Solar Energy Week in review: Solar Decathlon Kicks off as PV Sales Boom

An Ikea solar array

Kentucky Solar DecathlonLast week saw a lot of activity in the solar spectrum, from the Solar Decathlon kicking off in California while PV sales rose to record heights in the 3rd quarter of the year. At the same time India has announced ambitious new plans for solar in that country, and Ikea has started selling flat-packed solar systems—in Great Britain. All of which show that the solar industry is growing strong as we head into the first quarter of 2014.

The biennial Solar Decathlon kicked off last week. It’s the first time that the Department of Energy’s solar home showcase took place outside of Washington, D.C. This year the event is being held from Oct. 3-13 at Great Park in Irvine, Cali., where 19 collegiate teams from across the U.S. and world are competing in 10 events to see how well they were able to cost-effectively implement solar technology and design into their homes to make them energy-efficient.

India announced a new plan to build the world’s largest PV farm, the 4 gigawatt Sambhar Ultra-Mega Green Solar Power Project. That’s just part of the country’s ambitious goals to add in 10 gigawatts of solar energy by 2017 and 20 gigawatts just five years later in 2022. The Ultra-Mega Green Solar Power Project, will be built in the Rajasthan province near Sambhar lake.

A new report out from NPD, the Solarbuzz Quarterly Report shows that PV is continuing to break records. In the third quarter of 2012 PV sales rose to 9 gigawatts. Overall, demand for PV has grown to 17 gigawatts in the first three quarters of 2013. The sales in the third quarter we 20 percent higher than last year’s third quarter, which was then a record-breaker. But both the third quarter and the full-year demand show that the market is stabilizing for PV manufacturers as well.

In an effort to bring solar to more people, Ikea began selling PV kits in its British stores. The new 3.36 kilowatt kits run about $9,200 and use Hanergy PV modules, which are designed to use more of the ultraviolet spectrum, which is more ideal for Britain’s cloudier skies. If the project is successful there Ikea may roll out the solar kits in other countries.

In the U.S., states are still looking to grow solar, but it’s not always going smoothly. For instance in Minnesota legislation passed earlier this year to allow community solar gardens. Now the state’s largest utility, Xcel Energy, has filed its plan for implementing community solar gardens. But its plans, still awaiting approval by Minnesota’s Public Utilities Commission (PUC), are already underwhelming solar companies and supporters.

Last week the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) gave Arizona residents a reprieve from Arizona Public Service Co.’s (APS’s) new plans for reduced net-metering. The utility, the largest in the state, had issued two different proposals that would have gutted its net-metering programs, making it harder for resident to justify going solar. However, the ACC recommended keeping current net metering practices in the state.

Meanwhile in Massachusetts, a ‘Solarize’ program was extended for a month, now ending on Oct. 31. Under the Solarize Massachusetts program, homeowners in 10 select Massachusetts communities can get a solar array at a discount through a group purchasing program, with the discount based on how many people choose to go solar. The program is sponsored by the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center and the Massachusetts Department of Energy.

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