Week in review: SPI gets underway, solar heads into fall

SPI 2012Last week the U.S.’s largest solar event, Solar Power International, kicked off in Orlando, Fla. It’s the second time that the event has been outside of California and shows that solar continues to grow throughout the U.S. Meanwhile, the solar industry continued to grow across the U.S and the world, like in Japan where the country’s feed-in tariff is now expected to make it one of the largest solar markets in the world. And despite changes to the country’s solar incentives Germany is still poised to remain the top market for solar.

Solar Power International is an opportunity for all involved in the solar industry, from manufacturers, equipment suppliers, power companies, commissioners, investors and other players, to learn about the latest and greatest changes in the solar industry. It’s also an opportunity for those people to discuss how best to move the industry forward.

Last year Japan suffered a devastating tsunami, which resulted in nuclear disasters in Fukushima. Since then the country quickly turned away from nuclear power and is now looking to renewable to meet its power needs. As such it instituted one of the world’s richest feed-in tariffs (FiTs) for solar. The FiT is expected to significantly boost PV development in the country and could result in a market as large as 13 gigawatts annually, according to a new GTM Research report.

Meanwhile the world leader in solar installations, Germany, shows little sign of slowing down. That’s despite the country continually lowering its FiT. Now, with so much solar already installed and the price of PV dropping, as well as continually rising energy prices, the cost of PV has reached parity with the cost of other forms of electricity. At this point Germany’s FiT is at 20 euro cents per kilowatt hour and retail costs of electricity range between 22 and 25 euro cents per kilowatt hour. As such, solar is still strong in the country and unlikely to slow down.

While the U.S. isn’t in the top spots and may even fall behind Japan, given the new incentives, it doesn’t mean solar is falling by the wayside here. A new report from GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) found that the second quarter of 2012 is the second largest ever for the U.S. solar industry. the report found that more than 742 megawatts of new solar photovoltaic power was installed in the quarter. The only larger quarter was the last quarter of 2011 when 791 megawatts of solar was installed. The report also found that the trend is likely to continue with more 3,400 megawatts of utility PV projects currently under construction in the U.S.

Meanwhile a new white paper from DBL Investors shows that supports for renewable energy and solar might be might enjoy more universal support in the U.S. than many assume by looking at politicians in Washington D.C. Republicans in Washington, D.C. are seen as less supportive of renewable or clean energy. The white paper found that clean energy jobs growth was strongest in states traditionally considered red or Republican states and swing states, among them Alaska, North Dakota and Nebraska.

One of the things that has led to the quickest growth of solar in the U.S. is third-party ownership of residential and commercial solar arrays. Under such agreements the solar array is owned by a third-party and the array is leased or the power from the array is purchased by the building owner or user. It has proved very popular among residents and businesses. But some are concerned whether or not it’s the best option and whether the power from such an array is cheaper than buying power from the grid.

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