North Coast Solar Stocks

December 9, 2009

Huge Poly Glut Coming In 2010, Soleil Analyst Says

Filed under: none — Tags: , , , , — Jason @ 12:04 pm

By Eric Savitz
barrons.com

The solar industry should brace for a huge glut of polysilicon in 2010, Soleil Securities analyst Paul Lemming warns today, with prices likely to head sharply lower.

Over the next three quarters, he calculates, the amount of polysilicon available to the solar market is going to increase by about 70%. He says it is true that the poly market became “snug” in the third quarter due to a jump in seasonal installations, but adds that conditions will change in the 2010 first half “as every major producer of polysilicon ramps new capacity.”

He thinks the industry is facing the prospect of 60%-80% over supply next year, with no hope of a more balanced market before sometime in 2011 at the earliest.

In Lemming’s view, the spot price of polysilicon is heading to the mid $30s per kg over the next six months – from $50-$55 range – with prices below $30 “not out of the question.” The analyst notes that there is a widespread notion that pricing will hold at current levels over the nest year, but adds that is likely only if things are different this time – “and this time is never different.”

He notes that prices at $55/kg provide “reinvestment level economics for established producers,” and would make polysilicon “the first commodity we are aware of to have pricing – in a grossly over-supplied market – remain at or above reinvestment level pricing.” Lemming notes that “commodity after commodity sees the spot price move to the cash cost of production of the high-cost plant whose output is needed to supply the last kilogram of demand.” He finds that all poly demand can be supplied by plants with cash costs at or below $35/kg. Lemming notes that five years ago, the spot price of poly for the solar market was below $30, and that some business took place at prices below $25. The implication: we could end up at those price levels again in 2010.

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October 27, 2009

Renewable Energy Misses Q3 Sales, Profit, Shares Sink 12.5%

Filed under: none — Tags: , , , , — Jason @ 10:00 am

By Tiernan Ray
barrons.com

Norwegian solar energy firm Renewable Energy Corp. this morning announced Q3 sales and profit below estimates as lower-than-expected volumes of its solar panel technology crimped sales and profit.

Q3 revenue rose 13% to 2.16 billion Norwegian Kroner, roughly $383 million, missing the average estimate of Thomson Financial survey of 2.5 billion Kroner, yielding profit per share, excluding some costs, of .19 Kroner, below the .54 Kroner estimate.

The company noted sales declined 6% from the prior quarter due to lower sales volume owing to “weak demand.” The company was hit particularly in its division that makes multicrystalline wafers, the building blocks of photovoltaic cells. The company had shuttered some production in May in the face of market weakness. The company has resumed the ramp-up of those wafer factories, it said.

Shares of REC, traded on the over-the-counter market, were down 95 cents, or 12.5%, at $6.70. REC shares on the Oslo stock exchange fell about 9%.

October 15, 2009

Solar City: Austin Sees Huge Potential for Solar Power, Thanks to Satellites

Filed under: none — Tags: , , , — Jason @ 11:23 am

By Russell Gold
wsj.com

If you covered a city’s roofs with solar panels—or solar shingles–just how much solar power could a city provide?

While still a pie-in-the-sky question, the falling price of solar and growing interest in covering warehouses and other buildings with panels makes it an intriguing one.

The short answer: A sunbelt city could potentially generate enough juice to meet all of its peak, summer afternoon demand. That’s what Roger Duncan, general manager of Austin Energy, said this morning at a conference.

Working under an Energy Department grant, the city-owned utility studied satellite pictures to determine how much rooftop space there was for solar installations. After eliminating roofs shaded by trees and roofs oriented away from the sun, it determined it could generate 2.3 gigawatts of power. Add in some ground-based solar installations and covering parking lots and you could get to 4 gigawatts.

This summer–when Austin had 68 days of 100-degree-plus weather–Austin’s peak demand was 2.6 gigawatts. “Theoretically we could be running this entire city off solar on a hot afternoon,” says Mr. Duncan. (Of course, there would still be a need to power the city at night and on rainy days. But that’s a discussion for another post.)

Mr. Duncan concedes that “the cost effectiveness isn’t there today.” And putting solar of roofs requires the homeowners to say yes. And that can be a problem. Austin has been having trouble convincing homeowners to pay a premium to subsidize the utility’s ambitious green-energy program.

October 12, 2009

Is going solar a good investment?

Filed under: none — Tags: , , , , — Jason @ 5:55 am

As soon as the decrease in monthly energy costs exceeds the amount of after-tax mortgage interest financing the solar installation, there will be a positive cash flow.

Home Improvement Returns: Solar Power Savings

A solar power system is without a doubt the best, most cost-effective way most homeowners can contribute to a healthier, more sustainable environment. It is also a proven way to save on energy costs if you are currently paying upwards of $150-$200 per month to your local utility. But did you know that many different studies, conducted by the real estate and home improvement industries, have shown that solar installations give you a better return on your investment that any other home improvement? It’s true.

Of course, real estate markets differ from state to state, and city to city. Overall, local markets determine the resale value of homes, but some improvements to your house increase its value in any market. It is important to know up front that you need to do some legwork if you want to see your home improvement investments result in an increased sale price for your property. First of all, you should consider the different impacts of various home improvement investments.

Bath, kitchen and beyond … and solar
Improvements to bathrooms, kitchens and other areas of the home, both inside and out, rarely result in lowering a home’s ongoing operating cost. Investments in cosmetic improvements are only worth additional money to the particular people who will value them. The proven, demonstrable monthly savings inherent in a solar system will be important to any buyer.

