in Tariff (FIT) that quickly fulfilled the Government's intention of promoting Renewable Energy across Canada's most populated province.

Prompted by the new FIT, AWSL turned its focus to the enormous Solar Energy opportunities across Ontario (particularly rooftop solar); formed a strategic relationship with a leading Real Estate Development & Management company; began to receive a continuous flow of important Solar Park LOIs and contracts; and completed financing arrangements to fund the growing number of solar projects slated for construction.

Hoku announces amendment to contract with Alex New Energy

HONOLULU, HAWAII & SHANGHAI, CHINA: Hoku Materials Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Hoku Scientific Inc., established to manufacture and sell polysilicon for the solar market, and Shanghai Alex New Energy Co. Ltd. (Alex), a manufacturer of crystalline silicon solar cells, modules and photovoltaic (PV) products in China, today announced the amendment of the polysilicon supply agreement in effect between the two companies.

According to the terms of the amendment, both companies have agreed to delay the first shipment of polysilicon by Hoku to Alex from the first quarter to the third quarter of calendar year 2010. The other commercial terms of the supply agreement remain unchanged, including pricing, contract duration, and shipment volumes, among others.

"This amendment adjusts the timing of our first delivery to Alex to a date that is amenable to both companies," said Dustin Shindo, chairman and chief executive officer of Hoku Scientific. "Hoku was prepared to ship third-party product in accordance with our contract, but the updated schedule more closely matches Alex's revised supply chain forecasts while still conforming nicely to our projected production ramp. We look forward to the commencement of our regular deliveries of polysilicon to Alex in 2010."

"We are pleased by this amendment because it provides clear benefits to both companies, and reflects the continued strong partnership between Hoku and Alex," said Alex's president, Lian Wen Zhang.

Subsequent to the recent closing of its financing with Tianwei New Energy, Hoku reported it was now preparing for a reactor test demonstration in the first quarter of calendar year 2010, followed by a phased ramp-up to a planned initial production capacity of approximately 2,500 metric tons of polysilicon per year. The Company noted that the reactor test demonstration was pushed back slightly due to the timing of the close of the transaction with Tianwei.

Hoku explained that this first phase of production would be completed using third-party trichlorosilane (TCS), initial quantities of which had already been procured and delivered to the Company's Pocatello facility. Hoku explained that this revised ramp up and production schedule was expected to provide sufficient polysilicon to fully satisfy the Company's current contractual delivery obligations.

Hoku reported that it expected to continue adding reactor capacity throughout calendar 2010 until reaching the plant's full annual production capacity of 4,000 metric tons in the second half of the year. Hoku also said that it planned to bring its on-site TCS production facility online by the end of calendar 2010, which would eliminate the Company's need to procure third-party process chemicals.

Gov. Rendell announces next step in mid-Atlantic agreement on low carbon fuel standard

HARRISBURG, USA: Governor Edward G. Rendell has signed a memorandum of understanding with 10 Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states committing to a regional effort to develop a comprehensive, regional low carbon fuel standard to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transportation fuels.

"This regional effort marks the next step in Pennsylvania's remarkable transition to a green energy economy," Governor Rendell said. "Low carbon fuels are being manufactured right here in Pennsylvania, creating jobs and easing our dangerous reliance on foreign oil. Pennsylvania's alternative energy initiatives already have put thousands of Pennsylvanians to work and attracted millions of dollars in private investment. As Pennsylvania works closely with our northeastern neighbors to develop a standard for the entire region, we can grow our economy at the same time we protect the planet."

A low carbon fuel standard is a market-based, technologically neutral policy to reduce the average lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions of a unit of useful energy. The lifecycle concept of the greenhouse gas "footprint" includes all possible causes of greenhouse gas emissions, direct (on-site, internal) and indirect (off-site, external, embodied, upstream, downstream).

Transportation fuels contribute about 30 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions in the Mid-Atlantic region.

Based on letters of intent signed a year ago, Pennsylvania and the other states have already begun preliminary work toward designing a low carbon fuel standard. The Memorandum of Understanding is the next step, establishing a process to develop a regional framework by 2011 and examine the economic impacts of a standard program.
Pennsylvania already is making strides in the production of lower-carbon fuels, the Governor said.

Starting in January, all diesel fuel sold in the state must contain at least 2 percent biodiesel, since in-state production capacity hit 40 million gallons a year at the end of 2008. Under a state law Governor Rendell signed in July 2008, as Pennsylvania capacity to produce biodiesel grows, the required percentage of biodiesel grows -- reducing greenhouse gas emissions and creating jobs in the biofuels industry.

Over the next decade, Pennsylvania will replace 900 million gallons of transportation fuel with locally produced alternative resources such as ethanol and biodiesel, or with fuels derived from coal liquefaction.

Pennsylvania also is well-positioned to create jobs and expand the economy by providing other low-carbon transportation fuels such as compressed natural gas and electricity.

The Governor's signature on the memorandum coincides with his receipt of the Climate Change Advisory Committee's Action Plan, which contains 52 recommendations that could slash Pennsylvania's greenhouse gas emissions 36 percent while adding 65,000 new jobs and more than $6 billion to the economy by 2020. The Climate Change Advisory Committee, created by Act 70 of 2008, is a consortium of government, industry and environmental representatives.

These initiatives build on Pennsylvania's leadership in developing renewable energy technologies that reduce pollution, protect the quality of our air and waters, enhance our economy and strengthen national security. Among Pennsylvania's accomplishments:

* Pennsylvania's alternative energy portfolio standards are among the nation's most progressive, ensuring that 18 percent of all energy generated by 2020 comes from clean, efficient and advanced resources.

* The $650 million Alternative Energy Investment Fund and the nearly $16 million Alternative Fuels Investment are spurring the development of alternative and renewable energy sources and helping families and small businesses conserve energy and use it more efficiently.

* Pennsylvania is home to the East Coast's first state-of-the-art biofuels injection facility, which opened in 2005 with a $219,908 state investment. The plant replaces millions of gallons of foreign oil with domestically produced biodiesel and keeps energy dollars here at home by reducing the state's need to purchase imported fuels.

* Resurrected in 2004 after nearly a decade of inactivity, the Pennsylvania Energy Development Authority in its first four years awarded more than $40 million in 203 grants and loans for clean energy projects that will leverage an estimated $126 million in private investment and create thousands of jobs.

* The Pennsylvania Energy Harvest Grant Program has awarded nearly $29 million and leveraged more than $190 million in private funds since its inception in May 2003 for more than 100 projects using sources such as wind, solar, biomass, waste coal and recycled energy.

After the regional low carbon fuel standard is developed, governors from the participating states will have the opportunity to consider implementation.

In addition to Pennsylvania, the other states included in the agreement are Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont.

enXco announces commercial operation of 1.8 MW(dc) Belle Mead solar project

ESCONDIDO, USA: enXco, an EDF Energies Nouvelles Company (PARIS: EEN) announced commercial pperation of the 1.8 megawatt (dc) Belle Mead Solar Project. Located on the grounds of Carrier Clinic in Belle Mead, New Jersey, the solar system will supply 50 percent of Carrier Clinic’s electrical needs under a 25-year Power Purchase agreement.

The ground-mount fixed tilt solar array constructed on nearly 14 acres is the largest ground-mount project to date owned and operated by enXco. It is also the largest solar array on a New Jersey healthcare system campus.

“Belle Mead Solar Project marks the completion of enXco’s fifth solar energy development in New Jersey during 2009. Our commitment to help New Jersey businesses lower their energy cost is steadfast as we look forward to partnering with other New Jersey based businesses in 2010,” said Peter Solomon, director of distributed solar for enXco.

“Our integrated approach to project development allows for the design of high-value, cost-effective energy solutions resulting in long-term energy and cost benefits for our clients.”

C. Richard Sarle, President and CEO of Carrier Clinic commented: “We truly enjoyed working with enXco to make this solar array possible, and thank them for bringing this opportunity and their expertise to our attention. It is extremely exciting to move forward into our 100th year with this unique combination of rich history and modern technology to power our campus and propel us through the next century.”

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

SANYO and AVACOS Solar Energy unveil Canada’s first rooftop bifacial solar PV installation

WOODBRIDGE, CANADA: SANYO Canada Inc., a “leading company for energy and environment,” together with AVACOS Solar Energy, a Canadian solar photovoltaic installation and project integration company, unveiled the first Canadian photovoltaic system combining SANYO’s HIT (Heterojunction with Intrinsic Thin-layer) Double bifacial solar PV modules and DuROCK Tio-Coat reflective roof membrane at DuROCK Alfacing International Ltd’s headquarters in Woodbridge.

In managing the project, AVACOS matched the complimenting technologies, which result in additional cost-saving and environmental benefits.SANYO HIT Double PV modules generate power from both sides, resulting in up to 30% higher energy output than standard single-sided PV modules, making them ideal for carports, canopies and porch coverings.

DuROCK Tio-Coat is a high-strength white elastomeric urethane roof coating that provides 89 percent solar radiation reflectivity and weather resistance, reducing the energy usage required for the building compared to traditional roof coverings.

“DuROCK is proud to work with such industry leaders as SANYO and AVACOS on a project combining our technologies and expertise for the benefit of the environment,” said Gary Campacci, President of DuROCK. “The installation of SANYO modules on our existing white reflective roof will ensure a maximum level of performance and cost effectiveness.”

