PV Intelligence Brief 13 – 27 May 2014

Solarcentury gets project down to a tea

Companies mentioned: SolarCity, Capital One Bank, Colleton Solar Farm, Hanwha SolarOne, Ecoppia, White House, SunShot Initiative, Solarcentury, Williamson Tea,  East African Solar, Azimuth Power, Canadian Solar, Recurrent Energy, Austin Energy, Aleo, SCP Solar, Sunrise Global Solar Energy, CHOSHU Industry, Chevron Energy Solutions

Solarcentury gets project down to a tea

A 1MWp solar PV project is bringing clean green solar energy to a Kenyan tea farm.

Williamson Tea has reported that it has opened East Africa’s largest solar project at its Changoi Tea Farm in Bomet County, Western Kenya.

The solar system will cut Williamson Tea’s energy costs by around 30%, supplying clean solar electricity during the daytime to meet most of the tea processing factory’s energy demand. Williamson Tea’s system will reduce the need for grid electricity and the consumption of diesel when back‐up energy production is required. This innovative use of solar engineering is only the sixth system of its kind to be built in the world.

Solar energy company Solarcentury was selected as the lead designer, supplier and installer of the unique PV system, and is also responsible for the operation and maintenance. A British company and expanding internationally, Solarcentury is committed to bringing the many benefits of solar to Kenya. Solarcentury has invested in Kenya by having a Nairobi office, headed up by Dr Dan Davies, one of Solarcentury’s founders.

Williamson Tea’s solar farm will work in parallel with the grid and reduce the amount of grid electricity imported. When the grid is down, the solar power system will work together with the standby diesel generators, significantly reducing the amount of diesel consumed.

Commenting on Williamson Tea’s solar farm, Dr Dan Davies, Director for Solarcentury said in a country blessed with plentiful irradiance and land space, solar is a perfect solution and reduces dependence on fossil fuels while improving energy security.

Frans van den Heuvel, Solarcentury CEO, said, “Williamson Tea’s solar farm in Changoi is a shining example of the opportunity for solar in Africa, and indeed the emerging markets, to help meet the increasing energy demands of growing economies.”

Local solar companies East African Solar and Azimuth Power were the developers for the solar project.

SolarCity, Capital One form $100m fund

Capital One Bank has partnered with SolarCity to create an investment fund to finance thousands of residential solar power systems. Capital One Bank is participating in the form of a $100m investment.

This deal represents Capital One Bank’s first renewable energy investment and reflects the bank’s interest in renewable energy funding commitments.

The Capital One investment “allows SolarCity to offer thousands of American homeowners the option to install solar panels for free and pay less for solar electricity than they pay for utility power”, said a SolarCity news release.

SolarCity, which is currently considered the largest residential solar power provider in the US, has created funds to finance more than $4bn in solar power systems.

SolarCity serves 15 states and is currently providing one out of every four new residential solar power systems nationwide. The $100m investment was reflected in the available financing reported in SolarCity’s announcement of financial results on May 7.

To date, Capital One has issued more than $3.5bn in energy-banking loan commitments.

White House walks the talk on solar

The United States White House released a new video highlighting the installation of solar panels on the roof of the residence. Every aspect of the White House solar installation was domestically sourced -- from the solar components to the inverter technology to the labour that put the panels on the roof. The finished product, a rooftop solar array generating clean electricity, symbolizes the building momentum for solar across the country, said a US Department of Energy press statement.

“Solar panels on the White House, I think, are a really important message that solar is here,” said Secretary Moniz, who was featured in the video along with Minh Le, Director of the Energy Department’s SunShot Initiative.

However, US Department of Energy Secretary Moniz says, “We can do a lot more.”

President Obama has announced new efforts, including commitments from more than 300 organizations to expand the use of solar energy new solar commitments.

The commitments represent more than 850 megawatts of solar deployed as well as energy efficiency investments that will lower bills for more than 1 billion square feet of buildings.

Additionally, the President announced new executive actions that will lead to $2bn in energy efficiency investments in Federal buildings; smarter appliances that will cut carbon pollution by more than 380 million metric tons – equivalent to taking 80 million cars off the road for one year – and will save businesses nearly $26bn on their energy bills; and training programs at community colleges across the country that will assist 50,000 workers to enter the solar industry by 2020, said a White House statement.

