Tag: solar panels

Solar panels set to become cheaper

Solar farm in Arizona - Wikimedia CommonsInstallations of photo voltaic systems rocketed in 2015 amounting to a 20 percent year on year growth.

But, warns Trendforce division EnergyTrend, next year is only likely to see an 11 percent upturn.

Installed capacity for 2015 amounted to 53GW, and will top out at 59GW in 2016.

EnergyTrend analyst Patrick Lin estimates that there will be strong growth up to next October, as there’s a rush to install PV panels in the USA. China, Japan and the US will account for as much as 61 percent next year.

Solar spread 2015

But, said Lin, manufacturers are headed for “massive” capacity expansion and he fears that may the hurt the industry.

But it is also likely to make panels cheaper.

Solar pholtaic panels – it’s a sheesh and it’s a kebab

Screen Shot 2015-11-23 at 21.49.41Ten years ago a UK company called Solstice Energy installed a set of photovoltaic (PV) panels on the roof of a house in Harrow where me and my family lived. I wrote about the system in the INQUIRER.Net but that seems to have disappeared when VNU took over the Inkster.

Solstice Energy did the work in 2007. Almost ten years later, and just last week, the same company installed 11 panels on the roof of my house in Oxford. The technology has moved on in the last 10 years – there is some clever technology nowadays which leads me to believe that anyone dissing PV in the 21st century – and there are many political gainsayers, are just plain dickheads.

First of all, let’s talk about the company, Solstice Energy UK. Headed up by Richard Warren with the able assistance of Rob – who installed the Harrow PV system – and Jay – finished the Oxford system in two days. They performed a meticulous job, just like they did 10 years back. No mess, no trouble, just a working system, tidying up as they carried on.

PV Systems
Now I’m sure Solstice Energy realise I’m just aspirational about PV systems but the basic idea is sunlight hits the panels and generates electricity. To make this work, and I do apologise for this, you need an inverter, that converts the electricity picked up from Mr Sun and turns it into a useable system that delivers energy without the intervention of a nuclear power system, gas, wind turbine and the like. An inverter is basically a transformer and uses the ineluctable rules of electricity, as posited by Edison, but better by the discoverer of stuff, Nikola Tesla, who understood AC/DC like there is no tomorrow.

Since the first installation in Harrow 10 years ago, the inverters have become way more clever than they were using the Sanyo panels that are still churning out electricity in north west London.

The panels have become smarter too – with a company called Solar Edge having little units in the panels that optimise the sunlight that falls on the panels. Well that’s the case in this house in Oxford anyway. There is a way to go, that’s for sure – and efficiency isn’t at its best yet, but the lovely silicon engineers are on the case.

How does it work?
 I am not going to venture far into a technical area of which I know little, but basically when the sun lights up the little cells on your roof, it generates electricity. We still know little about electricity but what we know is that without it our washing machines, microwaves, central heating systems, LED lights, computers and the like don’t work.

In this house in Oxford I have a system of lighting based on Hue Lights – I’m kind of trying to get to the internet of fangs before anyone else. If the sun is shining, and you have a heavy load of washing in your washing machine, the solar panels will assist you. If you’re doing a bacon sandwich in your microwave, the PV panels will help too.

Even when the sun is not shining, when light shines on the PV panels you have energy. I am told by my super techie friends that capacitor technology is moving fast too, and so you won’t need batteries.

Solar Edge portal software
Now it might be hard for you to believe this, software is my speciality, and I have written gazillion lines of code too. Software code doesn’t always work but when you install the Solar Edge portal on your own “internet of fangs”, there are some things as an “end user” that aren’t very pleasing.

First of all, if you are the proud “end user” of the PV Solar Edge system, you should surely be able to tell your fiends on Facebook or Twitter by pressing a button on the web portal. No such system exists. Solar Edge is missing a marketing/sales opportunity here.

Secondly, Solar Edge seems to tie in people – I guess that is no surprise. The previous PV system in Harrow used a Frobenius inverter –  see screen shot below.

These partners and vendors might perhaps contemplate that just because we are not all Nikola Teslas, doesn’t mean we’re just dumb end users.

Solstice Energy gets 10 points out of ten.

Solar Edge gets 10 points of ten for technology but two points out of 10 for marketing/sales knowhow.

The sun gets 10 points out of 10 for being consistent. After all, from our viewpoint on the planet Earth, it does seem to rise every day, despite the weather. And let’s give the moon 10 points for guiding us when it’s reflecting the sun’s light.

Chips face tough 2016

63-CH3SNAS_DRAMHot on the heels of news that TSMC has cut its plans to buy as much manufacturing equipment as it needed, a market research company based in Taiwan is predicting a tough time for optoelectronic and semiconductor companies in 2016.

Trendforce said weak demand was slowing down DRAM prices, coupled with a glut of memory chips. It estimates PC DRAM prices have fallen close to 40 percent this year and the server DRAM market will show steep declines during the second half of this year.