Most solar installations will pay for themselves in 8-12 years, after which you will essentially be “making money” for the life of the system. A common 3kw home solar system for example shows that the installation performs as well as a 9% stock return, assuming a conservative energy cost increase of 5% annually. The greater that energy cost increase is, of course, the greater your ROI (Return On Investment) will be by locking in the operating costs of solar today.

Economics of solar improvements vs. home improvements

Long-term studies published in the Appraisal Journal indicate that home improvements that save money on annual electricity costs will increase the property’s value by a 20-to-1 ratio. In other words, if you are saving $1,000 a year off your electricity bill by using solar power, the increase in your property value is a cool $20,000. Home buyers choosing between a home that generates free, self-supporting solar power and a typical home that generates thousands of dollars per year in electricity bills will usually make the rational decision, all other things being equal.

(more…)

October 10, 2009

Soros aims to invest $1 bln in green tech

Filed under: none — Tags: , , , — Jason @ 6:57 pm

Sat Oct 10, 2009 6:57pm EDT

COPENHAGEN (Reuters) – Billionaire George Soros said on Saturday that he would invest $1 billion in clean energy technology as part of an effort to combat climate change.

The Hungarian-born U.S. investor also announced he would form and fund a new climate policy initiative with $10 million a year for 10 years.

“Global warming is a political problem,” Soros told a meeting of editors in the Danish capital where governments are scheduled to meet in December to try to hammer out a new global climate agreement to replace the 1997 Kyoto Protocol.

“The science is clear, what is less clear is whether world leaders will demonstrate the political will necessary to solve the problem,” he said, according to a brief email statement.

His remarks came a day after climate talks in Bangkok ended in deadlock over how much cash should be made available to poorer nations to help them cope with climate change and over the size of rich countries’ greenhouse gas emissions cuts.

Soros said he would apply stringent criteria to his investments in clean energy technologies.

“I will look for profitable opportunities, but I will also insist that the investments make a real contribution to solving the problem of climate change,” Soros said.

(Reporting by John Acher)

October 8, 2009

Vast majority of Americans believe in development, use of solar energy

Filed under: none — Tags: , , , — Jason @ 12:00 pm

08 October 2009 | By Tom Cheyney

Americans overwhelmingly believe that the nation should develop and use solar energy and that the federal government should make solar power a national priority, according to a new poll. The Schott Solar Barometer survey finds almost half of all Americans are thinking about solar power as an option for their homes or businesses and cite solar as their top choice among energy sources.

The national poll, conducted for Schott (and cosponsor, the Solar Energy Industries Assn.) by independent firm for Kelton Research, found 92% of those surveyed think it is important for the nation to develop and use solar energy, a result that was consistent across all political party affiliations. A large plurality of those Americans polled–77% of Americans–believe the federal government should make solar power development a national priority, including providing the financial support needed.

In addition to the 49% of respondents considering solar for their home or business, 43% rate solar as their top choice for energy, far outpacing wind (17%), natural gas (12%), nuclear (10%), and other sources. Among those who would like to have solar installed, 70% want to make the change within the next five years.

Despite the enthusiasm for solar, most of those surveyed feel they aren’t that knowledgable on the subject: only 12% say they’re extremely informed about the subject of solar power in general. Some 74% of the Americans polled admit they would like to know more about solar power options for their home or business.

“With controversial debates happening all over America, this isn’t one of them,” said Rhone Resch, SEIA president/CEO. “Americans overwhelmingly want clean, reliable solar energy for their homes and businesses. It’s now time for Congress to listen to the American public and prioritize the use of solar in upcoming energy legislation. By expanding the U.S. market for solar, Congress will reduce pollution and greenhouse gas emissions while creating jobs in all 50 states.”

The poll was conducted between Aug. 31 and Sept. 8 using an email invitation and an online survey, and showed a 3.1% sampling variation. Results for the recent survey largely mirrored the findings of the previous year’s poll, with only a few percentage points of difference.

October 7, 2009

California green push to staunch job losses

Filed under: none — Tags: , , , — Jason @ 4:08 pm

Wed Oct 7, 2009 4:08pm EDT

By Peter Henderson

SACRAMENTO, Calif., Oct 7 (Reuters) – California’s plan to slow climate change will boost the state economy and save hundreds of thousands of jobs at risk from rising energy costs, a study by a University of California economist said on Wednesday.

The most populous U.S. state leads the nation with its plan to cut carbon dioxide emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 with measures from encouraging energy efficiency to getting a third of state electricity from renewable sources such as wind and solar. But the plan is under attack from businesses and some academics who say the costs of going green will bankrupt many enterprises.

The state’s decisions are also likely to affect the country at large, since federal policy often follows California’s lead on environmental issues, from vehicle standards to plans passed in the state and being debated in the U.S. Congress to cap emissions and let companies trade credits to pollute.

Rising fossil fuel prices would cut state economic output by $84 billion and slash 626,000 jobs from state payrolls in 2020, if U.S. Department of Energy fuel forecasts are used instead of the outlook by the state energy commission, according to the study by economist David Roland-Holst of the University of California, Berkeley.

But the move to get a third of state electricity from renewables and become more efficient would reverse the decline, the study added. Instead, 2020 economic output would rise $20 billion from current projections and 112,000 jobs would be created.

Forecasts swing dramatically, like energy prices, though, and the study — funded by environmental economics nonprofit Next 10 — argued that renewable prices will not jump since there is no practical limit to the amount of solar and wind energy to be harnessed. Oil supply, by comparison, is limited.

