Solar Latest News Round-Up Issue 19

This issue covers:

World solar PV capacity now over 100GW

The world´s cumulative solar photovoltaic electricity capacity surpassed 100 GW last year, reaching just over 101 GW, according to new market figures from the European Photovoltaic Industry Association (EPIA).

According to EPIA, the surpassing of the 100 GW mark occurred in yet another year of strong global PV development, with an estimated 30 GW connected to the grid and made operational in 2012. This is roughly the same total as in 2011.

These results are preliminary; the 30 GW figure could be increased by an additional 1 GW or 2 GW when final numbers are scheduled published in May.

"No one would have predicted even 10 years ago that we would see more than 100 GW of solar photovoltaic capacity in the world by 2012," says Winfried Hoffman, president of EPIA. "The photovoltaic industry clearly faces challenges, but the results of 2012 show there is a strong global market for our technology. Even in tough economic times and despite growing regulatory uncertainty, we have nearly managed to repeat the record year of 2011."

However, the year also showed an important shift towards a more global PV market, with 13 GW of PV installations occurring outside of Europe (compared to just under 8 GW in 2011) and approximately 17 GW in Europe (compared to nearly 23 GW in 2011).

“The key going forward will be to address these new market challenges and continue policies that help PV technology to grow sustainably, continuing its evolution to a mainstream electricity source,” Hoffman says. More at


Asia pacific solar PV growth forecasts

Solar photovoltaic (PV) demand from the Asia Pacific (APAC) region is forecast to grow to 13.5 GW in 2013, growing 50% year on year, according to the NPD Solarbuzz First Quarter 2013 Asia Pacific Major PV Markets Quarterly Report.

China, Japan, India, and Australia remain dominant for PV demand in the APAC region, and they will account for 90% of APAC demand in 2013. However, discrete end-market demand environments are now evolving in each of these countries. As a result, PV suppliers and technologies are being selected in each territory based on factors such as domestic manufacturing, policies, import duties, and customer preferences.

In Australia, the elimination of the Solar Credit Multiplier, along with incentive reductions in Victoria and Queensland, will slow PV growth during 2013. In Japan, demand will peak during Q1’13, ahead of scheduled tariff reductions in April.

The Chinese government will likely re-adjust the goals of its 12th Five-Year Solar Development Plan, and the country will see over 75% of its 7 GW demand in 2013 occur in the second half of 2013. However, it is crucial that any changes to the feed-in-tariff rates drive PV developers to complete their projects earlier in the year, thus avoiding the dramatic year-end demand swings experienced in the past.

In India, the final version of Phase II of the National Solar Mission program is still pending. The country could see a capacity increase from 3.7 to 9 GW, with an increased focus on the off-grid and rooftop sectors. More details at


Growth in third party California solar PV ownership

Third-party-owned solar delivered more than $938 million to the California economy in 2012 and generated about the same amount in 12 months as in the previous five years combined, according to a new report from Sunrun and PV Solar Report.

The third-party total now represents 74% of the state´s 2012 home solar market. As part of the 2012 analysis, Sunrun and PV Solar Report also determined California´s top solar cities based on residential system contracts. Third-party-owned solar represented 75% of the 2012 home solar market among these cities.

The state leaders for 2012 in order of total home solar contract value were ranked as follows: San Diego, San Jose, Bakersfield, Los Angeles, Fresno, San Francisco, Corona, Murrieta, Clovis and Temecula.


Specialist instrumentation cuts test times on California solar installation

A new concept in electrical test instrumentation has enabled the installation and commissioning of a large new solar PV installation in the California Central Valley to be completed in record and in compliance with all required standards. 

Renewable energy design and integration company OCS Energy Inc., specified the use of the new Seaward Solar PV150 tester and Seaward Survey 200R irradiance meter for the installation of a new 20MW ‘behind the fence’ system in Fresno, California.

The system is comprised of 113,280 Sharp 240W and 235W panels arranged in a high voltage configuration of 24 panels in series mounted on single axis trackers, with Advanced Energy Solaron 500 1kV utility inverters with AC/DC switchgear and optional VRT.

To speed installation, OCS and the installation contractor devised a ‘commission during build’ schedule utilizing advanced solar PV instrumentation provided by Seaward. The strategy was to have OCS Energy “dove tail” the installation and construction crews to verify and document that the system was built to NEC code compliance and identify any problems or issues early on so that corrective action could take place during the build.

This meant that, once the substation was connected to the utility grid, final commissioning of the inverters, medium voltage switchgear and the substation followed in sequence.

The Seaward Solar PV150 is a dedicated multi-function PV electrical tester designed specifically for solar panel system installation. It performs open circuit voltage measurements (Voc), short circuit current measurements (Isc), earth continuity, insulation resistance, operating current (via AC/DC current clamp).

