Last week featured usual news for the solar industry. After several shaky years for solar manufacturing, industry insiders are predicting 2014 will be a record-breaker. At the same time, it appears that investments in different aspects of solar, including energy storage, soft cost reduction and innovative financing for residential solar, are picking up.
The amount of photovoltaics manufactured annually could reach 50 gigawatts of new modules next year. To put that into perspective, the world reached 100 gigawatts of installed solar in 2012. NPD Solarbuzz's PV Equipment Quarterly report projects that in 2014, PV production will rise 10 gigawatts, surpassing the production of 39.7 gigawatt of PV produced in 2012. The majority (62 percent) of modules produced in 2014 will be multicyrstalline silicon-based PV.
Demand for PV on homes remains strong and continues to draw investments. Last week, SunPower and Sol Systems announced a new tax-equity fund that will help roughly 1,000 homeowners go solar through financing options. The fund will support residential solar arrays in the U.S. southwest and northeast, the largest markets for residential solar in the country. Sol Systems anticipates even more growth. A spokesperson for the company said that in 2013, Sol Systems has helped to develop funding for $100 million in solar projects. Predictions are somewhere in the $200 million and $250 million in 2014.
The world’s most valuable tech-company—Apple—is also increasing its use of solar—as it brings more manufacturing back to the U.S. Last week Arizona announced that Apple is building a new manufacturing plant in Mesa, Ariz., and that the plant will be solar-powered. This is just the latest pro-solar move for the maker of the omnipresent iPhone, which in the past year went from having little solar at its facilities to being one of the largest commercial users of distributed solar power, partly because of the 40 megawatts of PV installed at its data center in North Carolina.
Meanwhile investments in solar continue. For instance, the Department of Energy announced $12 million in new investments in solar designed to reduce the soft costs of solar. While these costs aren’t the costs related to the PV panels themselves, they comprise an increasingly large portion of the costs of residential and commercial solar. The new investments from the SunShot Challenge will reduce the cost of solar arrays by simplifying solar permitting, as well as developing ways to make it easier for people to go solar.
Another area of solar that’s drawing interest in investments is solar with energy storage. Going forward, energy storage will help solar and wind behave more like deployable energy sources. Since energy storage can help make sure even when the sun isn’t shining or wind isn’t blowing, excess energy produced by a renewable energy installation can be dispatched to the grid. Now Terrajoule’s concentrating solar power systems have attracted another $11.5 million in investments, allowing the company to move forward with creating a CSP system that uses a steam engine and also includes energy storage.