Last week saw some sunny forecasts for solar in 2012, with newly announced projects that will help back such forecasts up. While one treasured company, Kodak, filed bankruptcy last week, the company most likely to help the renowned film maker actually is a solar company. New Jersey seems to be the biggest in the news lately, but other states, like Tennessee, are taking their own spot in the sunshine.
It’s not hard to say 2011 was a tumultuous year for solar stocks, particularly on the manufacturing side. But Ardour Capital Investments anticipates a sunnier year in 2012. The company believes that some of the issues that plagued the industry in 2011, like unstable prices, oversupply and dramatically falling module prices, are being worked out in 2012. In 2011, solar panel prices fell a full 40 percent, according to Ardour—some other analysts have put it at a steeper cost drop. Prices are still expected to drop in 2012, but not as steeply as in 2011.
A study of solar industry insiders conducted at last year’s Solar Power International found that most think the most important reason—to the public—for increasing the amount of solar in the U.S. is to reduce foreign energy dependence. Concerns over the environment and pollution were not the top choices. The survey found that out of 250 professionals surveyed at the conference, 51 percent think that reducing foreign energy dependency is the most popular reason to support renewable energy, jobs creation is perceived as the second most important reason.
Solar-related technologies are set to grow in 2012. For instance, Solectria Renewable said it plans to double U.S. production of inverters in 2012, growing its U.S. workforce by up to 50 percent—oh, and building two manufacturing plants overseas. In 2012, the company is projecting 2 gigawatts of inverter sales in the U.S., up from 1 gigawatt in 2011. To meet the demand the company will have to expand production, hiring more people at its Massachusetts facility, which it expanded just last year.
While Kodak filed for bankruptcy last week, solar may help offset some of the jobs lost at the 1,200-acre Rochester, N.Y., facility. That’s because Natcore Technology has been leasing space at Kodak’s Eastman Business Park as it moves forward on research and development of its Black Silicon PV and quantum dot PV technologies (two different technologies). The company will continue to use the space as Kodak goes through the bankruptcy process.
The big solar news in New Jersey is brown fields. The state and its environmentalists are increasingly looking to the state’s brown fields as potential sites for large-scale solar projects. The New Jersey chapter of the Sierra Club estimates that the state has about 20,000 contaminated sites, many of which are brown fields. Up to 500 of them could be suitable for large-scale solar developments. These include landfills like the close landfill in Egg Harbor Township, which will host an 11.3-megawatt PV array being developed by Seashore Solar. Power produced at the site will be sold to Norristown, Pa.-based PJM
Former Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen’s (D) Silicon Ranch is bringing solar to a region famous for its barbecue and country music. The company will develop a 30-megawatt PV array in Social Circle, Ga., on a farm owned by award-winning songwriter and producer Steve Ivey, who’s worked with artists including Arron Neville, Dolly Parton and Willie Nelson. The new array will triple the budding company’s solar portfolio from 15 megawatts installed to 45 megawatts. And with Ivey’s connections it could lead to some solar endorsements or projects with major country stars and others.
image courtesy of NREL.