Thin Film News Brief 2 – 16 September 2014

South Africa’s PTiP technology reaches grid parity

PTiP panels boast 95% local content, seen here in the Technopark facility. From...


Companies mentioned: PTiP, University of Johannesburg, Industrial Development Corporation, Escom, NextEra Energy Resources, Southern California Edison, First Solar, Oxford PV, ERCOT, National Renewable Energy Laboratory

Thin Film News Brief 2 – 16 September 2014

South Africa’s PTiP technology reaches grid parity

PTiP, a South African technology company co-owned by University of Johannesburg and the Industrial Development Corporation(IDC), has reported that several commercial case studies with corporates demonstrate that its technology has reached grid power parity.

The company is in the process of gaining the highest possible global quality certification for the modules it manufactures in Stellenbosch, for use on and off Escom's electricity grid. PTiP solar modules contain more than 80% local materials.PTiP plans to license its solar PV module technology and commercial designs for factories to produce these unique PV modules.

In the envisaged commercial plants, up to one million modules a year can be manufactured with 95% South African content, said the company.

PTiP operates and owns the Stellenbosch demonstration plant in partnership with Singulus Technologies, a German engineering group. On the roof of the Technopark demonstration plant in Stellenbosch, PTiP is building a testing facility for home solar module installations, with 100 to 200 solar modules. This will simulate the power demands in a high-income household, the CEO of PTiP, Professor Vivian Alberts believes.

Several large companies are now working with PTiP  to see how its technology can provide reliable, clean power and curb hikes in their monthly electricity costs, sais Alberts. The company's products are based on Alberts' academic research.

"We have noted various case studies on several commercial projects in South Africa with solar PV modules. It has been demonstrated that power from solar PV is cheaper than Escom’s grid power for smaller commercial projects of between150- 500 kilowatt," said Alberts.

This has spurred an enormous increase in the demand for PV modules in South Africa, said Alberts.

According to Alberts, electricity users pay Escom between R0.90 and R1.50 per kilowatt-hour depending on whether they are a business or residential, buying in bulk or discrete quantities.

The PtiP modules will be implemented in strategic government projects to demonstrate the advantages of solar power to local communities.

"Solar is not nice-to-have any more. It makes economic sense. That is why the South African Government is constructing massive solar PV projects in the Northern Cape for hundreds of megawatts. If Escom implements another 20% cost hike, its power will be much more expensive than solar PV," said Alberts.

NextEra, First Solar begin construction on 250MW Nevada project

NextEra Energy Resources, Southern California Edison and First Solar have reported that they have broken ground on the Silver State South Solar Project, a 250 Megawatt (MW) solar project being constructed in Primm, Nevada, on the California/Nevada border 40 miles south of Las Vegas. The project is strategically located near a major transmission hub and is adjacent to an existing power plant and transmission line corridor.

A subsidiary of NextEra Energy Resources will own and operate the project. All of the power from Silver State South will be provided to Southern California Edison under a long-term contract.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said of the project: "This project proves again that solar energy is the wave of the future. It stimulates economic growth, creates jobs, and replaces fossil-fueled energy with clean solar power."

Reid noted that the Silver State South Solar Project will provide 300 construction jobs and create benefits for many local businesses in addition to generating state and local tax revenue.

Silver State South MARKS First Solar’s fifth utility-scale solar power plant in development, construction or operation in southern Nevada. It also positions First Solar as the largest solar developer in the state with approximately 750MW of projects in various stages of development, construction and operation.

When fully operational by early 2016, the project is expected to generate enough clean solar energy to serve the needs of approximately 80,000 homes per year, displacing approximately 150,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) annually-the equivalent of taking nearly 30,000 cars off the road.

Oxford PV perovskite technology boosts cell efficiency by 20%

Oxford PV, a developer of innovative technologies and materials for solar applications, has introduced a new application for its thin-film perovskite technology. The company is calling the new technology a “breakthrough” that is designed to boost the conversion efficiency of existing silicon solar cells by 20 per cent -- the equivalent of a substantial 3 to 5 percent increase in absolute conversion efficiency terms.

Oxford PV, which spun out from Oxford University in 2010, has previously concentrated its development efforts on the building integrated photovoltaics (BIPV) market.

The company's BIPV program focuses on coating glass with perovskite-based materials, which would allow building facades to generate solar power. While its BIPV offering is scheduled to be in production with licensees in 2017, Oxford PV sees more immediate revenue opportunities via the implementation of perovskite material solutions to dramatically improve efficiencies of existing solar panels.