In the 10kW grid-tied array, the SANYO bifacial PV modules will provide renewable energy revenue for DuROCK, while the Tio-Coat membrane will reduce the cooling costs of the building. The combination of these technologies results in increased PV module output from the cooling effect and the increased exposure to solar radiation at the back of the modules due to the high reflectivity of Tio-Coat roof membrane.

"The merging of these two technologies is a great example of the potential that exists within this (solar) industry,” said Sandro Costa, President of AVACOS Solar. “Maximizing the power generation possible from the sun is not only a win-win situation for the client, but for the environment and society as a whole.”

Each company hopes to see similar future projects combining these complementary technologies for improved cost-savings and environmental benefit.

FINRA warns investing public of green energy investment scams

WASHINGTON, USA: The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) issued an Investor Alert warning investors to be wary of green energy investments that promise large gains from investing in companies purportedly involved in developing or producing alternative, renewable or waste energy products.

The new Investor Alert, Save Your Greenbacks—Don’t Fall for Green Energy Scams, explains how these green energy scams typically work. In some schemes, con artists are using everything from tweets and text messages to webinars and faxes to lure investors with very aggressive, optimistic and potentially false and misleading statements that create unwarranted demand for shares of a small, thinly traded company.

This is a classic “pump and dump” fraud where con artists behind the scheme then sell off their shares, leaving investors with worthless stock. Fraudsters are also using green investing as a hook for Ponzi schemes, where a scammer uses incoming funds from new investors to pay purported returns to earlier stage investors.

"Right now there are a lot of legitimate stories in the news about green energy initiatives, and con artists want to leverage people’s interest in green energy to make a quick buck at investors’ expense," said John Gannon, FINRA Senior Vice President for Investor Education. "There is a lot of interest in companies that claim to provide green energy, but we issued this Alert to remind investors to be vigilant about avoiding investment scams, no matter how they are packaged."

The Alert warns investors to ignore unsolicited investment recommendations and to question the source of investment information. Investors should also be wary of investments that claim to be the next big thing and promise exponential returns.

For example, in one recent pump and dump scheme, a solar stock was touted as “set for a 200 percent gain,” and in another instance, a fraudster suggested that stock in a company involved in green patents could rise 1,000 percent or more.

Another red flag for a green scheme is a hard sell that pushes investors to go “all in” on a new investment initiative. In a recently alleged Ponzi scheme, investors were encouraged to liquidate their traditional investments, such as retirement plans stocks, bonds and mutual funds, and to borrow against their home or business, so that they could invest in one company’s “green” initiatives.

However, according to a complaint filed in federal court, the company did not generate any income from which the promised returns—ranging from 17 percent to “hundreds of percents” annually—could be made.

In addition to giving investors detailed advice on how to spot potential scams and distinguish frauds from legitimate opportunities, the Alert also offers tips on how to make sound decisions and where to go to learn more about a company or stock before investing in it.

FINRA, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, is the largest independent regulator for all securities firms doing business in the United States. FINRA is dedicated to investor protection and market integrity through comprehensive regulation.

FINRA touches virtually every aspect of the securities business – from registering and educating all industry participants to examining securities firms; writing and enforcing rules and the federal securities laws; informing and educating the investing public; providing trade reporting and other industry utilities; and administering the largest dispute resolution forum for investors and firms.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

World's largest solar energy office building opened in China

DEZHOU, CHINA: The world's largest solar energy office building recently opened on November 27 in Dezhou, Shandong Province in northwest China. The building, which has a total area of 75,000 square meters, features exhibition centers, scientific research facilities, meeting and training facilities, and a hotel.

The design of the building is based on the sun dial and underlines the urgency of seeking renewable energy sources to replace fossil fuels. The design also features the Chinese characters for sun "日" and moon "月", and the color white predominates, symbolizing clean energy.Green ideas have been applied throughout the construction. The external structure of the building used only one percent of the steel used to construct the Bird's Nest. Advanced roof and wall insulation mean energy savings 30 percent higher than the national energy saving standard.

The building will be the main venue for the 4th World Solar City Congress in 2010. The building's ground-breaking solar energy and power-saving technologies, some of which have already been patented, include a number of technical advances that will push forward the mass application of solar energy.

Source: China.org.cn

PV manufacturing equipment market -- automation opportunities galore

UK: According to IMS Research, the world market for PV manufacturing equipment – more than $5bn in 2008 – is projected to exceed $9bn in 2013. Asia, China in particular, is expected to be a key growth driver, accounting for over half of photovoltaic manufacturing equipment revenues through to 2013.

Suppliers of photovoltaic manufacturing equipment largely see the market moving to Asia in the near future. Minimizing labour cost is a key goal; and relocating equipment production to Asia is an obvious way to achieve this. Further, since the PV manufacturing equipment users are increasingly based in Asia, this will also help to reduce shipping costs.

One of the top priorities of PV equipment end users is maximizing the “cost/watt” of cells and modules. Equipment manufacturers taking advantage of lower Asia Pacific labour costs is one way to reduce overall equipment cost and increase equipment efficiency. Increasing factory automation is another!

Increasing automation of photovoltaic production processes is at the forefront of reducing cost and breakage, whilst increasing efficiency and throughput.

The automation component market for PV manufacturing equipment was estimated to be worth just over $450m in 2008; it is projected to grow to over $1.2bn in 2013.

With the traditional industrial markets, such as automotive and machine tool production, currently bottoming out as the world recession continues to bite, the market for photovoltaic manufacturing equipment can be seen as a ray of light!

PSE customers make solar power shine in cloudy economy

BELLEVUE, USA: A year of cloudy economic news proved to have a bright spot: the rapid growth of Puget Sound Energy customers connecting their home or small business solar systems to the utility grid.

In 2009, nearly 200 PSE customers installed solar systems, making it the fastest-growing year ever for local renewable energy from the sun. The growth raises the total number of grid-connected solar systems to 516 –- up from only 100 solar power systems that were online with PSE in early 2007.

The generating capacity of the customer solar systems also increased dramatically, rising to 2 megawatts (MW). The combined network of PSE customer solar arrays is the largest producer of renewable energy from the sun in Washington.

“Two things made this amazing increase possible: our customer’s great enthusiasm and commitment to renewable energy and our elected official’s leadership in boosting the federal and state incentives for solar power,” said Cal Shirley, vice president of Energy Efficiency Services for PSE. “Solar works in Washington, and our customers are proving that each time a new array goes online.”

Shirley cites two key examples of the positive impact of targeted incentives for renewable energy. In October 2008, Congress, led by Sen. Maria Cantwell and Rep. Jay Inslee of Washington, removed a previous cap of $2000 on federal tax credits for home solar installations, with homeowners now being eligible to receive a full 30 percent credit for their investment in solar power.

This change means that a resident installing a $25,000 solar array (which would meet from 25 to 50 percent of the energy needs of the average home) is now eligible for a credit of approximately $8,300 – rather than a maximum $2,000 credit under the previous limit.

A second key incentive is the State of Washington production payment program, which is administered by PSE. The state’s program pays residential customers for the solar power they produce, with payments based on a sliding scale that rewards customers for buying Washington-made solar modules (also known as solar panels) and power inverters (which convert the DC power from the solar panel to AC power for use in the home).

The scale ranges from a base rate of $.15 per kilowatt-hour to $.54 per kilowatt hour for systems incorporating made-in-Washington solar modules and inverters. In August, PSE served as launch customer for the first locally manufactured solar modules, produced by Silicon Energy of Arlington, Wash., installing the modules at the utility’s Wild Horse Wind and Solar Facility in Kittitas County.

The impact of the state incentives was seen in the cash payments distributed by PSE, with payments reaching $170,000 this year, a substantial gain from the $86,000 distributed in 2008, when PSE customers had approximately 325 home and small business solar systems.

In addition to the state incentive payments administered by the utility, PSE provided customers with more than $37,000 in rebates to offset the cost of the two-way electric meter that enables customers to receive credit from the utility for the energy they produce.

PSE’s incentive -- “net metering,” is separate from the cash payments administered on behalf of the state, and most customers take advantage of both incentives. Net-metering, or what is sometimes called “making the meter spin backwards,” allows customers to be credited for any electricity they are producing that is in excess of the electricity they are consuming.

When electricity usage exceeds solar energy production, such as during the winter months, the customer can draw on those credits to help offset the normal per kilowatt hour cost of electricity. In addition to solar power systems, another 33 PSE customers have home wind or micro-hydro renewable energy systems connected to the utility grid.

The surge in interest in solar among PSE customers has now gained recognition for the utility by the Northwest Solar Center, a joint project of Washington State University and Shoreline Community College, which this October named PSE the region’s “Best Large Utility” for 2009.

EVSO: Solar index closes strong for the year!

PHOENIX, USA: With the world focused on clean fuels, the MAC Global Solar Energy Index Total Return closed strongly higher with two months of steady gains from $385 to yesterday’s close of $460. As the world begins its search for clean energy technologies, solar companies, such as Evolution Solar Corp (EVSO), are positioned to see strong growth in investor interest.

The Index was developed and is maintained by MAC Indexing, LLC, an affiliate of Melvin & Co. that specializes in clean energy equity research and index development.

Solar power is gaining popularity these days, with the federal government directing billions of dollars in stimulus tax breaks toward development and Congress wrestling with energy and climate bills that could boost renewable energy even more. Solar is clean, it is ready and prices per kw have fallen significantly in the last year, putting it within reach of many energy hungry industries.