Prices of solar panel components have swung widely in the last couple of years as demand for solar power has changed with the economy. A major deficit has turned into a glut. Natural gas prices will also be key to electricity costs, and vast new finds in recent years have created a surplus.

The broader trend of a drop in the price of photovoltaic solar, the familiar solar panels, was likely despite fluctuating demand, Roland-Holst said, and that technology could radically cut the costs of solar and other alternative energy.

Study available at link.reuters.com/keb62f

September 29, 2009

ProLogis, Recurrent Energy tie up on solar project

Filed under: none — Tags: , , , , — Jason @ 2:40 pm

Tue Sep 29, 2009 2:40pm EDT

* ProLogis, Recurrent Energy partner on solar project

* To build 4.8 megawatts of solar power in Spain

* ProLogis forms global renewable energy group

LOS ANGELES, Sept 29 (Reuters) – Warehouse and distribution facilities developer ProLogis (PLD) and Recurrent Energy will team up develop 4.8 megawatts of solar power projects in Spain, by the middle of 2010.

ProLogis said on Tuesday it will lease industrial rooftop space in Barcelona and Madrid to power provider Recurrent Energy, which will finance, own and operate the envisioned solar systems and eventually sell the resultant power to local Spanish utilities through a feed-in tariff.

Neither company revealed the financial terms of the deal.

The projects will be spread out over eight rooftops in the two cities, with construction expected to start in a month and slated to finish in the middle of 2010.

Recurrent Energy’s chief executive, Arno Harris, said the project — where an established renewable energy developer rents rooftops from a major real estate owner and uses the space as a site — could provide a model for future solar power projects.

“We feel we’ve cracked the code on how to tap large industrial roofs as solar sites,” Harris said.

He pointed to challenges in developing solar rooftop systems if projects were signed one at a time. Harris added that the process became more efficient and scalable when there is a single lease transaction that covers several rooftops and a single arrangement to sell the power.

For its projects with ProLogis, Recurrent Energy will use flexible thin-film solar laminates. Harris said that the company has a pipeline of 500 MW of solar power projects — each between 2 and 20 MW — in development.

ProLogis also announced on Tuesday it had formed a global renewable energy group to drive business, manage installations and provide consultant services in its renewable energy program.

ProLogis has more than 450 million square feet of rooftop space worldwide. And with the new project with Recurrent, the company will have 11 MW of solar installations around the world.

(Reporting by Laura Isensee; Editing Bernard Orr)

September 11, 2009

Gas-guzzlers to greentech

Filed under: none — Tags: , , , , , — Jason @ 12:30 am

Ford plant to be converted to solar, energy storage production park

11 September 2009 | By Tom Cheyney

An idled Ford (F) automotive factory near Detroit where T-Birds and Continentals were once built will be redeveloped into one of the largest renewable energy manufacturing parks in the United States. The site will include a micromorph-silicon thin-film solar panel factory equipped by Oerlikon–the company’s first such installation in the States. After nine months of discussions with the developers as well as local and state officials, Ford has signed an agreement in principle to sell Wixom assembly plant to energy storage system company Xtreme Power and Clairvoyant Energy, which will be Oerlikon’s turnkey partner.

Once state and federal incentives have been approved, Clairvoyant and Xtreme plan an initial investment of $725 million to redevelop the 320-acre site and its 4.7 million square feet of plant space. The park could create more than 4000 jobs on site and in the surrounding area, as well as support thousands of indirect jobs in an area reeling from cutbacks and layoffs in the automotive industry.

The two primary companies say they will use about half of the square footage to manufacture their products, and will seek additional green-energy manufacturing and support companies to lease the remaining space. The redevelopment work at the Wixom site is expected to start in early 2010, with manufacturing slated to begin in late 2011.

Clairvoyant Energy, which develops PV projects in the U.S. and Europe, plans to hire 300 employees for what would be the company’s first production facility, which will begin operations in late 2011 with a 90MW line using the Oerlikon gear. Depending on market conditions and other factors, the Santa Barbara, CA-based company could add another three production lines and 700 employees in subsequent years.

If the project is approved, Oerlikon says it will establish a regional sales and support center at the Wixom site.

“Oerlikon Solar has the experience and capability we needed from a technology partner for this highly visible and ambitious project,” said David Hardee, CEO of Clairvoyant Energy. “Oerlikon Solar will provide us with a technology strategy to remain at the cutting edge at relatively low risk with the goal of producing a high-efficiency solar panel at the lowest cost in the market.”

August 21, 2009

Solar, wind industries head to Washington

Filed under: none — Tags: , , — Jason @ 4:57 pm

Alternative energy industries flex lobbying muscle with billions at stake

Chris Kahn, AP Energy Writer
Friday August 21, 2009, 4:57 pm EDT

NEW YORK — With more than $11 billion in subsidies up for grabs, Congress and state governor’s offices are getting lots of attention from lobbyists as the solar and wind energy industries maneuver for the lions’ share.

The Solar Energy Industries Association spent $540,000 on lobbying in the second quarter of this year, which is more than it spent on lobbyists in all of 2007.

Solar representatives believe that they can create more jobs than other alternative energy sectors, so they should get a bigger slice of that pie.

“You get the best bang for your buck by investing in residential solar,” said Rhone Resch, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association. “This is about taking the tradesmen who have been let go from the housing industry, and putting them back to work — the electricians, the plumbers, the roofers,” he said.

Meanwhile, the American Wind Energy Association more than tripled lobbying budget, spending $1.83 million in the second quarter.

“We all want to create jobs,” said Elizabeth Salerno, director of industry data and analysis at American Wind Energy Association. But with wind, the government is investing in a technology that can have a major impact on the electrical grid right now, Salerno said.

