Solar Latest News Round-Up Issue 56

This issue covers:

Rooftop solar PV fires in Australia

News reports in Australia have continued to highlight the fire risks associated with faulty rooftop solar PV electrical installations. In the latest case, Fire and Emergency Services in Queensland were called to two house fires caused by solar panels.

One of the fires was contained to a small area and extinguished, but an earlier fire in a separate property took an hour to get under control, causing damage to the roof.

The Electrical Safety Office said while the solar panels themselves were safe, problems and fire hazards occurred when the panels were installed incorrectly.

"Electricians and builders should be aware that photovoltaic (PV) solar panels must be installed in accordance with the Australian Standards for buildings and the Building Code of Australia.

"Incorrectly installed, PV solar panels can place stress on electrical wiring or be at risk of becoming dislodged, leading to serious safety risks.

"Before installation, the correct location on the building should be chosen to site the panels based on manufacturer's instructions, the wind load, the environment surrounding the building and the structure of the building." Read the full news report here

‘50 States of Solar’ overview of US industry

An interesting overview of the US solar industry is provided in a report from the NC Clean Energy Technology Center and Meister Consultants Group. Their 2015 Policy Review, 50 States of Solar, provides key stakeholders in the solar PV industry with an overview of trends in relevant policy and regulation.

This special year-end version of the report highlights the key trends and major actions of the 2015 calendar year, providing insights and analysis on the solar policy environment. Overall, the report describes how new PV systems are being installed in the USA at a rate of one every two minutes. The only states that did not take significant actions related to solar policy in 2015 were Alabama, North Dakota, and Wyoming.

Included in the report is an analysis of solar PV industry issues such as significant state and utility net-metering or community solar laws, important legislative efforts, and utility proposed rate changes.


Anticipated solar PV slowdown in Europe

If it wasn’t for the UK, Europe’s solar power market would have flat-lined last year, according to new industry figures that reveal the world’s biggest market for the technology is struggling to retain its scale.

According to the report, European solar grew by 15 percent last year, mainly because the UK market grew by about half. “Without the enormous growth in the U.K., the European solar market would have remained roughly at the 2014 level,” the report said.

However, with the recent ending of UK subsidies for solar farms, trade group Solar Power Europe warns that the European solar market will start contracting next year as a result. Already, it is reported that outside of the UK the industry has been in decline in recent years as Germany, Italy and Spain have removed subsidies and shifted to market-based support mechanisms for renewables.

The UK will install 2,000 MW to 2,500 MW in 2016 because many projects will remain eligible for a grace period for the subsidy. Overall the European market is likely to contract slightly in 2016 to about 7,000 MW, or by 7 GW, he said.

“We will see a very large reduction in growth in the rate of installation in the UK in 2017 to about half a gigawatt,” said James Watson, chief executive of Solar Power Europe. “2017 is a wild card because Turkey has set a target to have 5 GW by 2022, so could be installing as much as 1.5 GW a year in 2017.” Read the full article here.

O&M diversification is a realistic opportunity

Maintaining diversity in their solar PV installation businesses is the challenge facing UK solar contractors.

This is the view of the renewables development manager at Seaward, who says that for most installers, with a ready-made customer base, a wealth of transferable skills and the necessary know how, the barrier to entry into the secondary operations and maintenance (O&M) market is paper thin.

He makes the point that when solar systems were installed, owners were promised that they would last for 25 years, so the challenge for the sector is to get out there and make sure that they do so.

For example, the introduction of PV Health Checks for customers, using modern PV test equipment to compile reports of essential checks and inspections on installed solar systems, not only assesses the power efficiency of arrays, but can lead to suggestions for improved performance and upselling opportunities for other services and support.

In this way, he argues, rather than relying on subsidy to drive growth, effective operations and maintenance support can empower PV operators of all sizes to properly manage their solar investment and their energy use.

Solar PV impact on traditional US power generation

The proliferation of solar power in the USA is starting to have a significant impact on traditional power generation suppliers.

According to a new report by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), solar PV rooftops could generate 1,432 Terrawatt hours (TWh) per year, or 39% of US electricity sales, a ratio that will increase further as solar module performance improves over time.

The new report shows that small building rooftops could accommodate as many as 731 GW of solar PV capacity and produce 926 TWh per year. Medium and large buildings have a total installed solar PV capacity potential of 386 GW and an annual power generation potential of 506 TWh.

On the same theme, a Bloomberg report in Renewable Energy World says that rooftop solar is casting a $2 billion shadow over power generators across the eastern USA. With the number of houses with solar panels set to break through the one million figure soon, power grid managers serving the eastern USA plan to cut the amount of electricity they buy from conventional plants by about 1,400 MW, starting in 2019, according to industry consultant ICF International Inc. That’s enough electricity to power about 780,000 households.

The result could be as much as $2 billion in lost revenue for generators that are already facing lower demand, tight environmental regulation and depressed prices. Power producers including NRG Energy Inc. warn that the growing reliance on solar may curtail investment in conventional power plants, threatening the reliability of the US electricity system.


Solar could help meet London’s green challenge

The next mayor of London should set the capital a target of deploying 750MW of solar by 2025, a new report by the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) says.

The ‘London: Global green city’ report has outlined a series of challenges they will face if the capital is to meet ambitious climate and carbon reduction goals. For example, London must almost completely decarbonise by the middle of the century as part of the global effort to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions to zero beyond 2050, as set out in the Paris Agreement on climate change concluded in December 2015.

The report claims that there is potential for London to deploy as much as 9GW of solar – enough to meet a fifth of its energy demand – but cites Department of Energy and Climate Change figures from December 2015 demonstrating that just 54MW has been installed, equivalent to less than 1% of demand.

IPPR argues that the next mayor should look to maximise solar deployment across the Greater London Authority estate, including the 5,700 acres of land and trackside space belonging to Transport for London, and ensure that mapping tools are made available to assess street-by-street potential for solar, which is then fed into planning decisions.

Free solar PV webinars

Seaward are holding a series of free webinars throughout May and June and you're invited to join us.

Topics that will be covered include:

  • Maintaining diversity in your PV installation business
  • The benefits of IV curve tracing
  • An introduction to Seaward Solar diagnostic tools

Click here to find out more information and to register.

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