Results can be recorded and stored in the tester for subsequent USB downloading to a PC. With the push of a single button the new combination tester carries out the required sequence of electrical tests in a safe and controlled manner, avoiding the risk of contact with exposed live DC conductors.

In the California Central Valley installation, the use of the PV150 tester was accompanied by the Seaward Survey 200R irradiance meter. This unit also incorporates a compass, tilt measurement meter and ambient temperature monitor, with time and date data logging features.

Uniquely, it also incorporates ‘solarlink’ wireless connectivity to the PV150 so that all data can be recorded in real time within the PV150 as the electrical tests are conducted.

The net result was that test crews were able to test three combiner boxes simultaneously – representing 36 circuits in approximately 3 minutes in total. This represents a considerable time saving in labor hours compared to other projects, where similar testing could take nearly 2 hours.

Richard O’Connell, CEO of OCS Energy Inc., said: “Typically most construction projects have ‘punch lists’ that occur at the end or near the end of a project to allow the owners and contractors to walk the job and identify issues to be addressed later.

“In the case of this project, the completion date did not leave any room for construction defects. Nevertheless, the testing schedule using the PV150 and 200R enabled us to meet our target project milestones and demonstrate compliance with all standards almost immediately.

“The commissioning of industrial photovoltaic systems requires attention to detail and an ironclad protocol to demonstrate to owners that they got what they paid for.

“In this circumstance, I cannot over stress how difficult it can be to obtain accurate and meaningful data collection on an industrial PV array while the temperature of the project is in the 90 degree or higher range. When technicians are in extreme heat the risk of poor data collection is almost a certainty, so minimizing these errors is not an easy task.

“However, using the new test technology ensured that we were able to overcome these challenges and meet all the requirements of the project safely, effectively and cost efficiently.” More at


UK solar PV installations pass 2GW mark

Record-setting demand in 2011, followed by an even bigger solar deployment total of 965 MW in 2012, have helped to push the UK through the 2 GW installation milestone .

The factors behind the steady recent increase are listed as an attractive policy environment, declining system prices and a low-risk investment climate as the main drivers that enabled the market to ‘exceed all expectations’. Weekly installation rates so far in 2013 are said to have reached nearly 5 MW to 6 MW.

Finlay Coleville, Vice-President, NPD Solarbuzz, said: “The UK has now been a top-10 country for PV demand during both 2011 and 2012. With demand trending at the GW-level and cumulative PV installs passing the 2GW mark, the UK can now officially be prioritized as a GW-size market by the global PV supply-chain.”

The strong performance of the UK market belies the difficulty period that the UK PV industry faced at the end of 2011 after damaging cuts to the feed-in tariff and a period of uncertainty. Solarbuzz reports that the UK solar industry is now benefitting from predictable feed-in tariff and Renewable Obligation regimes, which is being reflected in strong demand from both residential and ground-mount segments. More at


Germany says preventing solar PV fires requires effective code compliance

A recent fire protection workshop held in Germany considered the fire risks posed by rooftop PV systems.

The workshop, led by Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE and TUV Rheinland brought together manufacturers, researchers, representatives from the fire brigade, and insurance companies. All present agreed that the best fire protection is the adherence to existing regulations through the use of qualified, skilled workers.

Since February 2011, experts in Germany have been working on a project - sponsored by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment - to analyze the fire risks of photovoltaic systems and determine whether the existing standards and safety concepts should be supplemented.

The industry stakeholders concluded that there are sufficient codes in place that ensure the electrical safety for photovoltaic systems, but the key is ensuring adherence to those codes.

Fires often start when inexperienced installation crews install the system, according to Fraunhofer ISE. Therefore, in addition to technical improvements, Fraunhofer ISE and other parties in Germany plan to investigate additional regulations to ensure that codes are being followed.

Currently, the system installer is allowed to provide the confirmation that its installation has been carried out according to the rules. One recommendation from the experts, therefore, is to require that the acceptance test be performed by a third party.

Another possibility is to require regular safety tests for privately owned systems. Commercial systems are already required to be inspected every four years. More at


New MCS Guide launched in UK

The UK Government has published an updated ‘Guide to the Installation of Photovoltaic Systems’.

The third edition of the guide will have a significant effect on the UK solar industry because compliance with the guide is one of the requirements for compliance with the Microgeneration Certification Scheme and eligibility for feed-in tariff payments.

A three month transitional period is now in place until use of the new guide´s requirements will become mandatory.

As a result of the huge improvement in technology and the growth of the UK market the previous MCS guide has required an almost complete overhaul and updated the guide to better reflect the maturity and complexity of the UK solar market.

The MCS will be providing a full introduction and update to the latest MCS guide at a series of ‘restarting the market’ roadshows being held across the country. More details at

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