EVSO builds on a strong set of relationships in China that allow it to compete for contracts with much larger competitors such as, Sun Power, First Solar, Trina Solar and LDK Solar.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Smart grid investment to total $200bn by 2015

BOULDER, USA: Ubiquitous electricity has served as the foundation for numerous technological innovations in the modern world, but the electrical grid itself is based on decades-old technology and has suffered from low levels of investment for many years.

Now, however, governments and industry leaders are coming together with newfound urgency to drive an overhaul of grid infrastructure and according to a new report from Pike Research, these efforts will yield cumulative global spending of $200 billion on smart grid technologies during the period from 2008 to 2015.

“Smart meters are currently the highest-profile component of the Smart Grid, but they are really just the tip of the iceberg,” says managing director Clint Wheelock. “Our analysis shows that utilities will find the best return on investment, and therefore will devote the majority of their capital budgets, to grid infrastructure projects including transmission upgrades, substation automation, and distribution automation.”

Pike Research forecasts that these grid automation initiatives will capture 84 percent of global smart grid investment through 2015, compared to just 14 percent for advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) and 2 percent for electric vehicle management systems.

The cleantech market intelligence firm also anticipates that smart grid revenues will peak in 2013 after several years of a strong push by key governments, and will thereafter be a smaller, albeit still very substantial, market.

Air Liquide signs 13 new contracts with c-Si solar cell makers in China

PARIS, FRANCE: Air Liquide recently confirmed its leading position in the PV market with the recent signature of 13 new contracts with crystalline-Silicon (c-Si) solar cell manufacturers in China.

The Group has expanded its supply to Chinese market leaders JA Solar and Yingli Green Energy. Air Liquide will invest over €10 million to meet the needs of these customers.

China is already the world’s leading manufacturer of solar cells, hosting around 35 percent of total world capacity. Recently, the Chinese government announced a target of 20 GWp power installed by 2020.

Air Liquide is now the carrier gases and specialty gases supplier of JA Solar and Yingli, respectively China’s number two and number three manufacturer, with a combined capacity of 1,400 MWp.

Air Liquide is supplying:
* JA Solar’s solar cell production fabs in the Jiangsu’ and Hebei’ provinces;
* Yingli’s solar cell and Poly-Silicon facilities in Baoding Photovoltaic park, located in Hebei province.

Air Liquide is the partner of China’s three main solar cell manufacturers, since it already supplies Suntech, the largest c-Si producer in China (as announced in May 2009).

In addition, in Beijing, Shanghai, Jiangsu, Zhejiang and Hebei, Air Liquide was recently awarded various new long-term contracts for the supply of carrier gases and of specialty gases, namely to Jinko Solar, Sunflower and DelSolar, as well as to eight other new c-Si fabs under construction, for a total combined new manufacturing capacity of above 1,300 MWp per year.

In light of the latest contracts, Air Liquide has become the supplier of over 100 solar cell manufacturing companies around the world, with an overall c-Si capacity above 10 GWp per year.

Francisco Martins, Vice-President World Business Line Electronics of the Air Liquide Group, said: “We are pleased to have been chosen to supply the three largest solar cell manufacturers in China. This confirms our ability to supply added-value gases and turnkey solutions to this industry. These recent contracts reinforce our leading position in this fast-changing industry. The photovoltaic activity is at the crossroads of Energy and the Environment, two growth drivers for the Air Liquide Group.”

COLEXON Energy AG hands over 2.4 MWp solar power plant portfolio in Saxony/Germany

HAMBURG, GERMANY: COLEXON, a leading developer of large rooftop solar power plants, again demonstrated its competence: On December 16, three solar power plants on the rooftops of the Saxon ‘BMG Baugruppen- und Modulfertigung GmbH Glauchau’ with a total capacity of 2.4 MWp have been commissioned.

Owing to an individual substructure designed by COLEXON engineers, an extraordinary energy yield will be achieved.

The new solar power plant portfolio on the rooftops of BMG, planned by COLEXON Energy AG, comprises three individual plants located in Glauchau, Saxony. These plants have been commissioned on December 16. The construction of the 24,000 sqm solar power plant began in July. COLEXON used a total of 33,400 thin film modules from the specialist First Solar.

Efficient method of construction
A great challenge for COLEXON has been the maximum roof load of 15 kg/sqm. COLEXON engineers and SC SolarCraft developed an innovative light weight mounting system. Moreover, the system enables a very efficient use of the available roof area.

Since shading effects are minimized, more modules can be placed on the roof due to an optimized module inclination angle of only ten degrees. This method of construction prevented a costly penetration of the roof panel.

Optimal ROI
On the one hand, the project specifications are tailored to the particular needs of the solar power plants in Saxony. On the other hand, this efficient rooftop construction in conjunction with the First Solar modules enables COLEXON to offer its customers an attractive ROI, also in years to come despite any political developments.

Growth in 2010
For COLEXON the project portfolio Glauchau is one of various reasons for looking positively to the next year. By the end of 2009, COLEXON expands her financial flexibility by ensuring comprehensive liquid funds.

The working capital financing of 21 million euros, closed in December, is an important step to finance the company growth in 2010. With this new financial security and with approved innovative approaches for investors as for example in Glauchau, COLEXON sees herself in a good position for further growth in the years to come.

Friday, December 25, 2009

ITC's Hotel Royal Gardenia becomes world's largest LEED Platinum rated Green Hotel

KOLKATA, INDIA: ITC's new luxury hotel in Bengaluru, the ITC Hotel Royal Gardenia, was conferred the highest rating for green buildings in the world - the LEED India Platinum Rating.

This recognition makes it the world's largest platinum rated hotel and is yet another manifestation of ITC's leadership in Sustainability Practices. ITC is the only company in the world to be carbon positive, water positive and solid waste recycling positive.

The LEED Platinum Rating for the ITC Hotel is one more green milestone close on the heels of the ITC Green Centre in Gurgaon which was the world's first largest green building. This Centre was chosen by the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to announce her vision on Indo-US collaboration on Climate Change during her last visit to India. After a tour of the building she called it the "Monument to the Future".

ITC's exemplary commitment to green practices have also enabled its hotel in Kolkata - the ITC Hotel Sonar - to be the only hotel in the world to earn carbon credits. In keeping with the ITC Commitment to the "Triple Bottomline" philosophy, ITC Hotels has aspired to be an 'exemplar' in the service sector and truly provides leadership to positive environmental action in a sustainable manner.

The ITC Royal Gardenia is an inclusive blend of contemporary design and international green practices, a beacon in a bustling urban environment. Built on the ethos of "Responsible Luxury" the hotel has adopted contemporary 'Green Practices' that harness the element of nature in an inspired setting to deliver unique guest experiences.

Nakul Anand, Chief Executive, ITC Hotels Division, said: "The ITC Royal Gardenia exemplifies ITC's vision and is perhaps the perfect example of finding common rhythm between manmade and natural environment. The challenge was to see how luxury and responsibility could be in harmony together. Thus a series of sustainable measures and practices were embraced to ensure that elements of nature were effectively harnessed at every level inside the luxury hotel."

The hotel has utilised innovation, cutting edge technology and design integration to earn new benchmarks in energy efficiency, water efficiency and low carbon techniques, and is a model of environmental stewardship.

The LEED-India Rating System encourages and facilitates the development of more sustainable buildings for innovation in design and environment practices.

Hoku and Tianwei announce closing of financing

HONOLULU, HAWAII & CHENGDU, CHINA: Hoku Scientific Inc., a diversified, clean energy company with headquarters in Honolulu, and Tianwei New Energy Holdings Co. Ltd, a leading provider of silicon wafers, photovoltaic (PV) cells, modules and systems, today announced the closing of Tianwei's majority investment in Hoku.

Hoku issued to Tianwei 33,379,287 newly-issued shares of its common stock, representing 60 percent of Hoku's fully-diluted outstanding shares, and granted to Tianwei a warrant to purchase an additional 10 million shares of Hoku's common stock at a price per share equal to $2.52.

In exchange for the shares of common stock, Tianwei has cancelled $50 million of indebtedness that Hoku would be obligated to repay to Tianwei under certain polysilicon supply agreements, and Tianwei is loaning Hoku $50 million through China Construction Bank, as agent. Tianwei has also committed to assist Hoku in obtaining additional financing that may be required by Hoku to construct and operate its Pocatello facility.

Hoku confirmed that it has issued orders to resume full scale plant construction, and the shipment of equipment that had been placed on hold pending Hoku's receipt of financing.

"We are extremely pleased to have closed our financing with Tianwei," said Dustin Shindo, chairman and chief executive officer of Hoku. "With our near-term liquidity crisis behind us, we can now focus on the execution of our polysilicon and PV systems installation business strategies," said Shindo. "We feel that Tianwei is the right strategic shareholder for Hoku's long-term growth."

"A strong relationship with Hoku is very important for us," said Qiang Ding, Chairman of Tianwei Group. "We are excited by the long-term opportunity we have to grow a vertically-integrated PV business together with Hoku on a global scale."

P2 Solar welcomes former Canadian cabinet minister to Board of Advisors

SURREY, BRITISH COLUMBIA: P2 Solar Inc. is pleased to welcome onto its Board of Advisors, Herb Dhaliwal, QC. Dhaliwal brings a wealth of experience and knowledge having been a former Cabinet Minister in the government of Canada.