Both are relatively new when it comes to government arm-twisting, however, and industry lobbyists still struggle to be heard over their well-funded counterparts in the petroleum and coal industries.

(more…)

August 10, 2009

Solar Panel Glut To Persist Until 2012, iSuppli Predicts

Filed under: none — Tags: , , , — Jason @ 4:06 pm

Posted by Eric Savitz
barrons.com

The solar industry in 2009 will produce almost twice the number of panels as the market will absorb, according to new data from the market research firm iSuppli.

The firm predicts that global solar panel production this year will grow 14.3% to 7.5 gigawatts, up from a revised 6.5 GW in 2008. But iSuppli contends installations this year will total only 3.9 GW, which means that nearly one of every two panels produced in 2009 will go into inventory.

Henning Wicht, iSuppli analyst for photovoltaics, says the glut will have a long-term impact on the solar business, with over-supply likely to persist until 2012. He notes that “even in the face of the downturn, many panel and cell producers have continued to ramp up their capacities as if a recession had never occurred.”

Here’s a look at iSuppli’s revised estimates on solar panel production through 2012:

* 2008: Revised estimate of 6.5 GW, down from 7.7.
* 2009: 7.5 GW, down from 11.1.
* 2010: 13.5 GW, down from 14.2.
* 2011: 15.5 GW, down from 17.9.
* 2012: 17.2 GW, down from 20.2.

August 7, 2009

Pac Crest Sees Cloudy Outlook for European Solar Firms

Filed under: none — Tags: , , , — Jason @ 4:23 pm

Posted by Tiernan Ray
barrons.com

In a note today forecasting mixed results form European solar technology companies, Pacific Crest analyst Mark Bachman downgraded shares of Norway’s Renewable Energy Corp while maintaining “Outperform” ratings on German firms SolarWorld, Q-Cells and Phoenix Solar.

SolarWorld has “shown the most resiliency” so far this year, with its integrated manufacturing helping to keep costs down, and the company appears to be taking some share in the U.S. solar market. Phoenix, he hopes, will have some positive comments to make at its earnings announcement.

Q-Cells and Rewable are “battling an increasingly competitive market, but at the same time have internal operational issues that detract from long-term investment,” writes Bachman. He downgraded shares of Renewable from “Outperform” to “Sector Perform.” Bachman cut his estimates for Renewable dramatically as he expects average selling prices for its wares to come under increasing pressure from low-cost Chinese providers. His 2009 profit estimate goes to Euros .61 from Euros 2.55 and for 2010, to Euros 3.84 from Euros 4.50.

July 30, 2009

Ohio budget tries to boost solar power

Filed under: none — Tags: , , , , , — Jason @ 4:33 pm

7/30/2009 4:33:46 PM

By Stephen Majors

COLUMBUS, OHIO: Ohio’s latest budget seeks to put solar power in the financial reach of Ohio residents by addressing the cost of installation, the biggest barrier to the renewable energy technology’s large-scale deployment.

Now the onus falls on cities and townships across the state to carry the vision forward.

The budget approved earlier this month enables cities to use bonds or grants to pay for the installation of solar panels, whose initial cost of tens of thousands of dollars is unaffordable to the vast majority of homeowners. Residents who get the money will then pay back the cost, plus the interest, through an assessment on their property taxes for up to 25 years.

If a homeowner with a solar panel were to move, the panel would remain on the home and be paid by the next homeowner’s property taxes.

Berkeley, Calif., was the pioneer for municipal solar financing two years ago, and the idea has spread to other California cities and roughly a dozen states, including Virginia and Maryland. Berkeley has 38 projects funded through the city during the project’s filing phase.

In Ohio, the idea started with the Athens City Council in Appalachia in southeast Ohio, which took it to state Sen. Jimmy Stewart, an Albany Republican. It quickly went into the budget plan.

“What we’re really hoping to do is establish a model that other cities across the state can copy,” said Councilman Elahu Gosney, who said the primary focus is on homeowners but the financing could later be extended to businesses. “One of the driving forces behind this is to use this as a job creator and try to improve our economy.”

(more…)

July 16, 2009

DOE to fund concentrating solar power research

Filed under: none — Tags: , , , , — Jason @ 12:45 pm

7/16/2009 12:45:49 PM

WASHINGTON, D.C. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) plans to provide up to US$52.5 million to research, develop, and demonstrate concentrating solar power (CSP) systems capable of providing low-cost electrical power both day and night.

“Low-cost renewable energy generation that includes energy storage is one key to our efforts to diversify domestic energy sources and create new jobs,” said Energy Secretary Steven Chu.

“By investing in the development of low-cost solar technologies we can pave the way toward faster deployment of carbon-free, large-scale energy sources.”

CSP technologies concentrate the sun’s energy and capture that energy as heat, which then drives an engine or turbine to produce electrical power. CSP plants can include low-cost energy storage, which allows them to provide electricity even when the sun is not shining.

CSP technologies currently used in utility-scale power plants typically do not have the capability or capacity for storage, operating only during daytime hours. These projects will seek to improve technology and novel system designs to extend operation to an average of about 18 hours per day, a level of production that would make it possible for a CSP plant to displace a traditional coal power plant.

The funding opportunity involves two areas research and development of concepts and components for a CSP system that enables a plant to produce low-cost electricity at least 18 hours of the day and evaluation of the feasibility and development of a prototype complete CSP system capable of operating at least 18 hours per day while generating low-cost power.

Projects are based upon continuing annual appropriations. DOE anticipates making up to 13 project awards totaling up to US$52.5 million.