And while demand for NAND flash memory has been strong, but Trendforce is predicting that demand in 2016 will be conservative.

On the optoelectronic side, Trendforce thinks that the market for high brightness LED products will only grow by two percent in 2015, creating the right conditions for industry consolidation.

Average selling prices for this category of LED products has dropped by 30 to 40 percent during 2015, because of oversupply.

On the photovoltaic solar panel front, the outlook is better with demand to grow by nearly 10 percent in 2016. But there’s oversupply of PV too, which is expected to drive down prices considerably during the course of next year.

Solar panel demand soars

Solar farm in Arizona - Wikimedia CommonsThe five main markets for photovoltaic (PV) products are set to demand even more supplies.

Trendforce, a Taiwanese market research company, said the five biggest regions consuming PV technology are China, Japan, the USA, the UK and Germany, but demand from India is also increasing.

Overall, it seems that growth will flatten for both the UK and for Germany but China and the USA will all see strong growth.

Patrick Lin, an analyst for Trendforce Energytrend’s division, said demand will rise in 2016 to total 58GW (gigawatts). “Asia, America, Europe and the Middle East and Africa will each take 57 percent, 26 percent, 11 percent and seven percent of global market share next year.”

Lin said, however, there will be oversupply because Chinese manufacturers are set to complete production capacity expansion.

Other countries that have invested in solar this year are Saudi Arabia, Israel, South Africa and Algeria. UK government policy is moving toward zero subsidy for solar panels.

PV demand 2015-2016

Solar panels set to become cheaper

Solar farm in Arizona - Wikimedia CommonsIndia is now the fastest growing photovoltaic (PV) market, knocking Britain into fourth place.

That’s according to a Trendforce Energy Trend report, which said that the Chinese PV industry exported 12GW of modules during the first half of this year, of which 6GW went to Japan, the US and India.

International disputes over PV production will not stop both China and Taiwan to create additional manufacturing capacity for modules.

China had been hit by tariff impositions and that’s caused retaliation from the country, which has imposed high tariffs on US and European polysilicon companies.

American and European companies are likely to reduce their capacities because of the import barriers China has placed on them.

Many companies, said Energy Trend, are looking to establish PV production facilities in India as it is such a bouyant market.

The competitive nature of the market is, the analysts warn, likely to cause consolidation and strategic alliances in the short term.

Here’s Trendforce Energy Trend’s map of Chinese module exports.

Chinese PV exports first half of 2015

Butterfly to improve solar energy efficiency

Cabbage White butterflyScientists at Exeter University have been taking a long hard look at the Cabbage White butterfly and believe the way it flies will help to make solar energy cheaper and improve its efficiency.

Cabbage White butterflies take a v-shape posture to warm their muscles before they take off, and the Exeter researchers believe that by mimicking this posture, solar panel could deliver nearly 50 percent more power.

By creating the wing like shape, the scientists say the power to weight ratio of the solar panel increases by 17 times, making it “vastly” more efficient.

Cabbage Whites fly before other butterflies do on cloudy days and that’s because they maximise concentrating solar rays onto their thorax, with substructures in the wings let light from the sun to be reflected more efficiently.

Richard ffrench-Constant, a professor who specialises in butterfly mimicry at the University of Exeter, said: “The lowly Cabbage White is not just a pest of your cabbages but is actually an insect that is expert at harvesting solar energy.”

Solar panels boom in the UK

Solar farm in Arizona - Wikimedia CommonsThe first quarter of this year saw a spate of solar photovoltaic (PV) projects commissioned in the UK because of the end of the Renewable Obligations (RO) scheme.

IHS said that 110 PV projects with a capacity of 1.6GW were completed in the first quarter. That brings the number of large solar farms to 311 in this country, with a combined capacity of 3.8GW.

The total installed PV capacity in the UK is 7.5GW.

Josefin Berg, senior analyst of PV at IHS said that once the paperwork is signed, developer and installers in the UK can build large PV plants fast.

One third of the total UK capacity is owned by three large PV investors – Lightsource, TerraForm Power and Bluefield LLP.

Berg said: “There are 500 projects in the UK pipeline that are larger than five megawatts and which now will either have to be reduced below five megawatts, submitted to the highly oversubscribed Contracts for Difference tenders or scrapped entirely.”

Berg said that the UK market hasn’t cooled off, but people are looking to see the results of the general election, held here on May 7th.

China upending solar tools industry

Some solar panel tool suppliers are being bolstered by solid growth and investments in the Asia Pacific region bucking the general trend of an industry slow-down and overcapacity problems. 

Equipment giant Applied Materials will be the biggest beneficiary in revenues. It is accompanied by a new string of Chinese tool suppliers, according to NPD Solarbuzz, including Apollo, 48th Research Institute, Jinggong and Jingyuntong. The lot of them are penned in for a compound annual growth rate over 200 percent in just the years between 2008 to 2011. 