Canadian Solar selected to supply South Carolina’s first solar farm

Canadian Solar was selected to supply modules to power South Carolina's first solar farm. The Colleton Solar Farm, located near Walterboro, South Carolina is owned and operated by TIG Energy I, LLC, a member of The InterTech Group, Inc.

The Colleton Solar Farm has installed 10,010 Canadian Solar CS6X-300P "Max Power" modules producing a 2.5 MW (AC) output capability. The Solar Farm is expected to produce 4,556,000 kWH annually, which would be enough to power 300 residences, said a news release issued by Canadian Solar. Construction began on October 25, 2013 with commercial operation commencing on December 20, 2013.

The Colleton Solar Farm continues a commitment by Santee Cooper and the electric cooperatives to develop renewable electricity sources across South Carolina, a commitment that dates to 2001 when they dedicated the first Green Power Generating Station in Horry County.

"All parties came together to help make this project a success and a showcase for what we hope will be other projects in South Carolina. Our development team, Santee Cooper and the local electric cooperative executed a very compressed construction schedule on time and on budget,” said Grant Reeves, Senior Vice-President of the Intertech Group.

Reeves said that the solar farm was designed to provide extensive data on its performance to aid in future solar designs and allow the utilities to gain operational experience.

Hanwha SolarOne completes 31MW China project

China’s Hanwha SolarOne, a PV solar module manufacturer, has completed the installation of 31 MW in a EPC commercial rooftop project in Guangdong Province, China.

The Chinese central and local governments are encouraging the development of distributed generation solar projects throughout the country with new incentives and other favourable policies, according to Jay SEO, Chief Financial Officer and Head of China Business of Hanwha SolarOne.

SEO said the “attractive and profitable” distributed generation project in Southern China is part of a cooperative business development agreement with a large well-established state-owned enterprise signed in 2013.

“The agreement also sets out aims for Hanwha SolarOne and the SOE to further collaborate on the development of PV solar plants across China in the near future,” he said.

“We have successfully completed other large-scale EPC contracts in China and will use this track record to assist us in developing our PV project portfolio as an IPP, as well as other additional downstream activities," said SEO.

Recurrent Energy awarded 150 MW Austin Energy contract

Recurrent Energy, a North American solar project developer, has been awarded a contract from Austin Energy for 150 MW of solar capacity in West Texas. The power will be delivered to Austin Energy pursuant to a 20-year Power Purchase Agreement, it has been reported.

The 150 MW solar facility will be completed in 2016 and will be Texas’ largest single solar power plant.

“With our largest utility scale solar award, we are taking an important step towards meeting our goal of acquiring 200 MW of solar energy by 2020,” said Larry Weis, Austin Energy General Manager.

“Solar power has reached a price that is competitive in the ERCOT market, allowing us to further diversify our energy portfolio with renewable resources,” said Weis.

Arno Harris, Chairman and CEO of Recurrent Energy, said the Texas market represents one of the most exciting opportunities for the solar industry.

“The industry’s growing scale and decreasing costs are enabling us to successfully compete against conventional energy in deregulated markets like ERCOT. This award from Austin Energy further proves solar’s ability to move into the mainstream energy mix,” he said.

This award is Recurrent Energy’s first in Texas and brings the company’s contracted portfolio to more than one gigawatt.

Aleo sold to SCP Solar

Aleo Solar, a subsidiary of Robert Bosch, has been sold, transferring ownership of the company’s ‘Aleo’ brand and factory in Prenzlau, Germany, to Hamburg-based Asia consortium SCP Solar.

On 15 April 2014, aleo solar AG´s Extraordinary General Meeting of Shareholders had resolved to liquidate aleo solar AG effective as of 30 April 2014. According to the resolution of the General Meeting of Shareholders, aleo solar AG at that time would be operating as “AS Abwicklung und Solar-Service AG " and its registered office would be relocated to Oldenburg.

The former majority shareholder Robert Bosch Group had holdings of 90.71 percent. York zu Putlitz, Dr. Randolf Müller, Matthias Beck and Volker Voss were appointed as the liquidators.

The new owners are a consortium of Asian solar product manufacturers including Taiwan’s Sunrise Global Solar Energy and Japanese manufacturing machinery producer, CHOSHU Industry. The newco, SCP Solar Gmbh, manufactures and markets monocrystalline photovoltaic modules under the Aleo brand. The company is based in Hamburg, Germany. SCP Solar Gmbh operates as a subsidiary of Sunrise Global Solar EnergyCo.