"Perovskite has the potential to change the solar industry," said Kevin Arthur, Oxford PV's co-founder and CEO. "Simply put, the material delivers very high performance at a low cost. Applied as a tandem layer, perovskite can have a significant impact by 'turbo boosting' the efficiencies of current mainstream crystalline-silicon products. We're really just scratching the surface now, given the rich potential of this material for a range of solar applications in the longer term."

Chris Case, who joined the company as Chief Technology Officer in April 2014, believes that the limits of perovskite's performance for solar power uses have yet to be ascertained. "In two years of R&D, we've gone from a conversion efficiency of 5 percent as a standalone solar cell to above 17 percent -- and the data is continuously improving as we try new things," stated Case.

"We believe this material can deliver conversion efficiencies in the high twenties in a relatively short period of time. Ultimately, it will drive the performance of solar panels to the next level. Based on progress with customer partners, we expect to see prototype panels available in 2015."

Using a licensing model, Oxford PV is commercializing technology developed by its co-founder, Professor Henry Snaith, who was recently awarded Outstanding Young Investigator of the Year by the Materials Research Society for his pioneering work on perovskite solar cells. He received further commendation by being named as one of Nature Magazine's 10 people who made a difference in science during 2013. "Henry's work in this field is remarkable," added Arthur. "Going from concept to a marketable product in under two years is simply stunning."

First Solar Barilla project brings “competitively priced” solar power to Texas

First Solar has completed Phase 1 of the Barilla Solar Project in Pecos County, Texas, bringing approximately 18 MWAC of generating capacity to the Texas competitive wholesale market.

First Solar will offer electricity generated by the Barilla plant on a competitive open contract basis, making it the first such solar asset in Texas, according to the thin film module and solar plant developer.

First Solar developed, constructed and will operate the power plant, which incorporates a suite of advanced controls and capabilities essential to supporting grid stability and reliability within the ERCOT region. The project is in the final stages of the commissioning process.

Pecos County Judge Joe Shuster said of the project: "In West Texas we've got plenty of land, some with a lot of oil under it, and all of it with sunshine which makes it perfect for solar plants like this. I'm excited to see Barilla as the first project in what I hope will soon be the 'Texas solar patch."

"It is exciting to enter the Texas market with a clean, renewable energy source that is competitively priced against traditional high-cost peak resources," said Tim Rebhorn, Senior Vice President of Business Development for First Solar.

According to the United States National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), Texas has the greatest technical potential for solar development in the United States.

Hanergy reports sales and profit gains

Publicly listed thin film module maker Hanergy, has reported that its shares rose in value by 4.8% following news that it achieved gains in sales and profit in the first half of the year.

rofit rose by 20% to HK$1.7bn ($219m), on revenue that gained 53% to HK$3.2bn from sales of production lines, according to a company report.

Forbes reported that during the first half, Hanergy announced business agreements with FAW-Volkswagen, Guanqi Honda, Sojitz Machine of Japan, U.S. electric automobile maker Tesla and Aston Martin Facing, among others.

Earlier this month, Hanergy said it has completed the purchase of Alta Device, a U.S. thin film solar technology company that holds the world record for thin film conversion efficiency.

“An easing of an industry glut has helped solar businesses in general this year,” wrote a Forbes report. Hanergy’s shares more than 80%. Trina also gained a third at the New York Stock Exchange even after losing 8% following disappointing first half results, the report stated.

Yorkshire to pilot solar powered ambulance fleet

The first solar-powered ambulances will be introduced in England from November as part of a Government initiative to reduce the impact of exhaust fumes on the environment.

The solar panels fitted to roofs of ambulances in Yorkshire, England will also remove need for paramedics to leave engine idling, it has been reported. By NHS Sustainability Day’s website.

Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust has been awarded a £166,000 grant to install solar panels on 175 of its vehicles to power their electrical systems prevent their batteries going flat when stationary.

Currently paramedics are forced to keep the vehicles’ diesel engines running at all times, despite the additional exhaust emissions, to avoid the risk of a flat battery which could put lives at serious risk.

The service said the introduction of the panels would reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 720kg per vehicle per year, and nitrogen oxide emissions by 17kg.

If successful, the trial could be replicated by ambulance services across the country, with many councils struggling to meet clean air targets imposed by the European Union.

The ambulance project in Yorkshire was one of 21 local schemes to be awarded a grant from a £5m government “clean vehicle technology” funding package.

The government has previously made funding available for local authorities to fit green technology to their bus fleets, but not to other types of public service vehicles.

Alexis Keech, Environmental and Sustainability Manager for Yorkshire Ambulance Service, said: “We are delighted to have been awarded this funding…We are looking to start a roll-out to fit the solar panels on our frontline RRVs from November 2014.”

The Service’s headquarters were fitted with roof mounted solar panels earlier this year.