U.S. government antidumping penalties on imports of photovoltaic (PV) cells from China could suspend nearly half of solar module shipments to North America this year, impacting pricing, inventories and project timelines, according to an IHS iSuppli PV Perspectives report from information and analytics provider IHS (NYSE: IHS).
The U.S. Department of Commerce on May 17 announced a preliminary determination in its antidumping duty investigation of imports of crystalline silicon photovoltaic cells from China. These cells are used in modules that form complete solar systems installed on houses, buildings or commercial PV-generation facilities.
Before this announcement was made, IHS estimated that 2 gigawatts (GW) worth of solar modules shipped into North America in 2012 would be imported from Chinese manufacturers. This would have represented as much as 60 percent of the market for North American use.
Given the high tariffs proposed by the Commerce Department, many Chinese players will suspend shipments to North America while business plans are modified to account for the tariff. This could represent the temporary removal of up to 1.5GW worth of stopped shipments to the region, accounting for 45 percent of the total market in 2012
“The Commerce Department action will have a major impact on the North American solar market, constraining supplies and driving up prices for modules and systems,” said Mike Sheppard, photovoltaics analyst with IHS. “Even when alternative supply lines are adopted, the penalties are likely to add as much as 12 percent to the cost of solar modules, lowering the average return on investment (ROI) for solar systems in the region by as much as 2.5 percent.”
Solar Flare Up
The Commerce Department preliminarily determined that Chinese producers/exporters sold solar cells in the United States at dumping margins ranging from 31.14 percent to 249.96 percent.
The Commerce Department’s mandatory respondents were Suntech-Power and Trina Solar, and these two companies were subject to unique tariff rates of 31.22 and 31.14 percent, respectively. All other companies singled out in the investigation received an average duty of 31.2 percent. However, Chinese companies not singled out in the investigation will receive an even larger 250 percent duty.
The reasoning the Commerce Department gave for the large tariff on these players is to deter Chinese companies from forming new joint-venture companies with existing firms that are not on the list of penalized entities.
The duties to be imposed are preliminary in nature and will need to be finalized by both the Commerce Department and International Trade Commission (ITC) through final determinations on October 9 and November 23 of this year. However, these duties will be enacted retroactively 90 days prior to the date ofthe preliminary decision in February 2012 if they are imposed.
The Outsourcing Option
Interestingly, the Commerce Department included this statement in its announcement:
“Modules, laminates, and panels produced in a third country from cells produced in the PRC are covered by this investigation; however, modules, laminates, and panels produced in the PRC from cells produced in a third country are not covered by this investigation.”
For the Chinese module suppliers, this represents an opportunity to sidestep the tariffs.
“The Commerce Department statement means that many Chinese cell manufacturers will be incentivized to outsource to third-party companies in other countries in order to get around the duties,” Sheppard said. “A popular option will be to utilize cell specialists operating in Taiwan. This will allow the Chinese players to avoid the high tariffs ranging from 34 to 250 percent. However, such a strategy also will add 10 to 12 percent additional cost for the modules, based on the margins required from the third-party contract manufacturers and from additional logistics charges.”
The impact of the outsourcing to Taiwan will be somewhat more limited on solar system prices compared to module prices. System pricing behaves in a different manner from module pricing given the additional cost elements involved.
Accounting for a 10 percent increase in total module cost based on the cell outsourcing strategy mentioned above, the cost of installation for a ground solar system rises to $2.65 per watt, up from $2.56 per watt.
As a result, the ROI for solar installations is expected to only decline by 1.5 percent to 2.5 percent based on the cell outsourcing strategy.
“This reduced ROI means some investors may think twice when valuing other vehicles to put their money,” Sheppard said. “However, most investors will not be deterred.”
Solar module inventory levels will quickly deplete in North America based on the lower shipments from Chinese players, increasing module prices as a result given that Chinese modules were also the most aggressively priced. These price increases will be passed onto the system level, negatively affecting ROI for projects installed this year.
Learn More > IHS iSuppli PV Perspectives
About IHS (www.ihs.com)
IHS (NYSE: IHS) is the leading source of information, insight and analytics in critical areas that shape today’s business landscape. Businesses and governments in more than 165 countries around the globe rely on the comprehensive content, expert independent analysis and flexible delivery methods of IHS to make high-impact decisions and develop strategies with speed and confidence. IHS has been in business since 1959 and became a publicly traded company on the New York Stock Exchange in 2005. Headquartered in Englewood, Colorado, USA, IHS employs more than 5,500 people in more than 30 countries around the world.
