It’s the first full week of 2013 and already major announcements in the world of solar and renewables are happening. Among the biggest stories of the new year were regarding the sale of a giant SunPower solar farm and the renewal of the Production Tax Credit. But other projects are also getting underway, like a county-wide community purchasing program in New York. It’s already starting to look like an interesting year for solar even as solar companies still have problems with oversupply, which could keep the manufacturing side of the equation weak.
Last week MidAmerican Energy Holding’s renewable energy division made the headlines when it purchased SunPower Corp.’s 579 megawatt Antelope Valley Solar Projects (AVSP). The sale price is valued at between to $2 to $2.5 billion, according to SunPower. Construction on the project already is underway and parts of the project will start providing electricity to Southern California Edison in 2013, with the project slated for completion by the end of 2015.
The dreaded fiscal cliff was avoided last week when Congress passed legislation extending tax breaks for the majority of U.S. citizens and other associated measure. One of the winners was the Production Tax Credit (PTC). The measure has stimulated various forms of renewable energy, but mostly wind has grown under the credit. It was set to sunset on Dec. 31, 2012 but was extended through the end of 2013. While welcomed by the industry the extension fell short of the five-year extension the industry had hoped for.
While that’s good news for renewables, manufacturers of renewable energy equipment, particularly for solar may be in for another tough year. For instance, Ardour Capital Investments’ Solar Index is rising, recently gaining 4 percent, but it’s still 44 percent below previous levels. Ardour contended that increased growth in the U.S. and China was helping boost the market. Overall, the company anticipated that 35 gigawatts of new solar will be installed in 2013 throughout the world, slightly more than the 31 gigawatts installed in 2012.
Imagine a whole county going solar. It’s probably still pretty far off, but programs like the Solarize Genesee campaign in Genesee County, N.Y., could help it happen. Arista Power, Inc. launched a community solar purchasing campaign there that gives homeowners, businesses, municipalities and more, access to discounted photovoltaic array. The discount amount will be based on how many choose to participate. But the first 10 to sign up will receive $1,000 discounts on their arrays. Early birds get a guaranteed bonus, too.
In Indiana, 6 houses of worship of various religions are going solar thanks to a $150,000 grant from the state. The Hoosier Interfaith Power and Light (HIPL) organization, which coordinates creation care and environmental efforts among various congregations in Indiana helped applied for the grant on the congregations’ behalves. The grant was made possible with federal money but was awarded through the state. Each of the 6 congregations will receive $25,000 toward their solar installation with the rest of the funds coming from their parishioners and other sources.
It just shows one of the ways the government has helped more people and places go solar. Another positive role the government has had in solar is in breakthrough technologies. Case in point, Solar Junction. The company’s 44 percent efficient cells designed for concentrating photovoltaics are the most efficient PV cells currently available and the company worked extensively with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory to refine the technology. The work won them an R&D 100 award in 2012 from R&D Magazine.