Solar Latest News Round-Up Issue 20

This issue covers:

Global solar PV market growth predictions

A new market study predicts that global solar PV demand will increase to 31GW during 2013, up from an anticipated 29GW during 2012.

The latest NPD Solarbuzz forecast also expects China to outpace Germany for the first time to become the leading PV consumer, as European markets generally become softer.

Overall demand in Europe is expected to fall to approximately 12 GW, a 26% year on year decline. In contrast, new policies across leading PV countries in the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region, led by China, Japan, and India, will stimulate regional growth of over 50% and account for more than 11 GW of PV demand in 2013.

Ground-mount installations will dominate the market in 2013 with 45% of PV demand. These installations are being driven by policies that favour utility-based deployment. Strongly influenced by Japan, Germany, Australia, Italy, and the UK, overall market share for residential PV in 2013 will remain above 20%. These five countries will account for three-quarters of all residential PV installations this year, which highlights a broad geographic pull and emphasizes the continued importance of distributed generation.

According to the NPD Solarbuzz report, new PV opportunities from the Middle East, Africa, Latin America, Southeast Asia, the Caribbean, and other emerging regions will have a stronger impact on global demand from 2014 onwards.

Emerging regions are forecast to account for less than 8% of global demand during 2013; however, this market share is expected to double by 2017, driven primarily by South Africa, Saudi Arabia, Thailand, Israel, and Mexico.

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Seaward solar PV tester verifies module quality and performance in the Caribbean

Advanced Seaward Solar PV test instrumentation is helping Comet Solar, a successful 
reseller and installer of solar photovoltaic systems to verify the quality of PV modules and the performance of installations in the British Overseas Territory of Anguilla.

Comet has been successful in encouraging local hotels, resorts, property owners and businesses to invest in solar systems as a means of helping to offset the effects of the economic downturn on tourism levels and rising energy costs. However, buying bargain priced solar PV modules brings its own challenges; second hand or refurbished modules are often used, but, in some cases the life history of the modules or the original manufacturer is not always known.

Despite a lack of formal installation standards or regulations, and in the interests of maintaining installation quality, Comet always aims to apply and meet the existing standards of the US NEC code and to perform to the best practices of the industry.

To help achieve this the company has recently invested in a dedicated new Seaward Solar PV150 solar installation test kit, along with a 200R irradiance meter, to enable it to carry out effective quality control and customer reassurance testing on its products and installations.

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).

The tester has been used successfully to verify the condition of a batch of pre-used PV units that have now been re-installed on a 12 kW commercial flat roof top system, as well as on new modules used in the installation of a 500 kW project.

Chris Mason said: “Using the PV150 system on an installation in front of the client gives confidence that the installers are professional and are doing the project properly.

“We are seeing the emergence of some less than professional installers in the region who perform poorly crafted installations, test nothing and do not give the customer any comfort that the work is being done properly.

“We invite our customers to witness the commissioning tests with the PV150 so they can see how much work goes into our quality assurance procedures. This is both a marketing tool to enhance word of mouth referrals and protection against liability from call-backs.

“Documenting system performance at commissioning gives us a baseline against which to retest in the case of a complaint or problem, both with customers and manufacturers. For this use alone, the test kit and reporting system is invaluable.”

Find out more about the PV150 Solar Installation Test Kit.


EU anti-dumping investigation on Chinese solar PV modules

As part of an ongoing anti-dumping investigation, European Union (EU) officials have ordered customs personnel to begin registering solar modules imported from China. This step would allow the EU to apply tariffs retroactively if they are imposed.

As a result, European importers of solar modules, cells and solar wafers must specify at customs whether the products were imported from China or were produced mainly in China.

The Commission will announce in early June whether to apply provisional anti-dumping duties and by early August on whether to impose preliminary countervailing levies. The duties would apply for five years.

The current anti-dumping and anti-subsidy investigations in Brussels follow trade complaints filed by EU ProSun who represent at least 25% of the European solar industry.

EU Trade Spokesman John Clancy said: “Registration of imports of a certain product in trade defence procedures is nothing out of the ordinary. It simply allows the industry concerned to mark a reference date so that there can be an option for retroactive measures if the case concludes in their favour. This type of registration is automatic in trade defence actions in other major trade partners – whereas in Europe it has to be requested by the industry.”

However, Paul Barwell, Chief Executive of the UK Solar Trade Association said: “The STA does not support any form of duties on wafers, cells or modules as a result of the ongoing EU anti-dumping and anti-subsidy investigations.

“We believe in an open market for the solar industry and feel that the uncertainty created by these investigations is detrimental to the stability and growth of the UK market.”

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New US solar industries alliance

The US Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and the US Solar Heating and Cooling Council have launched the U.S. Solar Heating & Cooling Alliance (SHC Alliance).

The new alliance will focus on growing the solar heating and cooling market through reducing barriers and advocating for policies on the federal, state and local levels.

The collaboration will seek to take actions that will help to maintain and develop markets for SHC businesses and to energize the industry through collaboration and funding of collective priorities.

The group will be led by Chair Mike Healy from Skyline Innovations, Vice Chair Matt Carlson from Sunnovations and Treasurer Eileen Prado from the Solar Rating & Certification Corp.

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Breakdown of US solar PV capacity

The US solar industry established new records in 2012 and it is expected that 2013 will be another growth year for installed solar capacity.

Last year the US solar industry installed approximately 3.2 GW of capacity and individual states continue to develop new plans to promote solar energy. For example, regulators in Hawaii have amended policies to allow for more advancement in renewable technology. California grid legislators have increased the amount of solar allowed through “net metering”—meaning customers can offset the cost of the electricity they generate themselves through their solar panels. In addition, states like Colorado and Vermont have streamlined solar permitting and capped costs on the allowable permit fees.

Going forward, Federal incentives such as investment tax credits and loan programmes will also continue to promote the large-scale commercialization of solar energy and boost the establishment of solar plants in the U.S. Even as powerhouse solar markets like California slow down, other states like New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania pick up the slack.

During 2012 California maintained its unofficial title of the “greenest state” in the US. It reached a major landmark when it surpassed 1 GW of installed solar power capacity, at least 50% of which is attributed to its California Solar Initiative financial incentives which are designed to slowly decrease throughout the years as solar technology becomes more widespread.

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UK solar installations increase

The latest UK solar installation figures released by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) show a marked increase in domestic-scale solar installations.

For the week ending 3 March, 1,849 installations were registered in the 0-50kWp band, accounting for 6.98MW of new capacity. Installations in the 0-4kW band continue to dominate the statistics, accounting for 94.6% of systems installed in the week.

The largest 10-50kW band has traditionally struggled, yet the latest figures show that 1.6MW of new capacity was added in the bracket – a significant increase from the lowly 1MW of capacity installed at the beginning of February.

DECC recently announced the solar FiT rates for the period beginning 1 May, 2013 and that the new rate will only run until 1 July not 1 August as was expected.

The change was described as an administrative change, to bring degression quarters in line with FiTS scheme quarters and that the three monthly periods will begin again from 1 July. However, the UK solar PV industry expressed some concern over the change, with the news meaning that the UK solar industry will have one less month of tariff stability for <50kW installations.

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