Solis Partners, a leading provider of commercial solar power systems, has announced that it has completed the installation of a 243-kilowatt solar photovoltaic (PV) system at Riephoff Sawmill. Located in Monmouth County in the borough of Upper Freehold, N.J., the Riephoff facility is New Jersey’s largest hardwood sawmill.
The system was designed, engineered and constructed by Manasquan, N.J.-based Solis Partners and comprises of two ground-mounted systems — a 165-kilowatt array that generates power for the sawmill and a 78-kilowatt array that generates power for additional facilities on the property, which include a barn for livestock and an aquafarm.
Located at 763 Route 524, the Riephoff Sawmill is a family-owned business that has been supplying the Northeast with high quality lumber products for the industrial, construction and manufacturing industries for more than 45 years. The two solar systems are housed within the company’s 7-acre yard that is used for scaling and storing logs.
“We are thrilled to announce the completion of this innovative project,” said Jamie Hahn, co-founder and managing director of Solis Partners. “This project allows Riephoff to lower its operating costs and acts as a hedge against the rising costs of electricity, which is especially important in a state that has some of the nation’s highest electricity rates. The ability to produce clean, renewable energy is also very important to Riephoff as an organization reliant on the natural environment for raw materials.”
The 15,000-square-foot mill, which includes a 56-inch circular saw and a 20-foot frick carriage, a device used to pass large pieces of lumber through the saw, as well as the pumps needed for aquafarming, requires a lot of electricity. The solar PV system offsets approximately 100 percent of Riephoff’s electricity consumption, which equates to approximately $36,000 in annual savings.
Built with 1,036 solar PV panels, the solar system will produce approximately 300,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity in the first year of operation. This equates to the reduction of more than 456,000 pounds of CO2 emissions, which is the equivalent of offsetting the power demand of 26 residential homes or removing 40 cars from the road each year.
“We care about the environment,” said John Falconio, principal at Riephoff. “Because our company relies on natural resources, we continuously implement projects and methods that are environmentally responsible. However, the decision to pursue a solar project was easy because there is a strong business case in addition to the environmental benefits.”
Riephoff, which produces products from fencing and posts to hardwood crane mats, which are used to support the weight of a crane, is very resourceful in its operations. Riephoff buys approximately 98 percent of its timber locally and harvests all its wood responsibly, using consultants — when necessary — and techniques that best ensure the rejuvenation of the trees.
“There’s a big misconception that when you cut timber it never grows back, but it’s quite the opposite, “ said Falconio. “We cut timber in a way that we can continue to do so for years to come. And whatever we cut, we use – the only thing we don’t sell is the buzz and sawdust. Scrap pieces get recycled into landscape mulch, sawdust goes for horse bedding and anything that can’t be sold we use in our wood burning stove. When managed appropriately, timber is truly a renewable resource.”
“In this business, to stay competitive, you have to be as efficient as possible,” said Falconio. “This solar system is an extension of the efficiency strategies we employ throughout the business, and with plans for expansion with our aquafarming business, the timing was perfect.”
About Solis Partners
Solis Partners is a leading turnkey provider of solar power systems for commercial, industrial, utility and nonprofit clients. Solis specializes in financing, constructing and operating distributed solar power plants that enable clients to meet their long-term energy needs while reducing operating costs and addressing their carbon liabilities. Solis is committed to providing its clients with the most efficient and cost effective path to solar. Solis Partners is headquartered in Manasquan, N.J. For more information, please call (732) 800-0052, or visit www.solispartners.com.
About Riephoff Sawmill
Family-owned since 1964, Riephoff Sawmill, based out of Upper Freehold, N.J., is New Jersey’s largest hardwood sawmill. Servicing clients throughout the northeast and Canada, Riephoff offers top quality lumber products for industrial, construction and manufacturing industries. For more information about Riephoff and its products, please visit www.riephoffsawmill.com.
SAN DIEGO, Calif.–February 28, 2012—Borrego Solar Systems, Inc., a leading designer, installer and financier of grid-tied government solar photovoltaic (PV) systems, today announced the completion of a 3.4 megawatt (MW) solar power installation at Edwards Air Force Base in Southern California. Comprised of 3 ground-mounted, single-axis tracking solar farms, the system is the largest military project completed by Borrego Solar to date, and demonstrates the value of the company’s end-to-end solar power installation services for military facilities.