July 9, 2009

Government releases renewable energy funding rules; program designed to kick-start industry

Filed under: none — Tags: , , , , — Jason @ 6:01 pm

By Sandy Shore, AP Energy Writer
Thursday July 9, 2009, 6:01 pm EDT

DENVER (AP) — The government released guidelines Thursday for allocating stimulus money to renewable energy projects, a move expected to help kick-start an industry dragged down by the recession.

The guidelines from the Treasury and Energy departments detail how developers can apply for grants to finance up to 30 percent of wind farms, solar plants, biomass facilities and other renewable energy operations.

Manufacturers, investors and project developers have said the government money is key because the renewable energy industry has struggled to obtain financing amid the credit market crisis.

“The industry is pumped about this announcement. This is exactly what we needed in terms of helping provide near-term financing,” said Denise Bode, president of the American Wind Energy Association trade group.

“This (money) doesn’t have to go through the financial community. This goes right to the developer,” she said in a telephone interview.

The government will issue direct payments in lieu of tax credits to qualified companies that build and start renewable energy operations beginning Jan. 1.

About 5,000 facilities are expected to benefit from the direct payments, which should total about $3 billion, the agencies said.

The stimulus package also includes loan guarantees and tax incentives for renewable energy.

Renewable energy provides a small fraction of electricity used today but the wind and solar sectors are among the fastest growing in the United States.

In 2008, the U.S. added 8,358 megawatts to become the world’s leading provider of wind power. Bode expects the industry to add about 6,000 megawatts of wind-generated electricity this year.

Yet, the recession has taken a toll. Companies have shelved plans for wind farms, solar parks and biofuels plants. Some have laid off workers while others have been forced to seek bankruptcy protection.

Most analysts agree business will pick up later this year or in 2010.

July 3, 2009

Report issued on success of California’s solar program

Filed under: none — Tags: , , , , — Jason @ 4:13 am

7/3/2009 4:13:28 AM

By Tracy Seipel, San Jose Mercury News

SACRAMENTO, CALIF.: Despite the worst economic downturn in decades, California’s multibillion-dollar program to expand solar power production — the country’s largest — remains on track to install as much new energy this year as last, according to a report issued Tuesday by the California Public Utilities Commission.

Driven by federal and state tax credits, businesses and homes are expected to install 156 megawatts of solar energy — enough to power about 78,000 homes — this year.

Dubbed the “California Solar Initiative,” the program, which was launched in January 2007, seeks to install 3,000 megawatts of new solar power in 10 years and transform the market for solar energy by reducing its cost.

“CSI is a bright spot that shows how government support for renewable energy is working,” said Molly Sterkel, supervisor for the CSI and the report’s project manager. Even given the weakened economy, she said, “customers are deciding to go solar in record numbers, and that’s amazing.”

The 95-page report is the commission’s first official annual self-assessment of the solar initiative.

Among the highlights of Tuesday’s report:

–California has more than 515 megawatts of solar power connected to the electric grid, equivalent to the capacity of one large power plant. Under the solar initiative, 226 megawatts of this was installed in the past 21/2 years.

–The annual rate for new installed solar capacity in California nearly doubled between 2007 and 2008 (from 81 megawatts to 156 megawatts), a marked increase from the 30 percent to 40 percent annual growth rate of prior years.

–The initiative has more than 22,000 solar applications, including both pending and installed systems.

–The program continues to see strong demand, with 1,444 new solar applications in May 2009 — the highest month on record.

–After 2 1/2 years, the CSI has installed 13 percent of the total 10-year program goal, and it has an additional 8 percent in applications pending installation this year.

–Santa Clara County leads the state in the number of current and pending solar installations in the program.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a solar stalwart, also weighed in on the success of the program Tuesday. “The results of today’s report demonstrate what I pictured for this program five years ago,” he said in a statement. “My vision of powering California homes and businesses with the sun is creating green jobs, lowering energy costs for thousands of Californians and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”

Solar proponents hailed the report as a boost for solar.

“You often hear about the programs that fail,” said Adam Browning, executive director and co-founder of Vote Solar Initiative, a San Francisco nonprofit seeking to bring solar energy into the mainstream. “Here is a program that is literally doing what it was advertised to do. That’s a good story.”

But critics of the CSI program continue to object to the fact that non-solar customers must subsidize rebates and credits paid to solar-power users.

“The good news, of course, is that we’re getting more solar in California,” said Mindy Spatt, communications director for The Utility Reform Network, a consumer watchdog group. “The bad news is that the benefits may not be flowing equally for all the ratepayers who are funding the program.”

Sterkel disagrees with that assessment.

“When customers decide to go solar, they help avoid the need for new power plants, which benefits all customers, not just those who have gone solar.”

(more…)

June 29, 2009

Fed works to speed solar development in Southwest

Filed under: none — Tags: , , , , — Jason @ 5:30 pm

By KEN RITTER

LAS VEGAS (AP) — The federal government’s top land steward said Monday that the United States will fast-track efforts to build solar power generating facilities on public space in six Western states.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said he has signed an order setting aside more than 1,000 square miles of public land for two years of study and environmental reviews to determine where solar power stations should be built.

“We are putting a bull’s-eye on the development of solar energy on our public lands,” Salazar said during an announcement with U.S. Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada, in a courtyard shaded by a solar power array at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

Salazar and Reid, the Democratic Senate majority leader, invoked President Barack Obama’s call for rapid development of renewable energy.

“We hear a lot about doing something about the environment,” Reid said. “That’s what this is all about. We want to not be dependent on foreign oil. This will make America a more secure nation.”