While the Chinese players are doing well, many of their European counterparts have found their offerings upended by the relatively cheap competition. This will be offset by excellent expected photovoltaic tool revenues from some corners in 2011, with Centrotherm, Meyer Burger, Schmid, Amtech-Tempress, DEK-Solar and RENA likely to post record revenues.

There are suppliers who face yearly revenue declines going into 2012. They are mostly companies which have to deal with crystalline silicon ingot-to-module manufacturing stages, although GT Advanced Technologies is managing to fend off weakening market conditions and looks set to be strong throughout the year.

Overcapacity problems plagued the crystalline silicon supply chain throughout 2011, with the miracle of unanticipated demand surges at the end of 2012 the only hope for c-Si lines.

Excess inventories and overcapacity throughout 2011 means, says NPD Solarbuzz, that manufacturers are now trying to hold onto their dwindling reserves and keep the books balanced for 2012.

There will be more equipment spending in the future, but for now that is largely dependent on end-market demand. 

NPD Solarbuzz expects a shift in strategic planning for companies to claw back revenue in 2012. Senior analyst Finlay Colville says that success “will be provided to those suppliers that can align product portfolios with equipment process chains, that are economic in the new low cost PV manufacturing environment.”

PV industry turns to profits not growth for 2012

Trends are changing in the solar industry, and in 2012 the market is going to swing away from an emphasis on bolstering market share towards profitability instead.

According to figures from NPD Solarbuzz, global demand is on course for six percent growth in 2012. There will be market declines in Europe but those will be offset by 43 percent growth elsewhere. Because of that, industry players will need to work on building their margins as demand shifts and prices decline.

2011 saw a spate of overproduction, excess inventories and dwindling market prices which caused losses across the board. Companies will have to pull up their socks to recover financially. Manufacturers have already cut 4.9 GW from the original 28.2 GW goal for module shipments over 2011.

Both China and the UK both boost PV uptake, bringing the global market forecast to 23.6 GW in 2011 – an increase of 22 percent year on year. The boom is perfect timing for China as US manufacturers are worried since SolarWorld filed anti-dumping charges with the US Deperatment of Commerce and the International Trade Commission, according to SolarBuzz.

Still, Chinese, Western and Japanese cell and module manufacturers all saw decreased percentage points and negative margins in the second half of 2011. The looming 15 percent feed in tariff cuts in Germany at the start of next year means module prices will continue to fall. 

If the solar industry players don’t get their houses in order, warns NPD Solarbuzz president Craig Stevens, they risk being left in the cold and unable to make the most of strong growth in grid parity that’s being established in the major strategic markets.

US and China on course for top solar spots

Solar is set to rebound in the second half of the year, with China and US to see further installation increases.

Despite a slow start to the year worldwide, capacity should see installations double from the first half.

This is compared to the 13 percent increase between the first two quarters of this year.

According to IMS Reseach, there will be an additional 22 gigawatts of photovoltaic (PV) capacity added in 2011, with Asia and the Americas benefitting most from growth. This includes an additional 1 GW added to forecast from earlier expectations.

Part of the reason for this is down to plummeting module prices, as well as incentive programmes in new markets.

This will lead to a “huge surge” in installations, according to IMS Research PV expert Ash Sharma.

China will be one country which will see large short term increases.  This is largely attributable to recent feed in tariffs and other government incentives.

This means that there are expectations of 1.3 GW worth of installations this year, rising to over 2GW in 2012. China is on course to become more of a player in installations as well as with production.

In fact, IMS projections say China is set to become one of the top three global markets by 2015.

However, certain European markets will not expected to reach such dizzying heights, with a slow down predicted in Germany this year, despite retaining a top spot in IMS’ top 10 global markets.

This will be compensated by geographical diversification, with a number of new countries such as Slovenia and the UK making further inroads into PV installations.

11 European countries will account for over 100 MW of installations this year, making a total of 20 globally.  This is up from 13 countries worldwide last year.

On the plus side, this will mean more stability, with growth previously dependent on a small group of nations.

Although Europe still dominates the global PV market, only four countries are expected to be amongst the top ten for this year.

One of the reasons behind this is cutting FITs.

“It’s certainly slowing growth down,” Sharma told us, “but Europe is still at the forefront for PV. Incentives are being introduced in quite a few new European markets too.”

It’s noted that that Europe still accounts for 70 percent of all installations.

Whether this will continue to be the case long term is unlikely. With China and the US now putting their attention on the technology it appears the power is shifting away from Europe.

“USA and China look set to be huge PV markets,” Sharma told us.

“We expect the USA to install more than 2GW this year and is well on the way to achieving that based on what was done in 1H. China was already moving along nicely, due to the Golden Sun projects and also a small FIT in one province of Qinghai.

“However prospects have improved even further as a national FIT was approved for China yesterday – this will significantly boost installations in the country.

“Whilst Europe and Germany will remain key players, their dominance in the global market is starting to fall as the market diversifies.”