The system was financed via Borrego Solar’s in-house Power Purchase Agreement (PPA). Per the agreement, Borrego Solar financed, designed and installed the system at no upfront cost to Edwards Air Force Base. Borrego Solar will sell energy back to Edwards Air Force Base at an economical and fixed rate, offsetting an average of 6 percent of the energy consumption across the three facilities.
“As we work to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, solar energy is one of the most reliable and cost-effective tools available to us,” said Ms Amy Frost, Chief of the Civil Engineer Asset Management Branch for Edwards Air Force Base. “Financing large-scale projects can be tough in this economic climate, so a PPA made a lot of sense for us, as it eliminated the need for upfront investment and long term maintenance. The deal allowed us to quickly implement solar on our facility and deliver immediate operational savings.”
Scaling up efforts such as this to promote energy security, the Department of the Army recently established the Energy Initiatives Task Force (EITF) to oversee the Army’s goal of transitioning to 25 percent renewable energy use by 2025. Despite the Army’s goals, financing solar projects can still be a challenge. By entering into a PPA with Borrego Solar, military facility managers can move solar projects forward, and enjoy many of the benefits of solar energy while investing zero upfront capital costs.
“We are proud to have completed this project as it is a great example of how public-private partnerships can succeed and allow the development and installation of large-scale solar energy systems on government property,” said Mike Hall, CEO of Borrego Solar. “Edwards Air Force Base should be applauded for making renewable energy a priority at their facility. We look forward to continuing our work with military facility managers to help them take full advantage of the financial benefits that come from using solar to generate clean and sustainable energy, and local jobs.”
Borrego Solar continues to deliver on its mission to help federal organizations go solar. Last week, the company was awarded a contract by the General Services Administration (GSA), certifying it to provide solar installation services to federal agencies. Edwards Air Force Base is the largest project in Borrego Solar’s growing military portfolio to date. The company completed a nearly one MW project in 2010 at the Point Loma Navy Base in San Diego Bay.
In the effort to convert sunlight into electricity, photovoltaic solar cells that use conductive organic polymers for light absorption and conversion have shown great potential. Organic polymers can be produced in high volumes at low cost, resulting in photovoltaic devices that are cheap, lightweight and flexible.
In the last few years, much work has been done to improve the efficiency with which these devices convert sunlight into power, including the development of new materials, device structures and processing techniques.
In a new study, available online this week in the journal Nature Photonics, researchers at the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science and UCLA’s California Nanosystems Institute (CNSI) report that they have significantly enhanced polymer solar cells’ performance by building a device with a new “tandem” structure that combines multiple cells with different absorption bands. The device had a certified power-conversion efficiency of 8.62 percent and set a world record in July 2011.
Further, after the researchers incorporated a new infrared-absorbing polymer material provided by Sumitomo Chemical of Japan into the device, the device’s architecture proved to be widely applicable and the power-conversion efficiency jumped to 10.6 percent — a new record — as certified by the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
By using cells with different absorption bands, tandem solar cells provide an effective way to harvest a broader spectrum of solar radiation. However, the efficiency doesn’t automatically increase by simply combining two cells. The materials for the tandem cells have to be compatible with each other for efficient light harvesting, the researchers said.
Until now, the performance of tandem devices lagged behind single-layer solar cells, mainly due to this lack of suitable polymer materials. UCLA Engineering researchers have demonstrated highly efficient single-layer and tandem polymer solar cells featuring a low-band-gap–conjugated polymer specially designed for the tandem structure. The band gap determines the portion of the solar spectrum a polymer absorbs.
“Envision a double-decker bus,” said Yang Yang, a professor of materials science and engineering at UCLA Engineering and principal investigator on the research. “The bus can carry a certain number of passengers on one deck, but if you were to add a second deck, you could hold many more people for the same amount of space. That’s what we’ve done here with the tandem polymer solar cell.”
To use solar radiation more effectively, Yang’s team stacked, in series, multiple photoactive layers with complementary absorption spectra to construct a tandem polymer solar cell. Their tandem structure consists of a front cell with a larger (or high) band gap material and a rear cell with a smaller (or low) band gap polymer, connected by a designed interlayer.