"I am pleased and excited to welcome Mr. Herb Dhaliwal to our team. We are fortunate to have an individual of Dhaliwal's caliber join our team and help us grow our business." said Raj-Mohinder Gurm, President/CEO of P2 Solar.

Originally from Punjab, India, Dhaliwal's family immigrated to Vancouver, Canada when he was six. After graduating from the University of British Columbia with a Bachelor of Commerce degree, he started a maintenance company out of his basement and became a self-made millionaire with diversified business interests including transportation, maintenance and real estate development.

He has more than 25 years of experience in the private and public sectors as a businessman and entrepreneur, specializing in transportation, maintenance and real estate development. He has also served as vice-chair of the board of directors for the British Columbia Hydro and Power Authority and as chair of British Columbia Hydro's Budget and Audit Committees.

He was first elected to the Canadian House of Commons in the 1993 election as the Liberal Member of Parliament (MP) for Vancouver South. Prime Minister Jean Chretien appointed Dhaliwal to Cabinet (the first Indo-Canadian to become a federal cabinet minister), in 1997 as Minister of Revenue.

In 1999, he became Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, and in 2002 he was appointed Minister of Natural Resources and Minister with political responsibility for British Columbia. Dhaliwal played an active and prominent role as a member of the Prime Minister's Team Canada trade mission to India.

Dhaliwal also took an active and prominent role in promoting sustainable, environmentally responsible aquaculture development in Canada. In June 2000, Dhaliwal was included in the Vancouver Sun's listing as one of the hundred most influential British Columbians of the last 100 years.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Global market for residential and commercial solar thermal technologies to be worth $20 billion In 2014

FARIDABAD, INDIA: According to a new technical market research report, GLOBAL MARKETS FOR RESIDENTIAL AND COMMERCIAL SOLAR THERMAL TECHNOLOGIES from BCC Research, the global market for residential and commercial solar-thermal technologies is worth an estimated $8 billion in 2009, but is expected to increase to nearly $20 billion in 2014, for a five-year CAGR of 19.8 percent.

The largest segment of the market, water heating, is estimated to be worth $7.9 billion in 2009, and is projected to grow at a CAGR of 19.9 percent to reach $19.6 billion in 2014.

The smaller segment, air heating, is expected to reach nearly $92 million in 2014, after increasing at a five-year CAGR of 7.9 percent from $62.5 million in 2009.

Residential and commercial solar-thermal technologies include products that capture, concentrate, and/or absorb sunlight to provide thermal energy to a particular process or system.

Since all residential and commercial solar-thermal installations must include a component that collects solar radiation, solar-thermal collectors and absorbers provide excellent indicators regarding the market performance and penetration of residential and commercial solar-thermal systems.

The following residential and commercial solar-thermal technologies are included in the scope of this report: unglazed solar collectors, flat-plate solar collectors, evacuated-tube solar collectors, integral collector storage, concentrating solar collectors, glazed solar air collectors, and transpired solar air collectors.

SunPower and SolarPower dedicate 50 KW solar power system for HP in Israel

KIRVAT-GAT, ISRAEL: SunPower Corp., a US-based manufacturer of high-efficiency solar cells, solar panels and solar systems, and SolarPower Ltd., an Israeli solar power system integrator and project developer, today dedicated a 50-kilowatt rooftop solar power system at HP's Indigo division facility in Kiryat-Gat, Israel.

SolarPower designed and built the system with high-efficiency SunPower solar panels. Construction on the project began in October.

"By combining SolarPower's design and construction expertise with SunPower panels, the most efficient solar panels commercially available, HP will maximize the amount of clean solar power generated on the roof," said SolarPower co-CEO Alon Tamari. "We are very pleased to have completed the first solar power installation for the high-technology industry in Israel."

"SolarPower's leadership in Israel was clearly an advantage to SunPower as we entered the market," said Howard Wenger, president, global business units, for SunPower. "On four continents, the proven performance of SunPower's technology has achieved a superior return on investment for our residential, commercial and power plant customers."

SunPower has completed more than 550 large solar power systems worldwide, including the recently completed 24-megawatt Montalto solar power plant in Italy.

LDK Solar announces closing of follow-on public offering of 16.52mn American depositary shares

XINYU CITY, CHINA & SUNNYVALE, USA: LDK Solar Co. Ltd, a leading manufacturer of multicrystalline solar wafers, closed a follow-on offering of 16,520,000 American depositary shares, each representing one ordinary share, at a price to the public of $7.00 per ADS. The Company has received net proceeds of $111,014,400 from this offering.

LDK Solar expects to use approximately US$90.0 million of its net proceeds to pay down short-term debt and the remaining net proceeds to fund the polysilicon production plant and the expansion of the solar module business, and for general corporate purposes.
Morgan Stanley and Citi acted as joint bookrunners for the offering.

LDK Solar's F-3 registration statement and the final prospectus supplement are available from the SEC website.

SunEdison, Xcel Energy strike deal for 50MW (AC)/55MW (DC) solar PV energy in New Mexico

SANTA FE, USA: SunEdison, North America’s largest solar energy services provider, a subsidiary of MEMC Electronic Materials, and Xcel Energy’s regional operating company, Southwestern Public Service Company, announced a deal for five solar PV installations in New Mexico that will total 50 megawatts (MW) in generation capacity.

The five 10MW sites, to be located in Lea and Eddy counties in southeastern New Mexico, will comprise a utility-scale, ground-mount system that will be fully operational by the end of 2011. In total, the installations will generate enough power for more than 10,000 homes in its first full year of operation.

This total project will enable Xcel Energy to continue meeting New Mexico’s renewable portfolio standard, which requires that regulated electric utilities meet 15 percent of their electricity needs by 2015, and 20 percent by 2020, through renewable energy sources.

The five installations will be built, financed and maintained by SunEdison, under a 20-year solar power services agreement (SPSA) with Xcel Energy, which will buy the solar power generated by the plant.

“We are thrilled to begin harvesting New Mexico’s rich solar resources, and we are equally proud to add this project to our growing base of wind energy, as we diversify our renewable energy portfolio,” said Riley Hill, president and CEO of Southwestern Public Service Company, an Xcel Energy company. “We are also pleased to be working with SunEdison, a leader in solar development with the experience and financial strength to ensure a smooth project completion.”

This project eclipses the 8.22MW (DC) solar power system SunEdison activated for Xcel Energy in Alamosa, Colorado in December 2007. At 50MW, the Xcel Energy project will be one of the largest in North America.

Governor of New Mexico Bill Richardson said the project reflects New Mexico’s sustained commitment to solar energy leadership. “Excellent natural resources, competitive incentives and pro business policies have positioned New Mexico at the forefront of the clean energy economy, and our commitment continues to generate economic development and well-paying jobs throughout the state,” Governor Richardson said.

New Mexico State Senator, Carroll Leavell commented: “I am most appreciative of SunEdison and Xcel Energy for working together for a renewable energy source that will serve southeastern New Mexico and West Texas. This will be of benefit not only as an additional source of energy but also as economic development for Lea and Eddy Counties.”

Lisa Hardison, interim president of the Economic Development Corporation of Lea County, said: “Thanks to Xcel Energy, our vision to brand and market Lea County as the EnergyPlex is becoming more and more a reality,” Hardison said. “Xcel Energy’s infrastructure and commitment to the Renewable Portfolio Standard – energy development, overall – are critical to our efforts. With SunEdison in the EnergyPlex now, we have the nation’s most significant energy players across the petroleum, nuclear and renewables industries developing their projects right here.”

Some system facts:
Once completed, it is estimated the five 10MW systems will:
* Power more than 10,000 homes in the first full year of operation by producing 110 million kWh.
* Produce over 2 billion kWh of clean solar energy over a 20-year lifespan. That is enough energy to power over 187,000 homes for one year.
* Offset more than 1.3 million metric tons of CO2 over a 20-year lifespan, equivalent of removing more than 290,000 cars from the road for one year.

Carlos Domenech, President of SunEdison and Executive Vice President of MEMC, noted: "Xcel Energy is a visionary electric utility. The company understands how to make utility-scale renewable energy a reality. Their vision enabled by the local and state leadership will facilitate the creation of green jobs in New Mexico.”

Domenech continues, “SunEdison welcomes the opportunity to bring its proven track record in utility-scale solar, financial strength and the most cost-effective technologies to address Xcel Energy’s needs.”

SolarReserve signs power contract with PG&E for utility scale solar power project in California

SANTA MONICA, USA: SolarReserve, the California-based developer of utility-scale solar power projects, has signed an agreement with Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E) for the sale of electricity from SolarReserve’s Rice Solar Energy Project.

The 150-megawatt solar energy project will be located 30 miles northwest of the city of Blythe in eastern Riverside County, California. When completed, SolarReserve’s facility will supply approximately 450,000 megawatt hours annually of clean, renewable electricity—enough to power up to 68,000 homes during peak electricity periods—utilizing its innovative energy storage capabilities.

The project will utilize an advanced molten salt system from United Technologies Corp. (UTC). SolarReserve holds the exclusive worldwide license for this groundbreaking technology, which features efficient energy storage inherent in the design that can provide electricity reliably during peak demand periods to meet utility requirements whether the sun is shining or throughout the night.

“We are extremely pleased to contract with PG&E for the power generated from this important project,” said Kevin Smith, SolarReserve’s chief executive officer.

