Solar Latest News Round-Up Issue 55

This issue covers:

UK breaks 10GW installation threshold

News reports in the UK say that total solar PV capacity installed in the country has broken through the 10GW barrier.

Solar Power Portal reports that during the first six weeks of Q1 2016 the volume of new solar installations totalled 340MW, adding to the cumulative solar PV in the UK at the end of 2015 of 9.66GW.

The drive was the result of a number of different factors, with drastic cuts to feed in tariffs leading to a spike in small rooftop installations to 15 January 2016.

In addition, pre-accreditation of stand-alone ROO-FiTs, driven by Renewable Obligation (RO) uncertainty from 22 July 2015, coupled with the ability to share grid connections with community based projects also had an impact, along with the build-out of under 1.3 ROCs for 4.99MW ground-mount farms

The news of the UK’s growth came just a week after European industry body SolarPower Europe claimed that the UK would continue to be the largest solar market in Europe in 2016 having also topped the tables in the previous year. Full story here

Boom year for US Solar predicted

A report from the US Energy Information Agency (EIA) 2016 highlights the continuing growth impact of solar energy in the United States. In releasing data on planned additions to the US power grid this year, the forecast is that solar will be the number one form of new electricity generation capacity, ahead of coal, oil, hydro, nuclear, wind and even natural gas.

The EIA anticipates that a further 26 gigawatts (GW) of utility scale electricity generation will come online in 2016, with utility solar energy topping the list at 9.5 GW, natural gas at 8.0 GW, wind at 6.8 GW, and the balance of new generation (7% of total) from nuclear, hydro and oil.

Interestingly, the forecast is for utility scale solar only, and does not include residential or commercial installations. Last year saw 8.4GW of distributed solar installed in the USA (compared to 3.1GW of utility scale); and it is thought likely that the figure is also likely to continue to grow. This would mean that the actual solar capacity installed next year may be double the EIA's estimates.

In the EIA forecast, California will see the most installations, with 3.9GW of capacity, followed by North Carolina (1.1GW), Nevada (0.9GW), Texas (0.7GW), and Georgia (0.7GW).


Solar slowdown in Brazil

The Brazilian state of Minas Gerais has put a planned auction for solar power on hold indefinitely because the region lacks enough transmission lines.

The auction had been set for August, and without adequate power-transmission infrastructure, solar farms that won contracts in the event might not be able to deliver electricity to the grid, according to Guilherme Augusto Duarte de Faria, superintendent of the state’s Economic Development Secretary.

The decision is described as a setback for Brazil’s emerging solar industry. The country had about 59 MW of solar capacity in operation last year, less than 1 percent of the total supply, and the government is seeking to boost that figure as part of an effort to diversify its energy mix.

The Minas Gerais auction had been expected to sell contracts for as much as 200 MW of solar capacity. Full story here


China's solar PV outlook

A recent article on Renewable Energy World looked at developing trends in China’s solar PV industry. It was reported that the country’s solar PV industry has been in recovery mode since 2013, but more recently, as the capacity utilisation rate of PV firms has improved, the sector continues to grow and new technologies have been developed, while the PV makers have seen their margins improve.

China’s newly added installed capacity in 2015 is estimated at 16.5 GW, the highest worldwide for another year in a row, while the country’s total installed PV capacity is expected to exceed 43 GW, surpassing Germany’s to become the world leader.

Looking into 2016, the sector is expected to maintain growth, thanks to favourable policies and increasing market demand. The full article is available here

Solar incentive comes under scrutiny in the USA

An interesting report from Reuters describes how two US states have come to very different conclusions on a controversial solar PV incentive that is seen as essential to the industry's growth.

In California, regulators voted in January to preserve so-called net metering, which requires utilities to purchase surplus power generated by customers with rooftop solar panels. But neighbouring Nevada scrapped the policy - prompting some solar companies to exit the state.

The decisions foreshadow an intensifying national debate over public support that the rooftop solar industry says it can't live without.

More than 25 of the 40 US states with net metering policies are reconsidering them, according to the North Carolina Clean Energy Technology Center at North Carolina State University.

Opponents raise fairness concerns and argue that the industry no longer needs generous incentives, citing its rapid growth and solar panel prices that have fallen about 40 percent in five years.

Solar supporters counter that the costs of the traditional grid should fall with the rise of solar because utilities will eventually need fewer power plants and transmission lines. Net metering, solar companies argue, fairly compensates owners for energy they feed back into the grid - so it should be a permanent policy, not a temporary boost to get the industry going.

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