When compared to a single-layer device, the tandem device is more efficient in utilizing solar energy, particularly by minimizing other energy losses. By using more than one absorption material, each capturing a different part of the solar spectrum, the tandem cell is able to maintain the current and increase the output voltage. These factors enable the increase in efficiency, the researchers said.
“The solar spectra is very broad and covers the visible as well as the invisible, the infrared and the UV,” said Shuji Doi, research group manager for Sumitomo Chemical. “We are very excited that Sumitomo’s low–band gap polymer has contributed to the new record efficiency.”
“We have been doing research in tandem solar cells for a much shorter length of time than in the single-junction devices,” said Gang Li, a member of the research faculty at UCLA Engineering and a co-author of the Nature Photonics paper. “For us to achieve such success in improving the efficiency in this short time period truly demonstrates the great potential of tandem solar cell technology.”
“Everything is done by a very low-cost wet-coating process,” Yang said. “As this process is compatible with current manufacturing, I anticipate this technology will become commercially viable in the near future.”
This study opens up a new direction for polymer chemists to pursue designs of new materials for tandem polymer solar cells. Furthermore, it indicates an important step towards the commercialization of polymer solar cells. Yang said his team hopes to reach 15 percent efficiency in the next few years.
Yang, who holds UCLA’s Carol and Lawrence E. Tannas Jr. Endowed Chair in Engineering, is also faculty director of the Nano Renewable Energy Center at the California NanoSystems Institute at UCLA.
The study was supported by the National Science Foundation, the U.S Air Force Office of Scientific Research, the U.S. Office of Naval Research and the U.S. Department of Energy, together with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
Sumitomo Chemical is one of Japan’s leading chemical companies, offering a diverse range of products globally in the fields of basic chemicals, petro-chemicals, IT-related chemicals and materials, agricultural chemicals, and pharmaceuticals. The company’s consolidated net sales for fiscal year 2010 were $23.8 billion.
The UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science, established in 1945, offers 28 academic and professional degree programs and has an enrollment of more than 5,000 students. The school’s distinguished faculty are leading research to address many of the critical challenges of the 21st century, including renewable energy, clean water, health care, wireless sensing and networking, and cybersecurity. Ranked among the top 10 engineering schools at public universities nationwide, the school is home to nine multimillion-dollar interdisciplinary research centers in wireless sensor systems, nanoelectronics, nanomedicine, renewable energy, customized computing, and the smart grid, all funded by federal and private agencies.
(www.engineer.ucla.edu | www.twitter.com/uclaengineering)
Innovative leasing programs are opening new markets for solar panels and new opportunities for generating clean electricity – and at a much lower cost to consumers.
Correspondent Patty Kim visits the Cincinnati Zoo to learn how a new financing model connects solar power investors and manufacturers with people who want to install solar arrays on their homes and businesses to lock in low prices for decades.
US renewable energy investment advisory services and development company specializes in connecting bankable projects with financing.
Empower Energies, LLC, a global renewable energy investment advisory services and development company headquartered outside Washington, DC, announced the availability of new funding sources for renewable energy projects, with an emphasis on North American ventures.
“We’re looking to immediately secure more bankable renewable energy projects,” said Len Jornlin, President and CEO of Empower Energies. “Over the next 45 days we’re prioritizing projects for domestic investors and several visiting international due diligence teams on site visits to the US.”
The company’s consortium of investors is seeking to finance or acquire clean energy projects, developers, or manufacturers according to the criteria listed in this downloadable pdf. This group will also consider co-investment in renewable energy funds.
“We are exclusively focused on Renewables,” Jornlin noted. “That is our forte. Our partners are primarily interested in solar, wind, and biomass projects, and in developers with “live? projects.”
Empower Energies offers extensive financing and development expertise in the renewable energy business worldwide. Since 1994, its management team has experience in the pioneering clean energy companies of their time on the ground in more than 45 countries across Europe, North America, Latin America, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East.
Empower Energies provides fit-for-market solutions which accelerate development and entry or expansion into growing markets. Working closely with a unique mix of financing partners, the company understands and manages risk – especially in emerging markets – and delivers attractive returns on investment and measurable local economic development.
Although the organization specializes in emerging clean energy markets worldwide, Empower Energies is a US-based company, and is currently focused on the rapidly-developing North American marketplace.