“Throughout the process, we have worked hard to minimize the project’s impact on local resources, which is why the project is being developed on privately-owned land that had been previously used as an air field. Further, the project will use a dry cooling system that minimizes water usage without significantly impacting the plant’s operational performance. We look forward to working with state and federal regulators in the permitting process to help bring this important project to reality for Californians.”

Assemblyman Brian Nestande observed: “This project shows that revolutionary technologies will be an important factor in meeting our future energy needs. As a State, we need to create a business climate conducive to private innovation and investment in the form of infrastructure and jobs.”

Subject to comprehensive environmental review by cooperating state and federal agencies, the Rice project could break ground as early as spring of 2011 creating 450 construction jobs during the two-year construction period. The project will employ 45 permanent operations staff and will have an annual operating budget of more than $5.0 million, with the majority of that budget spent in Riverside and San Bernardino Counties.

In addition to direct employment, several thousand indirect jobs are expected to be created through various suppliers and service providers throughout the region. The project also supports SolarReserve and its suppliers’ design, development, and engineering staffs with more than 150 scientists, engineers and green technical specialists working to further US developed solar energy technology for potential export around the world.

Ascent Solar announces retirement of Dr. Prem Nath

THORNTON, USA: Ascent Solar Technologies Inc., a developer of state-of-the-art, flexible thin-film photovoltaic modules, announced that Senior Vice President of Production Operations, Dr. Prem Nath will retire on January 15, 2010. Dr. Nath has led the company’s manufacturing efforts since 2006 and helped establish the company’s unique roll-to-roll commercial production capability.

Ascent Solar President and CEO Farhad Moghadam stated: “Dr. Nath’s track record speaks for itself and he has laid a superb foundation for this company to continue to scale its manufacturing capability and capacity. We thank Dr. Nath for his extraordinary service and innovative efforts while at Ascent Solar. Building on this foundation, the team at Ascent Solar will now pursue high volume commercial manufacturing, the next phase of growth for our company.”

Dr. Nath has spent over 30 years in the thin-film industry. While at Ascent Solar, Dr. Nath successfully led the company to reach full end-to-end commercial production on FAB 1 in Littleton, Colorado, which positions Ascent Solar to ramp to high volume production on FAB 2 located in Thornton, Colorado. The company will continue to have access to Dr. Nath’s knowledge and experience through a consulting arrangement.

Commenting on his retirement, Dr. Nath said: “I am very proud of our company’s accomplishments over the past several years. In 2006 the company was based on R&D tools. Today, Ascent Solar has reached commercial production and is now ready to ramp to volume.”

Glitter-sized solar photovoltaics produce competitive results

ALBUQUERQUE, USA: Sandia National Laboratories scientists have developed tiny glitter-sized photovoltaic cells that could revolutionize the way solar energy is collected and used.

The tiny cells could turn a person into a walking solar battery charger if they were fastened to flexible substrates molded around unusual shapes, such as clothing.

The solar particles, fabricated of crystalline silicon, hold the potential for a variety of new applications. They are expected eventually to be less expensive and have greater efficiencies than current photovoltaic collectors that are pieced together with 6-inch- square solar wafers.

The cells are fabricated using microelectronic and microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) techniques common to today’s electronic foundries.

Sandia lead investigator Greg Nielson said the research team has identified more than 20 benefits of scale for its microphotovoltaic cells. These include new applications, improved performance, potential for reduced costs and higher efficiencies.

“Eventually units could be mass-produced and wrapped around unusual shapes for building-integrated solar, tents and maybe even clothing,” he said. This would make it possible for hunters, hikers or military personnel in the field to recharge batteries for phones, cameras and other electronic devices as they walk or rest.

Even better, such microengineered panels could have circuits imprinted that would help perform other functions customarily left to large-scale construction with its attendant need for field construction design and permits.

Sandia field engineer, Vipin Gupta, said: “Photovoltaic modules made from these microsized cells for the rooftops of homes and warehouses could have intelligent controls, inverters and even storage built in at the chip level. Such an integrated module could greatly simplify the cumbersome design, bid, permit and grid integration process that our solar technical assistance teams see in the field all the time.”

For large-scale power generation, said Sandia researcher Murat Okandan, “One of the biggest scale benefits is a significant reduction in manufacturing and installation costs compared with current PV techniques.”

Part of the potential cost reduction comes about because microcells require relatively little material to form well-controlled and highly efficient devices.

From 14 to 20 micrometers thick (a human hair is approximately 70 micrometers thick), they are 10 times thinner than conventional 6-inch-by-6-inch brick-sized cells, yet perform at about the same efficiency.

100 times less silicon generates same amount of electricity
“So they use 100 times less silicon to generate the same amount of electricity,” said Okandan. “Since they are much smaller and have fewer mechanical deformations for a given environment than the conventional cells, they may also be more reliable over the long term.”

Another manufacturing convenience is that the cells, because they are only hundreds of micrometers in diameter, can be fabricated from commercial wafers of any size, including today’s 300-millimeter (12-inch) diameter wafers and future 450-millimeter (18-inch) wafers. Further, if one cell proves defective in manufacture, the rest still can be harvested, while if a brick-sized unit goes bad, the entire wafer may be unusable.

Also, brick-sized units fabricated larger than the conventional 6-inch-by-6-inch cross section to take advantage of larger wafer size would require thicker power lines to harvest the increased power, creating more cost and possibly shading the wafer. That problem does not exist with the small-cell approach and its individualized wiring.

Other unique features are available because the cells are so small. “The shade tolerance of our units to overhead obstructions is better than conventional PV panels,” said Nielson, “because portions of our units not in shade will keep sending out electricity where a partially shaded conventional panel may turn off entirely.”

Because flexible substrates can be easily fabricated, high-efficiency PV for ubiquitous solar power becomes more feasible, said Okandan.

A commercial move to microscale PV cells would be a dramatic change from conventional silicon PV modules composed of arrays of 6-inch-by-6-inch wafers. However, by bringing in techniques normally used in MEMS, electronics and the light-emitting diode (LED) industries (for additional work involving gallium arsenide instead of silicon), the change to small cells should be relatively straightforward, Gupta said.

Each cell is formed on silicon wafers, etched and then released inexpensively in hexagonal shapes, with electrical contacts prefabricated on each piece, by borrowing techniques from integrated circuits and MEMS.

Offering a run for their money to conventional large wafers of crystalline silicon, electricity presently can be harvested from the Sandia-created cells with 14.9 percent efficiency. Off-the-shelf commercial modules range from 13 to 20 percent efficient.

A widely used commercial tool called a pick-and-place machine — the current standard for the mass assembly of electronics — can place up to 130,000 pieces of glitter per hour at electrical contact points preestablished on the substrate; the placement takes place at cooler temperatures. The cost is approximately one-tenth of a cent per piece with the number of cells per module determined by the level of optical concentration and the size of the die, likely to be in the 10,000 to 50,000 cell per square meter range. An alternate technology, still at the lab-bench stage, involves self-assembly of the parts at even lower costs.

Solar concentrators — low-cost, prefabricated, optically efficient microlens arrays — can be placed directly over each glitter-sized cell to increase the number of photons arriving to be converted via the photovoltaic effect into electrons. The small cell size means that cheaper and more efficient short focal length microlens arrays can be fabricated for this purpose.

High-voltage output is possible directly from the modules because of the large number of cells in the array. This should reduce costs associated with wiring, due to reduced resistive losses at higher voltages.

Other possible applications for the technology include satellites and remote sensing.

The project combines expertise from Sandia’s Microsystems Center; Photovoltaics and Grid Integration Group; the Materials, Devices, and Energy Technologies Group; and the National Renewable Energy Lab’s Concentrating Photovoltaics Group.

Involved in the process, in addition to Nielson, Okandan and Gupta, are Jose Luis Cruz-Campa, Paul Resnick, Tammy Pluym, Peggy Clews, Carlos Sanchez, Bill Sweatt, Tony Lentine, Anton Filatov, Mike Sinclair, Mark Overberg, Jeff Nelson, Jennifer Granata, Craig Carmignani, Rick Kemp, Connie Stewart, Jonathan Wierer, George Wang, Jerry Simmons, Jason Strauch, Judith Lavin and Mark Wanlass (NREL).

The work is supported by DOE’s Solar Energy Technology Program and Sandia’s Laboratory Directed Research & Development program, and has been presented at four technical conferences this year.

The ability of light to produce electrons, and thus electricity, has been known for more than a hundred years.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

GT Solar appoints R. Chad Van Sweden to board of directors

MERRIMACK, USA: GT Solar International Inc., a global provider of specialized production equipment, process technology and turnkey manufacturing services for the solar power industry, today announced the appointment of R. Chad Van Sweden to the company’s Board of Directors. Van Sweden will be succeeding Richard K. Landers, who is stepping down from the Board of Directors.

Van Sweden is a Vice President of the GFI Energy Group of Oaktree Capital Management, L.P., a premier global alternative and non-traditional investment manager. Prior to joining the GFI Energy Group in 2002, Van Sweden was an investment banking analyst with Credit Suisse First Boston and Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette from 2000 to 2002, focused on mergers and acquisitions in the energy and power sector.

Van Sweden also serves as a director of Turbine Generator Maintenance, Inc., a provider of turnkey maintenance and repair services for steam and combustion turbines and associated equipment.

“Chad brings a vast amount of knowledge about the energy industry as well as his experience with corporate finance. His skills and experience are an excellent complement to those of his fellow directors. We are excited to welcome Chad to our Board and look forward to his input,” said J. Bradford Forth, chairman of GT Solar. “I would also like to thank Richard for his valued guidance and contributions over the years.”