Salazar vowed to have 13 “commercial-scale” solar projects under construction by the end of 2010. He set a goal of producing a total of 100,000 megawatts of solar electricity.

Salazar said the federal Bureau of Land Management plans to spend $22 million conducting studies of 24 tracts in the 670,000 acres of property he set aside in Nevada, Arizona, California, Colorado, Utah and New Mexico. Posters displayed Monday showed some of the sites in southern Nevada, Southern California east of San Diego, an area west of Phoenix, and tracts north of Cedar City in Utah, southwest of Pueblo, Colo., and around Las Cruces, N.M.

Bureau officials said the goal will be to identify lands of at least three square miles with solar exposure, suitable slopes and proximity to existing or designated roads and transmission lines. Wilderness, high-conservation-value lands and lands with conflicting uses were excluded. Setting aside the sites, called Solar Energy Study Areas, would prevent new mining claims and other third-party use during the studies.

An industry official hailed Salazar’s promise to clear a logjam in utility-scale solar developments. The BLM said it has 158 active applications for solar power plants pending.

(more…)

June 23, 2009

Solar Supplier Chooses Toledo for First North American Facility

Filed under: none — Tags: , , , , , — Jason @ 4:44 pm

Buckeye Silicon Will Produce Material Critical to 90 Percent of Photovoltaic Panels

TOLEDO, Ohio–(BUSINESS WIRE)–The Toledo and Northwest Ohio area’s involvement in solar energy production took another major step forward with the announcement of plans to develop North America’s most advanced polycrystalline silicon (c-Si) production facility in Toledo.

Officials of California-based Sphere Renewable Energy Corp. (SREC) said the company will develop a wholly-owned subsidiary, Buckeye Silicon (BeSi), in Toledo. The initial production module will be located at The University of Toledo’s renowned Center for Renewable Energy.

“Toledo is an outstanding community, one with the human resources that readily can be applied to our manufacturing business,” said Harrison Choi, BeSi’s President and CEO.

Polycrystalline silicon is the key component and essential raw material used to produce 90 percent of the photovoltaic (PV) solar cells currently being manufactured.

Product produced by BeSi will be sold predominantly to PV producers in North America and Europe. SREC recently has entered into a joint venture with strategic, East Asian investors to begin using SREC’s proprietary process to mass produce c-Si for the PV market.

Solar cell manufacturers in the Toledo market currently use a process that does not require c-Si to produce PV solar cells. With the addition of BeSi’s manufacturing base, the Toledo area will be capable of boosting its photovoltaic manufacturing portfolio, spanning the entire PV value chain.

A ceremony in conjunction with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was held at UT’s Center for Renewable Energy. Signatories included BeSi, UT, the City of Toledo and the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority.

With an eye toward the future of both his company and the area’s role in solar energy, President Choi said: “Over the next several years, we look forward to working with each of the MOU parties to create many net-new skilled jobs for Toledoans. Our plan is to grow to become a dominate, global polysilicon supplier as well as to further improve the NW Ohio platform so other solar-focused companies will base their businesses here.”

Michael J. Stolarczyk, President and CEO of the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority, endorsed BeSi’s move to Toledo. “The Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority strongly supports the further development of the solar industry in Northwest Ohio, and we are committed to working with BeSi on the development of its financing,” Stolarczyk said.

Sphere Renewable Energy Corp’s approach involves a light industrial, modular process which requires much less space and energy than a traditional polycrystalline silicon production facility. Also, SREC’s development is more efficient. The approach up until now has involved massive chemical infrastructure facilitation, similar to an oil refinery, with many of the related concerns that refineries experience.

SREC’s process does not have the environmental problems other polycrystalline silicon manufacturer’s experience.

About Sphere Renewable Energy Corp.
Sphere Renewable Energy Corp. (SREC) has developed a revolutionary, patented polycrystalline silicon manufacturing system. Its approach dramatically improves processing efficiencies and is ecologically friendly. Currently, SREC has granted a technology usage license to mass produce polysilicon at an Asian facility. SREC is an Arcadia, California-based energy sciences company.

EPIA: Solar power to become major European player by 2020

Filed under: none — Tags: , , , — Jason @ 12:00 pm

23 June 2009 | By Síle Mc Mahon

A new report published by the European Photovoltaic Industry Association states that the solar power generation industry is well on its way to becoming a competitive supplier of energy to the European market. The ‘SET For 2020’ study outlines the potential for the industry that will, under typical conditions, supply between 4 and 6% of Europe’s energy needs, but has potential to cover 12% of Europe’s entire energy needs by 2020.

A potential rise from approximately 1% (currently) to 12% of Europe’s electricity needs covered by solar energy would only come about under certain conditions, according to the EPIA report. More favorable conditions could increase the uptake of photovoltaic power and make it a real runner in Europe’s energy supply in the future.

“Photovoltaic electricity generation will already be competitive in parts of southern Europe by next year,” said Dr. Winfried Hoffmann, EPIA president. “The study shows that under the 12% scenario, photovoltaic electricity will be competitive with other power sources in as much as 75% of the EU electricity market by 2020, without any form of external price support or subsidy.”

As the fastest-growing renewable energy source, the solar sector is preparing for costs to dip faster than those of other electricity sources – up to about an 8% annual drop in cost, according to the EPIA report.

Reaching a 12% market share would see PV providing a sizable share of the 1,244TWh gap that will develop in the market by 2020.