“Solar, in particular, has been a cyclical business,” Jornlin continued. “Investment has traditionally focused where government support intersects with a strong technology base, manufacturing capacity, local development capability, and an engaged public. Right now no markets are hotter than the United States and Canada.”
Empower Energies helps local developers do more faster with less risk, by providing financial resources, proven expertise, and global relationships. The company provides select partners in emerging clean energy markets with an array of branded, adaptable tools and services engineered to enable accelerated time-to-market, ROI, and risk management.
Since its founding in 2009, Empower Energies has originated and executed confidential investor transactions amounting to more than $378 million, including the monetization of “orphaned” or distressed solar and wind projects.
About Empower Energies, LLC
Founded to finance and develop clean energy projects globally, Empower Energies, LLC also specializes in helping overseas Renewable Energy companies compress their North American market entry timeline. With a focus on solar electric projects, the organization’s principals provide extensive experience in solar photovoltaic CPV, biomass and other renewable energy technologies as well. Empower Energies has significant experience across the solar value chain, and offers a successful track record since 1994 in established and emerging solar markets around the world. To date, Empower Energies has provided investment advisory services and clean energy investment opportunities valued at $378 million. The company is headquartered just outside Washington, DC, in Frederick, MD, USA.
By Daryl J. Ehrmantraut
Our future energy requirements depend on reaching the ‘holy grail’ of electricity generation – Finding a cheaper alternative to coal and other fossil fuels. The availability of an alternative energy source would also contribute significantly to energy self-sufficiency in North America.
Every hour more energy from the sun hits the earth than the world’s entire population consumes in a single year. Given this abundance, solar energy is our world’s most obvious energy choice. Why then, is less than 1% of our global electricity supply powered by solar energy? Because the industry has been unable to harness the three critical success factors for global solar deployment – high efficiency, low cost and high materials availability for deployment on a global scale.
Current solar photovoltaic (PV) technologies generate electrical power by converting solar radiation into an electric current using semiconductor material. The process involved is called the photovoltaic effect (PV). Today, solar PV cannot be realized on a worldwide scale because neither of the two main technologies presented today; crystalline silicon PV and thin-film PV, completely address the three critical success factors. Crystalline silicon PV possesses high efficiency using abundant materials but they are very expensive to manufacture. It wins on two of the 3 critical success factors. Thin-film PV on the other hand is cheap to manufacture but has low efficiency and relies on rare and toxic elements in its manufacture. It wins on one critical success factor. Furthermore most thin-film technologies use dangerous, toxic materials including cadmium telluride and indium among others.
Despite the challenges, the global market for solar PV technology is growing very rapidly. Some analysts predicting solar PV could contribute as much as 10-15% of our global electricity by 2050.
As we seek to move solar energy into the mainstream, we need to retain the industry’s green integrity and bypass the pitfalls of electronic waste. Creating safe, affordable solar energy solutions requires research and development that eliminates the sector’s reliance the scarce and dangerous elements that are in limited supply, toxic, difficult to mine, or found only in select, sometimes geopolitically unfriendly regions of the world.
At Quantum Solar Power Corp., we are developing NGD™ a solar PV device which we believe will address all 3 critical success factors –high efficiency, low cost and high scalability through the use of abundant non-toxic materials. We believe Quantum will win on all three critical success factors. Quantum’s revolutionary approach to solar PV design will revolutionize the solar power market. We invite other solar technology companies and manufacturers to join our quest to create safe, affordable solar technology solutions that will literally light up the lives of people across the world.
There is no doubt that our predicted energy needs have a “sunny” future. According to the American Solar Energy Society, U.S. manufacturing of PV components — wafers, cells, and modules — has increased substantially year-over-year, with growth rates demonstrated at 97%, 81%, and 62% respectively. In 2009, the U.S. solar industry grew 36% to nearly $4 billion and supported the addition of 17,000 new jobs.
It is important for our geopolitical future that we create a clean energy economy along with a strong energy policy. A sunny future for our children demands that we continue to create green sector jobs that replace our dependency on fossil fuels with renewable energy through wind turbines, hydro-electric power and solar photovoltaic technologies that make solar energy a globally deployable, environmentally smart energy source.
About the author:
Daryl J. Ehrmantraut is Chief Executive Officer, President & Director of Quantum Solar Power Corporation, www.quantumsp.com, which is developing a “Next Generation Device” (NGD™) photovoltaic technology. Mr. Ehrmantraut lives and works in Vancouver, Canada. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org