SCI Engineered Materials receives grant to commercialize solar products

COLUMBUS, USA: SCI Engineered Materials Inc., a manufacturer of ceramics and metals for advanced applications using physical vapor deposition, has been awarded $775,400 by the Ohio Department of Development's Ohio Third Frontier Photovoltaic Program (OTFPVP) to commercialize advanced technology for high power density rotatable ceramic sputtering targets.

These targets are used in the manufacture of thin film photovoltaic solar cells. The award is subject to State of Ohio Controlling Board approval.

Scott Campbell, Ph.D., Vice President of Technology, said: "We are pleased to have been selected by Ohio's Third Frontier Photovoltaic Program to help commercialize the high power density ceramic sputtering target attachment technology that SCI has proposed for thin film photovoltaic solar cell manufacturing applications.

"This technology will enable manufacturers to operate rotatable sputtering targets at higher power densities than current technology. Specific benefits include increased process throughput leading to lower photovoltaic solar cell modular costs in the future."

Dan Rooney, Chairman, President and CEO, stated: "During the past three years we have substantially increased our penetration in the Solar market through the development and introduction of new products, expanded international sales and marketing activities, and increased participation in government programs to develop greater manufacturing efficiencies for solar manufacturers.

"The OTFPVP award, the third one received from the State of Ohio, is another sign of the progress we are achieving in solar and also reflects the value they recognize in our innovative technologies. These initiatives help to accelerate our growth in this strategic market."

He added: "Earlier this month, we received a follow-on order of approximately $1 million from a solar customer. These products are expected to be manufactured and shipped during the first half of 2010. The company previously reported its order backlog at September 30, 2009 was $3.7 million. The OTFPVP award plus the follow-on order significantly increase SCI's backlog, which will benefit the Company's financial results during the first half of 2010."

Canasia Power signs MoU worth $400mn with Chem Process for 100 MW solar energy systems

TORONTO, CANADA & MUMBAI, INDIA: Canasia Power Corp., a Canadian, Toronto-based power project developer, participated in the recent "Clean Tech Mission to India" led by the Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty and the Minister of Economic Development and Trade Sandra Pupatello.

During the Mission Canasia signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in Mumbai with Chem Process Systems Pvt Ltd, an Ahmedabad, India-based company, to design, supply and commission 100MW of solar energy systems to provide electric power to the company's proprietary technology for desalination, condensing and water treatment plants.

Both companies are working on designing and implementing a pilot project to be commissioned by April 2010 for review by the Government of the State of Gujarat.

The Canasia management team was augmented by its Board of Directors, Don Phillips, Elden Wittmier, Kirit Desai and Dr. Tawfik Al-Kusayer, who are strongly endorsing Canasia's active participation in India's renewable energy sector with particular focus on solar energy.

Michigan Solar Solutions says Michigan poised for 'solar explosion' in 2010

COMMERCE TWP, USA: Michigan Solar Solutions, a local leader in alternative energy, is predicting an explosion in the solar industry in Michigan for 2010.

According to company President Mark Hagerty, the year is shaping up to be "a perfect storm for solar" in the state.

"Many people think that solar won't work in Michigan because it's too cold and it doesn't get as much sun as other places, but that's misconstrued," Hagerty said.

"Michigan has an average of 4.2 hours of peak sunlight per day each year. Florida, the 'Sunshine State' only has about five hours. Solar panels are less efficient the hotter they get and actually produce more power when it gets cooler. While the Southwest may get more hours of sun, the panels produce less voltage per peak hour because of the heat."

He added that in 2008, his company's solar panels produced 1.2 times the rated output at 10 degrees below zero.

One reason Hagerty says Michigan is the place for solar power in 2010: rising electricity prices and increasing state and federal incentives mean that renewable energy has never been cheaper.

"Incentives are constantly changing and increasing," Hagerty said. "Recently the federal government removed the $2,000 limit on the 30 percent tax credit for renewable energy. Michigan also now has a true Net Metering Law which means that utility companies have to accept any electricity that an owner puts onto the grid. People are recognizing the economic value in renewable energy and jumping on board at an unprecedented rate."

Utility companies are helping with additional incentives. DTE Energy is one example. It is currently piloting a "Solar Currents" program designed to make solar energy more affordable.

It has been authorized by the Michigan Public Service Commission to partially reimburse customers for installing solar systems on their homes or businesses. Customers who participate in the program will also receive a credit on their energy bills for the next 20 years (11 cents per kilowatt hour) in addition to federal tax credits and other local incentives.

Consumer's Energy has also introduced a feed-in tariff to spur more interest in solar. Their program reimburses customers 65.0 cents per kilowatt hour, for approved systems installed by May of 2010, (52.5 cents per kilowatt hour for approved systems installed after May of 2010) for any electricity a customer produces from solar-powered systems.

Similar programs in Germany resulted in the creation of 170,000 jobs and the most solar-powered systems installed per capita in the world.

"Since Michigan is sunnier than Germany, this is very encouraging," Hagerty said.
Further evidence that the use of solar power is rapidly progressing in Michigan is the fast-paced growth Hagerty's company has experienced. Michigan Solar Solutions is currently doing as much business in one month as it did throughout all of 2008.

"We're very busy on a number of solar and wind installations right now," Hagerty said. In addition to numerous residential projects, Michigan Solar Solutions is working on a solar panel array for the offices of a Japanese auto supplier in Farmington Hills.

The company is also doing an installation on the press building at the Michigan International Speedway and working closely on a major solar incubator and production plant in Toledo. The plant is part of a plan to create a new solar corridor from Toledo to Dow Chemical Company's Hemlock Semiconductor in Saginaw along I-75.

Hagerty said his company, which uses Michigan products wherever it can, is planning to add a significant number of employees to its team of four during 2010. Most of them will be drawn from the auto industry and retrained.

Florida Public Service Commission approves Energy 5.0's contract to provide solar PV energy to Tampa Electric

WEST PALM BEACH, USA: Energy 5.0 LLC announced that on December 15, 2009, the Florida Public Service Commission approved E5.0's contract with Tampa Electric Co. to purchase solar power supplied by the Energy 5.0 Florida Solar I Project, a planned 25 megawatt solar PV electric generating station.

For a 25-year period beginning in 2011, Tampa Electric will purchase the entire electrical output from FS-I. The FPSC's approval provides Tampa Electric full rate recovery of the costs associated with the power purchase agreement executed with Energy 5.0 in February 2009.

Under the terms of the Energy 5.0-Tampa Electric agreement, E5.0 will construct, own and operate the renewable energy generating station. At a fixed price per kilowatt hour over the life of the contract, E5.0 will deliver the full output of the facility to Tampa Electric along with all the environmental attributes associated with that energy.

The project is expected to produce enough energy to power 3,400 households and its clean technology will avoid the emission of more than 1.2 million tons of CO2 over the 25 year contract term.

The Florida Solar I Project will be located in Polk County on a site of approximately 350 acres of reclaimed phosphate mine land. Preparation of permit applications is underway, as is the work necessary to design an interconnection to the Tampa Electric system.

E5.0 plans to select a PV technology and contractor to execute the design, procurement and installation of the facility based on a competitive bid process planned for the first quarter of 2010 with construction expected to commence in the fall next year.

Bud Cherry, Chairman and CEO of Energy 5.0 said: "We are extremely pleased with the thoughtful and constructive decision of the Florida Public Service Commission. The E5.0 team is very excited to be working with Tampa Electric to help make renewables a reality in Florida. Solar power is one of the keys to developing a balanced generation portfolio and thereby, an energy independent future. This approval is an important and positive step forward for Floridians and the rest of the country towards achieving that goal."

Energy 5.0 LLC, headquartered in West Palm Beach, Florida, develops, finances, constructs, and operates renewable energy production facilities. Founded by energy industry professionals with extensive industry experience, Energy 5.0 delivers value to its investors and customers through excellence in management, diligence in performance and creative application of environmentally beneficial, advanced technology.

Tampa Electric is the principal subsidiary of TECO Energy Inc., an integrated energy-related holding company with regulated utility businesses, complemented by a family of unregulated businesses. Tampa Electric is a regulated utility with both electric and gas divisions (Tampa Electric and Peoples Gas System).

Other subsidiaries are engaged in coal, and electric generation and distribution in Guatemala.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Evergreen Solar panels chosen to power Patriot Place

MARLBORO & FOXBOROUGH, USA: Evergreen Solar Inc., a manufacturer of STRING RIBBON solar power products with its proprietary, low-cost silicon wafer manufacturing technology, announced today that its String Ribbon solar panels have been chosen for a 525-kilowatt installation at Patriot Place, a 1.3-million-square-foot shopping, dining and entertainment complex located adjacent to Gillette Stadium, home of the New England Patriots.

The system will supply approximately 30 percent of the power to the complex and more than 12 million kilowatt hours of electricity over 20 years. The system will eliminate an estimated 8,800 metric tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere each year, the equivalent of removing approximately 1,600 passenger cars from the road.

In total, more than 2,800 of Evergreen Solar’s ES-A series panels spanning the roofs of seven buildings will be used in the construction. One of the buildings that will house the panels is The Hall at Patriot Place presented by Raytheon, an award-winning sports and educational experience that is one of the highlights of Patriot Place. These panels will be visible to fans who attend games and events at Gillette Stadium and visitors to Patriot Place’s upper retail plaza.