“Europe now needs to recognize the important role photovoltaic power can play in meeting its energy sustainability goals,” said Adel El Gammal, EPIA secretary general. “The photovoltaic industry is committed to delivering energy technology that is sustainable and competitive on a large scale. We are calling on political and regulatory decision makers and on the energy sector to support photovoltaic deployment without delay.”

June 17, 2009

Photovoltaics industry capital spending set for recovery, says IC Insights

Filed under: none — Tags: , , , — Jason @ 2:30 pm

17 June 2009 | By Mark Osborne

A new report from market research firm, IC Insights highlights the expected recovery in capital spending within the photovoltaics industry as the market recovers over the next few years. The market research firm claims that spending on manufacturing plants, equipment and materials in both the crystalline (c-Si) and thin film sectors has not declined as much as PV manufacturers had wanted in light of the slump in demand and difficult financial conditions, restricting project finance for solar installations.

IC Insights said in the report that it was late in 2008 that major PV manufacturers started to make capital spending cuts as the scale of the decline in demand became clear. Although many significantly reduced spending budgets for 2009 compared to 2008, long-lead times and previously planned expansions already taking place meant that many manufacturers could not abruptly halt all expenditures.

Although 2008 was a record year for PV installations, production capacity was already growing faster than actual demand, which saw many market analysts warn last year that a mismatch between supply and demand was developing. IC Insights believes that the inability to reduce spending fast has further aggravated the mismatch. The market research firm now expects PV production capacity to increase by 32% in 2009, compared with 2008, reaching a nominal installed capacity of 11.5GW. Capacity reached 8.7GW in 2008, a 69% increase over 2007, according to IC Insights.

The key concern is that IC Insights is forecasting a 22% decline in solar system installations this year, creating the need for further capital spending cuts in 2010 to reduce the supply and demand imbalance.

Therefore, IC Insights is projecting the PV industry will cut capital spending further in 2010 to approximately US$680 million, down from US$1.13 billion in 2009, a decline of 40%. Cuts in capital spending will slow capacity expansion to just 15% in 2010, yet the solar market is expected to recover with a 37% growth in system installations.

The supply and demand mismatch will impact manufacturing utilization rates. The market research firm projects rates to plummet from 83% in 2008 to 54% in 2009 and to 52% in 2010.

As the recovery in demand moves through 2011, capital spending will slowly recover, IC Insights said. Spending is expected to nearly reach the levels set in 2008 in 2012 when spending should reach US$1.34 billion an increase of 74% compared to 2011. Further growth in spending is expected in 2013, when capital expenditure is set to reach US$1.97 billion, a 47% increase of 2012.

As market demand increases manufacturing capacity utilization is expected to increase to 63% in 2011 and return to 2008 levels of 82% in 2013. The high utilization rates will also contribute to overall cost per watt reduction strategies, IC Insights noted in the new report.

June 10, 2009

Solar decathlon participants identified

Filed under: none — Tags: , , , — Jason @ 1:05 pm

6/10/2009 1:05:19 PM

WASHINGTON, D.C.: The U.S. Department of Energy has announced the participants and dates for its 2009 Solar Decathlon.

The Oct. 9-18 competition in Washington challenges students to design and develop houses that can provide their own energy from sunlight.

The 20 collegiate teams from the United States, Canada, Spain and Germany will each build a completely self-sufficient solar powered house, showcasing energy-efficient amenities and smart home systems that provide reduced carbon emissions without sacrificing the comfort of modern conveniences, officials said.

The fourth annual Solar Decathlon will take place on the National Mall and will consist of 10 individual contests that evaluate the teams’ skills in architecture, home design, and communications.

The houses must produce enough electricity and hot water from solar panels to perform all the normal functions of a home and a new net-metering contest will evaluate each home’s ability to produce its own power, officials said.

Following the Oct. 8 opening ceremony, the homes will be open for public tours.

A list of the participating colleges and universities is available at http://www.solardecathlon.org/teams.html.

June 3, 2009

China to Encourage Solar Use

Filed under: none — Tags: , , , , — Jason @ 9:00 am

Preferential Tariff Makes Clean Energy More Competitive

NANTONG, China — China said it will introduce a preferential tariff it will pay energy companies that use solar power for their generating capacity, as part of the government’s push for greater use of clean technology.

The preferential tariff — the price that China’s two state-owned electricity transmission and distribution companies will pay energy companies for their solar power — aims to make solar power competitive against traditional fuels, such as coal, which accounts for two-thirds of China’s electricity.

Shi Lishan, vice director of the National Energy Administration’s Renewable Energy Department, said the tariff will be 1.09 yuan (16 U.S. cents) per kilowatt hour for solar power that is supplied to the grid. Coal-fired power generation needs a tariff of just 0.3 yuan per kWh to be profitable.

China, which has overtaken the U.S. as the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, wants renewable energy to account for 15% of its energy mix by 2020.

While some alternative energy sources — such as renewable plant biomass power — are taking time to gain traction, solar power is poised to exceed targets for installed generating capacity by 2020.

Government officials said earlier that China will likely have 10 gigawatts to 20 gigawatts of solar-power capacity by 2020, up from a previous target of 1.8 gigawatts. Installed solar-power generating capacity at the end of 2008 was less than 0.1 gigawatt.

Only 2% of China’s solar-power output last year was used inside China due to the absence of clear solar-power policies. Lengthy approval processes for new projects are also hampering domestic demand.

Globally, installed global solar-power generation capacity grew to at least 5.5 gigawatts in 2008, from 2.4 gigawatts in 2007, with Spain ranking first, followed by Germany, said the European Photovoltaic Industry Association in March. Spanish and German solar investors are guaranteed favorable feed-in tariffs for more than 20 years.

