Solar energy week in review: EU caves to China Imports, as more US homes go solar

Workers install solar on a rooftop. The biggest news in solar last week is likely that the European Union’s trade commission didn’t enforce the strict duties on Chinese PV imports that some had expected. Across the pond, however PV installations are still going strong with reports showing that solar does add homeowner value and more. Meanwhile Arizona was named the top solar state in the U.S.—even as its biggest utility is pushing back against solar in its pipeline.

Over the last weekend of July the European Union’s trade commission took up the issues of whether or not to impose steep duties on Chinese PV imports. It had already introduced a preliminary duty on the PV imports, and was set to raise the duty to 47.6 percent of price they were being sold at. However the commission struck a deal with many Chinese manufacturers. Under the deal the manufacturers have to charge a minimum of 56 Euro cents per watt (about 74 U.S. cents per watt). If they sell for less they’re still subject to the tariffs. The agreement also includes a capacity cap. After Chinese PV manufacturers have reached that cap all PV modules from China are subject to the duties.

A recent Wells Fargo report found that solar power can increase the value of a home by about 3 percent to 4 percent, according to a recent CAM Solar press release. As such a 5 kilowatt array could increase the value of a home by around $9,000. CAM Solar referred to a Wells Fargo study that appeared in the Journal of Appraisers, the Texas-based solar installer said. Other studies have also shown that solar increases a home’s value.

For years, companies like SunRun have said the majority of their customers in California were middle income homeowners. New research from PV Solar Report’s new company, Sunible, shows that the majority (80 percent) of the fastest growing residential solar markets in California are in relatively lower-income, inland cities in California. The top 25 list was topped by San Diego and Bakersfield, for instance. The third-largest market was Fresno, where median incomes were $41,000, the study found.

Across the country, the story is somewhat similar in terms of overall installed solar. A recent report from Environment America shows that 12 states, led by Arizona, have the most PV per capita. The second state was Nevada, which was followed by Hawaii. The report found that 85 percent of the U.S.’s installed PV capacity was in the 12 states and that policies like net-metering and renewable portfolio standards helped ensure the states kept installing more solar.

The landscape of solar is also changing. Long dominated by PV projects large and small, some of the world’s largest concentrating solar power (CSP) projects are finally set to come online. Both the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System (SEGS) and the Solana Generating Station in California and Arizona, respectively, are likely to come online in August. Both projects are among the largest CSP projects in the world and their fulfillment could help spur new interest in the technology, which can use thermal storage to actually generate electricity after dark, which PV farms can’t do.