Patriot Place, which began opening in phases in 2008, was constructed using sustainable design practices, including low-emitting construction materials and white roofs to facilitate heat island reduction. It employs an on-site wastewater re-use system that saves millions of gallons of water annually and solar-powered trash receptacles throughout the complex that reduce waste volume and energy consumption.

“We’re thrilled that Patriot Place has chosen Evergreen Solar for this highly-visible solar installation,” said Alan King, Director Sales for the Americas. “As a company producing solar panels that deliver more electricity with less impact on the environment including the smallest carbon footprint, we feel we align perfectly with the environmental goals of Patriot Place while demonstrating the viability of solar power to the many patrons and fans traveling through this incredible complex.”

“This project is crucial to Patriot Place’s overall sustainability initiatives and we are proud to promote practical and cost-effective commercial applications of solar power,” said Brian Earley, Patriot Place General Manager. “We’re also proud to work with a local company like Evergreen Solar on such an important project.”

The solar installation is being constructed by Baltimore-based Constellation Energy’s Projects & Services Group.

Industrial Nanotech announces agreement with OEM solar manufacturer Total Energy Care

NAPLES, USA: Industrial Nanotech Inc., an emerging global leader in nanoscience solutions, today announced the completion of an agreement with Total Energy Care (TEC) to represent its patented Nansulate Solar thermal insulation and energy saving coating in Canada for retrofitting energy systems in existing buildings and in new build construction.

The agreement includes use of Nansulate Solar product within the solar thermal and thermal storage industries in Canada.

TEC’s President, Steven Burke, has committed to using Nansulate on all solar thermal panels manufactured at their new plant. Burke explains: “Because of the amazing thermal resistance properties shown by Nansulate, by applying it on all five of the metal surfaces within a flat plate solar thermal panel, we expect as much as a 20 percent to 30 percent increase in the efficiency over traditional insulation used in this industry.

“The effect of reduction in loss of heat captured from the sun and held in thermal storage tanks promises to be even more profound. And these are huge advantages in the marketplace!”

TEC’s strong sales growth plan includes increasing their sales force from 60 to approximately 200 reps by the middle of 2010.

Burke continues: “We can reasonably approach not only the hot water market but also that of space heating, as the end result is a product approaching the efficiency formerly only available from evacuated tube panels, but at a much lower cost.

“Solar thermal flat plate collectors are far less expensive to manufacture than their airless competitors. At approximately 40 percent of the cost of buying evacuated tube solar thermal systems (wholesale price), this means that a product using flat plate panels will produce heat for far less per BTU than evacuated tube.”

TEC is opening a new facility for manufacturing solar thermal panels and thermal storage tanks which will employ more than 50 individuals. The facility will be headed by engineer Brian Slack, who has won awards for increasing efficiency at an American Corporation's plant in South Western Ontario.

This will be the second OEM application for solar thermal equipment in which the coatings have been specified. Industrial Nanotech previously announced that their patented Nansulate Solar thermal insulation coating will be incorporated into all new solar water heater systems by Asian manufacturer First Energy Solution to insulate and increase efficiency.

Solar industry leader Amonix acquires Sunworks Solar

SEAL BEACH, USA: The Board of Directors of Amonix, Inc., the best choice for utility-scale solar power in hot and dry climates, announced today that it has completed the acquisition of Sunworks Solar LLC, a solar manufacturing plant developer.

At the same time, Sunworks co-founder Brian Robertson becomes CEO; Sunworks co-founder Guy Blanchard joins as Senior Vice President of Sales and Corporate Development; and Matthew Meares, Sunworks Managing Director, joins as Director of Project Finance.

Amonix, which has been in business 20 years, on its seventh generation of product, with 15 years’ experience with field deployments in real-world conditions, completed its acquisition of Sunworks on November 9, 2009. Financial terms were not disclosed.

Between them, Robertson, Blanchard, and Meares have been instrumental in securing financing for more than half of all the solar photovoltaic projects deployed under power purchase agreements (PPA) in the United States.

Vahan Garboushian, founder, Chief Technology Officer, and Chairman said: “Amonix systems clearly work in utility-scale applications. With the addition to our management team of three of the most productive solar industry business executives in the country, we have what it takes to get large, complex projects completed. We are ready to leverage our expertise and years in the field to take our growth to the next level.”

Brian Robertson co-founded Sunworks in 2008 to provide American-made utility-scale solar. Previously, Robertson co-founded and was president of SunEdison, North America’s largest solar energy services provider. SunEdison was acquired by MEMC in November 2009. Robertson is a graduate of MIT with a degree in Computer Science and has an MBA from Harvard Business School.

Sunworks co-founder Guy Blanchard jointly led development of Sunworks’ project pipeline. He has extensive asset and project finance experience, previously as Managing Director for Fortress Investment Group’s Drawbridge family of funds, where he was a principal investor with a focus including renewable energy investments. Blanchard has a BS and an MBA from the University of California, Davis.

At Sunworks, Meares was responsible for utility-scale solar panel sales and project development. Previously at HSH Nordbank, he was responsible for project finance, mezzanine, and equity transactions in the power sector, with an emphasis on renewable energy. Meares has a BS in Mechanical Engineering and a BA in French Language and Literature from North Carolina State, and an MBA from Duke University’s Fuqua school of Business.

SolarReserve signs power contract with NV Energy for Nevada project

SANTA MONICA, USA: SolarReserve, a California-based developer of utility-scale solar power projects, today announced it has signed a 25-year power purchase agreement with NV Energy for the sale of electricity from SolarReserve’s Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project.

Developed and owned by SolarReserve’s subsidiary, Tonopah Solar Energy, LLC, the 100-megawatt solar energy project will be located near the town of Tonopah in Nye County, Nevada. When completed, Tonopah Solar Energy’s facility will supply approximately 480,000 megawatt hours annually of clean, renewable electricity – enough to power up to 75,000 homes during peak electricity periods utilizing its innovative energy storage capabilities.

The project will utilize the advanced molten salt system technology from United Technologies Corp. (UTC), the diversified technology company headquartered in Connecticut. SolarReserve holds the exclusive worldwide license for this technology.

This groundbreaking technology features efficient energy storage inherent in the technology design that can provide electricity reliably during peak demand periods to meet utility requirements whether the sun is shining or not.

Expected to break ground by the end of 2010, the project will create as many as 450 construction jobs for Nevada during the two-year construction period. It will employ 45 permanent operations staff and will have an annual operating budget of more than $5.0 million, with the majority of that budget spent in the region.

In addition, up to 4,000 indirect jobs would be created through the use of locally based suppliers and service providers. The project will generate sales and property tax revenue estimated at more than $40 million over the project operating period.

The project also supports SolarReserve and suppliers’ design, development, and engineering staffs with more than 100 engineers working to further US developed solar energy technology for potential export around the world.

“The Tonopah project is a significant step in the advancement of clean and reliable solar power for the United States and Nevada and will be a catalyst for new technology manufacturing in the region,” said Kevin Smith, SolarReserve’s CEO.

“We are extremely pleased to be working with NV Energy and look forward to the opportunity to work together on additional projects in the future. In addition, we are grateful for all of the support from Senator Harry Reid and other members of the Nevada delegation. We also appreciate Air Force Secretary Michael Donley directing the Scientific Advisory Board to carry out a thoughtful study and the Air Force’s decision to allow this project near Nellis Air Force Base to move ahead.”

NV Energy’s President and CEO Michael Yackira said his company is taking major steps in continuing Nevada’s leadership in the development of renewable energy. “The energy storage characteristics were a key factor in our selection of the Tonopah Solar Energy project and provide a showcase for U.S. technology development in Nevada.”

The long-term agreement stems from NV Energy’s 2008 Request for Proposals for renewable energy. It requires the approval of the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada and will be included in the company’s Integrated Resource Filing slated for Feb. 1, 2010.

Amonix names SunEdison co-founder Brian Robertson CEO

SEAL BEACH, USA: The Board of Directors of Amonix, Inc., the best choice for utility-scale solar power in hot and dry climates, announced today that it has named Brian Robertson CEO.

Robertson succeeds Vahan Garboushian in that role. Garboushian, who founded the company more than 20 years ago, continues as its Chief Technology Officer and Chairman.

Robertson joined Amonix through the company’s acquisition of Sunworks Solar, LLC, a solar manufacturing plant developer he co-founded. Previously, Robertson co-founded and was president of SunEdison, North America’s largest solar energy services provider. SunEdison was acquired by MEMC in November 2009. Robertson is a graduate of MIT with a degree in Computer Science and has an MBA from Harvard Business School.

“Demand for utility-scale solar power is increasing rapidly around the world and with our CPV industry-leading 15 years’ experience with successful deployments in real-world conditions, Amonix is uniquely positioned to drive growth,” said Garboushian. “Brian is one of a handful of solar industry executives with deep experience leading field-tested solar companies, and he is the right person at the right time to take Amonix to the next level.”

Added Robertson: “It is rare to have a second chance to make a real difference in the same industry. The solar industry is maturing and segmenting. For utilities to meet and exceed their energy portfolio requirements takes the right technology for the right application. The Amonix technology is unparalleled for utility-scale solar in hot and dry climates. It is a great place to be as the industry evolves to the next stage.”

