Solar Latest News Round-Up Issue 26

This issue covers:

Record third quarter global solar PV activity

End user demand from the global solar PV industry reached a new Q3 record of 9 GW during 2013 according to the latest NPD Solarbuzz Quarterly report. This record demand is up 6% on the previous quarter and almost 20% year on year.

Both mid-year quarters, Q2’13 and Q3’13, have achieved record solar PV demand levels, resulting in more than 17 GW of new solar PV installations. This mid-year surge in new installations is almost 3 GW more than the solar PV industry has ever achieved in the past.

“The record levels of mid-year demand in 2013 have been critical to the overall recovery of the solar PV sector,” said Michale Barker of NPD Solarbuzz. “Restored confidence in end-market growth is allowing leading solar PV manufacturers to pursue aggressive shipment strategies within both established and emerging territories, despite previous concerns that trade wars could dampen growth.”

During Q4 2013, solar PV demand is forecast to grow to 10-12 GW, with half of the characteristic year-end surge in demand coming from China and the US.

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New IET Code of Practice for UK solar PV

The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) has announced plans to issue a UK code of practice for solar PV installation.

The IET’s new Code of Practice for the Design, Installation and Operation of Solar Photovoltaic Systems is scheduled for mid 2014.

The new Code will seek to address the requirements for designing, installing and operating solar at all scales in the UK. The IET hopes that the new code will provide engineers and technicians with guidance on the ‘safe, effective and competent application of grid-connected solar PV systems’.

Ray Noble, a member of the IET Solar Photovoltaic Technical Committee and the Department of Energy and Climate Change Solar Strategy group, said: “The popularity of solar photovoltaic systems has increased in recent years to the point that a Code of Practice is essential to meeting the challenges of this maturing industry.

“Key stakeholder involvement is critical to this Code of Practice, and so the development of this document by a respected body such as the IET will increase consumer confidence, while also meeting the needs of solar PV professionals, users and owners.”

The IET partnered with the BRE National Solar Centre (NSC) in its development of the Code of Practice. The NSC acted as technical authors for the code and a further technical committee made up of key stakeholders were also consulted in order to build a broad consensus.

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Global solar PV growth forecast in 2014

Global photovoltaic installations are forecast to rise at the fastest pace in three years in 2014, exceeding 40 gigawatts (GW) for this first time and generating installation revenue of more than $86 billion, according to a new report from IHS Inc.

Annual solar installations are predicted to expand at a rate of 18 percent in 2014, reaching 41 GW and firmly marking the end of the solar industry’s two-year slowdown. IHS reaffirms its prediction made in early 2013 that installations this year will amount to 35 GW.

PV installations in 2014 will rise by 17 percent, according to the quarterly IHS PV Demand Market Tracker. This represents an increase from 15 percent in 2012 and 13 percent in 2013. The year 2014 will bring the highest rate of growth since the 35 percent increase in 2011.

IHS says China will be the primary driver of this year-end rush, with more than 2 GW of installations projected to be completed in the fourth quarter of this year.

“PV installations will accelerate in 2014 driven by low system prices, the creation of new markets in emerging regions and the continued growth in major countries such as the United States, Japan and China,” said Ash Sharma, senior research director for solar at IHS. “As the industry’s recovery accelerates and market revenue returns to near record levels, solar manufacturers will leave behind the turmoil of recent years and enjoy improved business conditions.”

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US firefighters voice concern over roof mounted solar PV systems

Using a recent blaze at a PV-topped warehouse in New Jersey as an example, a recent report in the US by the Reuters news agency describes solar panels as the emerging 'enemy' of firefighters everywhere.

The article describes large solar panel systems as being a “new enemy” of “frustrated” firefighters and emergency responders who are often unable to properly access array-clad roofs to ventilate burning buildings or who may put themselves at the risk of being electrocuted by still-active solar systems that have not been disconnected. The threat of roof collapse under the weight of the panels is also a concern.

Individual states and municipalities have provided firefighters with some training on how to deal with solar panels although, according to Reuters, implementation is “spotty.” Many within the firefighting industry are pushing for the development of clear-cut nationwide training standards and building codes.

Ken Johnson of the US Solar Energy Industries Association says: “We are working very closely with firefighters across the United States on the development of codes and standards. After every incident, we learn from it and improve. Firefighters don't have a good idea of how solar works. It's incumbent on us to do a better job in educating them."



Solar PV brightspot in clean energy investment picture

Solar PV appears to be a rare brightspot in the broader global clean energy sector, according to a new report from Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF).

The company’s report says that global investment in clean energy was down 14% in the third quarter of this year (Q3'13) from the second quarter. Overall, the $45.9 billion was 20% below the figure for Q3'12, the report says.

Nevertheless, the report anticipated that installation of solar PV power capacity worldwide is set to hit a new record in 2013 – at some 36.7GW. However, much reduced costs per megawatt mean that the dollars invested in that new capacity will almost certainly be below the equivalent for last year.

BNEF says the latest figure makes it almost certain that investment in renewable energy and energy-smart technologies, such as smart grid, efficiency, storage and electric vehicles, will end this year below 2012's $281 billion - a total that was itself 11% down from the record established in 2011.

Michael Liebreich, chief executive of BNEF, said: “After the slightly more promising second quarter, we now have a very disappointing third-quarter figure for investment. $45.9 billion is still a substantial amount of money, greater than that invested in the whole of 2004, but the loss of momentum since 2011 is worrying.

“The latest setback reflects policy uncertainty in Europe, the lure of cheap gas in the U.S., a levelling-off in wind and solar investment in China, and a general weakening of political will in major economies.”

The report says investment in small-scale capacity of less than 1 MW - predominantly rooftop solar on homes and business buildings - was much more resilient, at $17 billion in Q3’13, level with the previous quarter and below 3Q’12 $20.1 billion, only because the cost of PV panels has come down sharply.

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