Mr. Shi said China will also likely have 30 gigawatts of installed wind-power capacity by the end of 2010. This compares with previous estimates by industry and government officials of 20 gigawatts, while the official target stands at 10 gigawatts.

However, Mr. Shi damped speculation that China will introduce more preferential policies for producers of wind energy in a stimulus plan under discussion by the government.
—Jing Yang

May 28, 2009

Obama touts Nellis solar installation

Filed under: none — Tags: , , , — Jason @ 1:12 pm

5/28/2009 1:12:22 PM

By Molly Ball, Las Vegas Review-Journal

LAS VEGAS: President Barack Obama squinted up at one of the thousands of solar panels at a Nellis Air Force Base installation he toured Wednesday morning, listening as Sen. Harry Reid and base commander Col. Howard Belote told him about the photovoltaic array that supplies a quarter of the base’s electricity.

Reid brought sunglasses, and Belote was wearing a camouflage-print hat to match his uniform, leaving only the president unprotected from the bright sunlight that he touted as a great resource for Nevada’s and America’s energy future.

Speaking in Las Vegas on the 100-day anniversary of the $787 billion stimulus package, the president said projects like this one will not only help the economy pick up in the short term, but lay a foundation for long-term stability.

“In these last few months, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act has saved or created nearly 150,000 jobs,” Obama said, including “jobs building solar panels and wind turbines, making homes and buildings more energy efficient.”

Obama addressed about 400 Nellis civilian and military personnel and their families at a hangar on the base, speaking at a podium with a base of ferns in front of a prop solar panel.

At Nellis, he noted, the 72,000 solar panels, partly built on landfill, power the equivalent of 13,200 homes during the day and make up the largest solar electric plant of its kind in the Western Hemisphere.

“It’s a project that took about half a year to complete, created 200 jobs and will save the United States Air Force … nearly $1 million a year,” Obama said. “It will also reduce harmful carbon pollution by 24,000 tons per year, which is the equivalent of removing 4,000 cars from our roads.”

(more…)

May 22, 2009

N.J. considers extra rebate for solar panels made here

Filed under: none — Tags: , , , , — Jason @ 7:21 pm

5/22/2009 7:21:58 PM GMT

By Scott Fallon, The Record, Hackensack, N.J.

HACKENSACK, N.J.: Home and business owners may get higher rebates for installing solar panels manufactured in New Jersey under a new program that the state Board of Public Utilities will consider next month.

The $1 million program could save property owners hundreds of dollars in installation costs while also spurring the manufacture of solar panels and related equipment in the state.

The New Jersey Renewable Energy Manufacturing Incentive would give homeowners an additional 25 cents per watt on top of the current $1.75-per-watt rebate.

That means a house with a modest 2-kilowatt system could see a $4,000 rebate check to offset the often costly installation.

To qualify, applicants must use products manufactured with at least 50 percent of the product cost — including the labor, overhead, components and raw materials — from New Jersey facilities.

The program is expected to be presented to the board at its June 8 meeting.

The new rebates come a few months after Public Service Electric and Gas Co. announced a $773 million plan to install solar panels on 200,000 utility poles, and on schools, municipal buildings, low-income housing and brownfield sites.

The program would generate 120 megawatts of electricity — about 1 percent of PSE&G’s peak demand — to satisfy nearly 7 percent of the state’s renewable energy requirements by 2020.

New Jersey’s Clean Energy Program has given $261 million since 2001 in incentives to homeowners, businesses and local governments to install solar panels.

During that time, the amount of solar installations has exploded to almost 4,000, placing New Jersey behind only California in solar usage.

Governor Corzine’s Energy Master Plan calls for 30 percent of New Jersey’s electricity to be generated from renewable energy by 2020.

May 19, 2009

Pa. Sunshine solar rebate program opens

Filed under: none — Tags: , , , , — Jason @ 12:33 pm

5/19/2009 12:33:43 PM
By Diane Mastrull, The Philadelphia Inquirer

ROXBOROUGH, Pa.: The race to the sun is officially on in Pennsylvania.

On a back deck of a modest home in Roxborough, Gov. Rendell yesterday declared the Pennsylvania Sunshine rebate program ready to accept applications.

Rebates of up to 35 percent are available on a first-come, first-served basis to owners of homes and small businesses looking to offset the cost of buying and installing solar-energy systems.

“This is a great day for Pennsylvanians who care about saving money over the long run, who care about creating the new green-energy jobs that President Obama talks so much about, and who care about the quality of our air and the future of our environment,” Rendell said.

He began his remarks shortly after 11 a.m. with a lament that the sky was predominantly cloudy. By the time Rendell had finished speaking, the Lare Street setting was bathed in sunshine.

The dozen or so solar contractors on hand for the event, at the home of Charlie Bushka and his wife, Lynette Rundgren, underscored how eager the fledgling industry has been for help from Harrisburg in transforming consumer interest into actual orders for solar systems.

“What a great day,” said Mark J. Connolly, an energy engineer at Atlantic Energy Concepts, a Reading-based designer and installer of solar systems. “This is the beginning of the money starting to flow — and green jobs.”

The legislature has approved $100 million for the rebate program.

Despite a battered economy and a workforce on edge over sharply rising unemployment, Rendell said he believed Pennsylvanians would claim every cent of the $100 million — “and . . . fairly quickly.” He cited a number of reasons — among them the fact that the new state rebate, along with federal tax credits of up to 30 percent, would enable Pennsylvanians to get as much as a 50 percent break on the cost of a solar-energy system.

(more…)

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