Suntech's quality lab certified for PV module VDE test data acceptance program

WUXI, CHINA: Suntech Power Holdings Co. Ltd, the world's largest crystalline silicon photovoltaic (PV) module manufacturer, announced that it is the first solar company in Asia to be awarded the VDE Test Data Acceptance Program (TDAP) certificate in accordance with all the requirements of IEC 61215.

The award is further recognition of Suntech's strong commitment to implementing world-class quality processes to ensure solar panel performance.

Dr. Qiang Han, General Manager of VDE Shanghai said: "We are impressed by Suntech's comprehensive quality testing processes, a number of which exceed IEC certification requirements. As a leading global solar company, Suntech is setting a fantastic example of how to ensure consistent, high quality production."

As part of the program, VDE will regularly send experienced personnel to witness the implementation of key quality tests and procedures at Suntech. Participation in the TDAP is expected to accelerate Suntech's ongoing IEC certification process from approximately seven months to four months, enabling Suntech to bring the latest solar products to market faster.

Dr. Zhengrong Shi, Suntech's Chairman and CEO, said: "We view quality as key to the long-term success of the solar industry. Suntech's commitment to reliability, represented in our industry-leading quality control teams, state-of-the-art product testing infrastructure, and our track record of over 1.5GW of installed solar products, gives customers the confidence and performance they need to generate decades of sustainable and clean energy. We will work closely with VDE and other internationally respected quality organizations to guarantee current and future generations of solar technology."

Suntech's world-class PV module testing facility is the largest in China with 1,400sqm and 7,000sqm of indoor and outdoor testing space, respectively. The cutting-edge test equipment includes a walk-in UV light chamber, a walk-in salt mist chamber, a water vapor test, pulse and continuous solar simulators, walk-in climate chambers, mechanical load and hail testers, electroluminescence testers, and high precision infrared cameras to evaluate module integrity.

All the equipment and testing procedures meet or exceed the stringent standards of UL1703, IEC61215 and IEC61730-2. In June 2009, Suntech's PV module testing facility became the first in China to be awarded the Underwriters Laboratories Witness Testing Data Program certificate.

MEMC acquires stake in Eversol

ST. PETERS, USA: MEMC Electronic Materials Inc. , a leading provider of silicon wafers and North America's largest solar energy services provider, has taken an ownership interest in Eversol Corporation, a solar wafer manufacturer in Taiwan.

In connection with the contract amendment between MEMC and Gintech Energy dated September 22, 2009, MEMC purchased Gintech's 8.36 percent interest in Eversol at Gintech's original cost. In a subsequent transaction, as part of a recent capital raise by Eversol, MEMC invested $5.0 million for an additional 5.1 million shares, bringing MEMC's ownership stake in Eversol to approximately 10.6 percent.

"We are pleased to strengthen our strategic partnership with Eversol," commented Ken Hannah, President of MEMC Solar Materials. "In addition to our plans to bring solar wafer manufacturing capability in-house, MEMC is identifying strategic partners for solar wafer manufacturing. With a mix of internal and external solar wafering capacity, we can minimize fixed costs and maintain the flexibility to satisfy growing levels of demand. As we implement this manufacturing strategy, we will continue to identify world-class strategic partners, such as Eversol."

Eversol's Chairman and CEO, Calvin Ho, said: "We welcome MEMC as a major shareholder. Having access to MEMC's worldwide supply chain and engineering systems will help us further reduce wafer manufacturing costs, which will spur additional demand for solar projects. MEMC's deep expertise with silicon wafers will also help us to improve solar-cell efficiency and manufacturing yields. Eversol looks forward to working with MEMC engineers in jointly advancing solar wafer technology."

Chinese firms ride vertical integration to solar cost leadership

EL SEGUNDO, USA: Chinese solar firms Trina Solar Ltd. and Yingli Green Energy Holding Company Ltd. have capitalized on their vertical structures—combining the sale of Photovoltaic (PV) wafers, cells, panels and installation—to achieve the lowest costs in the industry. But will their success continue as solar market conditions change?

“Yingli and Trina have capitalized on their capability to quickly reduce margins across the solar value chain,” said Dr. Henning Wicht, senior director and principal analyst at iSuppli. “These two companies do not have to renegotiate contracts with wafer and cell suppliers to achieve best-in-class pricing, allowing them to achieve strong growth during what has been a very tough year for the global solar business.

By combining multiple segments of the solar supply chain into a single vertically-integrated business model, they have been able to control costs—and even maintain the lowest inventory levels of any supplier worldwide.”

Trina in the third quarter saw its revenue explode to $250 million, up from $148 million in the second quarter. The majority of its sales during the period were derived from Europe.

The company in the third quarter even managed to decrease its stockpiles to just 22.7 Days of Inventory (DOI). In contrast, DOI for all vertically integrated solar suppliers amounted to about 105 in the third quarter.

In addition to overseas sales, Trina and Yingli also are benefitting from the rise in solar installations in China. iSuppli predicts 200 Megawatts (MW) of solar systems will be installed in China in 2009, up from 30MW in 2008. China’s megawatt installations will rise at an 88 percent CAGR to reach 2,500MW by 2013.

Vertical orientation
“Yingli and Trina, along with US-based First Solar Inc.—represent the most notable success stories in the PV market today,” Wicht said. “In the price-driven environment of 2009, vertical integration provides the scale and control needed to contain costs, and to provide a competitive edge.”

Many other companies are practicing various degrees of vertical integration. For example, Suntech, Sharp, Sanyo, Sunpower have combined cell and panel production. REC Solar Inc. offers polysilicon, wafers, cells and modules. Aleo, Solon and Phoenix Solar engage in both panel production and solar system installation.

Other companies are taking specialized approaches, focusing on specific nodes of the supply chain. For example, companies including JA Solar, Gintech and NSP perform only cell production, while HSC and Wacker exclusively offer polysilicon.

The wave of the future: specialization
While vertical integration may rule the day in the solar industry, the days of dominance for this business model are numbered.

“The future of the solar industry lies in specialization, similar to what occurred in the semiconductor business,” Wicht said. “Chip suppliers once were completely vertically oriented, producing everything from raw silicon and wafers, to manufacturing equipment, to semiconductors, to end equipment.

“However, over the years, it became unfeasible for chip companies to participate in all these segments, leading to a disaggregation of the industry into distinct segments, including raw materials, fab equipment, foundries and assembly and test. Economics dictate that a similar trend will occur in the solar market.”

Wicht noted that the vertical integration approach will become untenable for the solar market in the future.

“Maintaining the investments to remain competitive at all levels of the solar business is not possible for a single supplier,” Wicht said. “Depreciation costs for production equipment will increase. Depreciation cycles will decrease to less than five years, down from as much as 10 years before, due to the need to buy new, more competitive equipment.”

Meanwhile, as the solar market diversifies, those companies that focus on specific nodes of the industry will be able to provide specialized products to meet the needs of particular applications. For instance, companies can provide solar solutions that are specifically tailored to increase the kilowatt yield in low lighting conditions or in high temperatures.

Companies that successfully develop unique, specialized products will be able to avoid heavy competition that can erode prices.

Source: iSuppli, USA

Monday, December 21, 2009

First Solar and NRG Energy open largest solar PV power plant in California

PRINCETON, USA: First Solar Inc. and NRG Energy Inc. announced the start of commercial operation for the largest photovoltaic (PV) solar project in California.

First Solar developed and built the 21-megawatt (MW) power plant in Blythe, Calif., which was acquired last month by NRG through its wholly owned subsidiary NRG Solar. Electricity generated by the solar facility is being sold to Southern California Edison (SCE) under a 20-year power purchase agreement.

Located in Riverside County about 200 miles east of Los Angeles, the Blythe plant is the largest thin film PV project in the United States and is five times the size of the next largest PV project in California. NRG estimates that at peak capacity, the project can supply the power needs of almost 17,000 homes while helping California meet its renewable energy goals. Approximately 175 people built Blythe during its three-month construction and installation period.

“It is no surprise that America’s largest thin film solar project was built right here in California, where my Administration has successfully created a climate where green businesses can thrive,” said California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

“It is forward-thinking businesses such as First Solar that will help California reach its nation-leading greenhouse gas reduction and Renewable Portfolio Standard goals, as well as create the new green jobs that will help spur our economic recovery.”

“Solar is the great untapped resource in California, and we are pleased to be part of this significant milestone for solar development in our state,” said Marc Ulrich, SCE vice president, Renewables and Alternative Power. “Bringing this power to the grid helps SCE maintain its position as the nation’s leading utility for renewable energy.”

“California, as it has in many arenas, is leading the way in encouraging large-scale clean energy sources,” said David Crane, NRG Energy President and CEO. “NRG, through our association with pioneers like First Solar and forward-thinking companies like SCE, seeks to help clean our air while stocking our country’s clean energy economic growth through commercial implementation of solar technology.”

First Solar expanded its offerings in California in 2008. The Blythe plant is a model for First Solar’s future large-scale solar developments. “The development, project finance and construction of this solar plant demonstrate First Solar’s capabilities in utility scale projects,” said Bruce Sohn, president of First Solar. “With a three-month build-out, we are pleased to be bringing it online ahead of schedule.”

Using First Solar’s industry-leading thin film PV panels that convert sunlight directly into electricity with no water consumption during operation, the Blythe plant will generate over 45,000 megawatt-hours of clean, affordable, sustainable electricity per year.

This solar generation will avoid approximately 12,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually – the equivalent of taking over 2,200 cars off the road. First Solar will provide operations and maintenance services at Blythe under a long-term contract with NRG.