Reports of the deal say that Bosch was prepared to pay €31m (US$42.5m) to the new owners in compensation, while Aleo will pay SCP Solar €7m (US$9.6m) in the first instalment of the negative purchase price.

Around 180 employees will move with the new company. One of the appointed liquidators, York zu Putlitz, said the sale meant as many as possible of the Aleo employees could be offered deals at the new company. Aleo reports earlier this year had suggested up to 200 employees could potentially e part of the new business.

CBD Energy enters US residential market, closes Australia deal

CBD Energy Limited, or CBD, has entered the U.S. residential solar market with the signing of a 7 KW home system under its solar installations brand, Westinghouse Solar.

CBD Energy provides solar systems and has completed more than 17,000 residential installations. CBD Energy Limited markets its residential and commercial solar installations under the name Westinghouse Solar.

The 7 KW system, for a residence in Allenhurst, New Jersey, for example, is estimated to save the customer approximately 40% on their energy bill and more than $60,000 over the life of the system. Westinghouse Solar will conduct a comprehensive energy assessment to determine whether additional energy upgrades could further increase the energy efficiency of the residence.

“Achieving our first sale is always the hardest and we’re delighted that we accomplished this in the fiercely competitive New Jersey residential solar market,” said James Greer, SVP of Westinghouse Solar U.S.

According to a press release Greer said that the business was confident that CBD will launch a full spectrum of services under the Westinghouse Solar brand in targeted regions across the United States.

Also this month the company announced that it had finalised a contract to provide commercial solar systems to nine aged care facilities in Australia. The size of the nine-facility installation is 522Kw. In total, the multi-facility installation is estimated to generate 872,382 Kwh annually, and save the customer approximately $85,000 per annum on its energy bill.

Robot cleans one million panels

Soiling – the accumulation of dirt and dust on photovoltaic solar panel surfaces – is one of the greatest impediments to solar energy production efficiency, and can reduce solar panel energy output by up to 35%, according to Ecoppia, an Isaeli developer of autonomous water-free photovoltaic solar panel cleaning solutions.

The company has recently reported that its commercially-deployed E4 robotic cleaning system has cleaned over one million panels to date.

Ecoppia claims that it is the only market player deployed at this scale and “presents a paradigm shift”; which is a move away from existing labour-intensive, water-based, high-risk panel cleaning solutions.

The autonomous energy-independent water-free E4 robots use a soft microfiber and controlled air flow cleaning system to remove 99% of dust daily, keeping panels at optimal production 24/7/365.

Eran Meller, Ecoppia CEO, said, "We are on track to meet and exceed our expansion plans, such that Ecoppia robots will be cleaning 5 million panels a month by the end of the year, while adhering to the highest standards of operational excellence and customer satisfaction."

Heraeus Photovoltaics introduces new pastes

The Heraeus Photovoltaics Business Unit, a supplier of metallization pastes for solar cells, is launching two new front-side metallization pastes for standard to ultra-lightly doped emitter cells - the SOL9620 Series and SOL9621 Series.

Cell manufacturers may be attracted to the SOL9620 Series and SOL9621 because they claim to improve c-Si cells' conversion efficiencies to an industry-leading level.

By using these new pastes, customers have confirmed efficiency improvements that ranged between 0.05% and 0.20% absolute on lightly doped emitter [90 – 100 ohm/sq.] wafers, relative to the best commercially available front-side pastes.

Even greater gains have been achieved on ultra-lightly doped emitter [110 ohm/sq.] wafers, where the paste unfolds its peak performance, according to the company.

The SOL9620 Series and SOL9621 Series of pastes are able to provide excellent contact on lightly doped emitters [LDE].

Chevron Energy completes school sustainability project

The Nuview Union School District in California is expected to launch a comprehensive sustainability project that will include solar energy systems, energy efficiency measures and improved lighting components that are guaranteed to save the district over $7m in its first 20 years of operation.

Working closely with members of the Nuview school board and staff, including Superintendent David Pyle, Chevron Energy Solutions designed and built the project, it was reported.

The project includes solar generation capacity at 3 district locations, upgraded HVAC systems, and energy-saving LED lighting. In total, the project is expected to reduce the district's utility-purchased electricity costs by approximately 85 per cent.

Chevron's work with Nuview will also include hands-on labs to engage students in developing science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) skills.

Chevron Energy Solutions is one of the largest installers of solar power in the US public sector.