Last week, the solar industry saw another unfortunate setback as thin-film photovoltaic manufacturer Abound Solar announced it would seek bankruptcy protection, largely because of aggressive pricing actions from Chinese companies to reduce prices. At the same time a new report showed that PV Manufacturers are purchasing less new equipment because the market remains over-saturated with PV. Elsewhere a Republican Governor is set to sign new legislation that would expand the market in the state and the high-concentrator PV (HCPV) market is looking for high annual growth over the next few years despite the issues that face silicon PV.
First off, the U.S.’s second-largest solar market, New Jersey, is likely to be shored up if Gov. Chris Christie (R) signs the solar “Resurrection Bill” as he has said he is likely to do. The bill would increase the amount of Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SRECS) that New Jersey’s electric distributors must purchase in the next few years. The bill gives stability to the market, which got overheated as more people and companies installed solar than originally expected, flooding the market with SRECs, reducing their value and subsequently people’s interest in going solar.
In another good sign for the overall solar industry, a new report from Lux Research anticipates that the HCPV sector should see rapid growth over the next 5 years or so. The report anticipates that the HCPV segment of the solar industry will grow by a 31 percent compound growth rate through at least 2017. By that point it could grow to a $1.6 billion annual industry. Over the same period HCPV will start coming closer to parity with conventional PV as companies ramp up production and more companies produce multi-junction cells.
In a more cloudy report SEMI, a semiconductor industry trade group, said that solar equipment suppliers continue to see reduced equipment sales for the third consecutive quarter. While it doesn’t mean that companies are producing less PV, it does show that demand for new manufacturing has reached—at least for now—a zenith.
On the other hand, installations continue gain steam. For instance, San Jose partnered with SolarCity to help the city increase the amount of solar it has on municipal buildings and locations. The company recently completed four PV arrays at city-owned cites, totaling 2.5 megawatts. The city and SolarCity are already looking at 16 more projects and are evaluating 14 more.
Across the country Georgia Power, a Southern Co. subsidiary, announced it’s second large-scale solar endeavor. The utility will buy 19 megawatts of solar power from Solar Design & Development. The agreement follows an agreement with the Simon Solar Farm for 30 MWs of PV. When completed it will bring Georgia Power’s large-scale solar portfolio up to 50 MWs of capacity .
A hindrance to the larger adoption of PV is the lack of cost-effective storage to help wether intermittent periods of clouds or shade. A new GlobalData Report contends that storage solutions are essential to the success of solar and that more innovation is the key . While concentrated solar power can use molten salt to produce power when there’s no sun, PV has no such option. The report discusses using pumped hydroelectric storage as one const-effective means of storing energy on a very, very large scale.
Batteries are being looked at a smaller scale-storage solution. One of the problems is finding safe, inexpensive materials for long-lasting batteries. Zinc and nickel doped electrolyte solution under development at Worcester Polytechnic Institute might be a solution. WPI Professor Yan Wang just won a $40,000 grant and the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center 2012 Catalyst Award for his work with the unique flow batteries. In such batteries an electrolyte solution in an electrochemical cell converts chemical energy to electricity. The batteries could potentially store as much as 10 times the energy of other batteries.