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May 8, 2012  | solarcurator  | 1 Comment

Hundreds of gigawatts of solar on deck

EPIA forecast, Italiano LCPV, corporate bloggery, RIP ECD

The numbers are staggering: according to the European Photovoltaic Industry Association (EPIA), the total solar PV installed planetwide will grow to between roughly 200GW and 340GW by 2016, from the 70GW or so currently deployed. This threefold-plus gain will be sun-fueled by China, India, the United States, Japan, Southeast Asia, Middle East, North Africa, and Latin America as well as European stalwarts Germany and Italy, albeit to a lesser degree. Since national policies (or lack of them) will be a major determining factor, EPIA’s forecasts wildly vary (dartboard, please); for example, the 2013 swing from 20.6GW to 41.4GW. For more, see PV-Tech’s value-added pick-up of the Reuters coverage, while Bloomberg/Businessweek has its own version of the story.

CleanTechnica is the first to pick up on a Businesswire press release about a 2MW LCPV (low-concentrator PV) installation built and owned by Convert Italia in Puglia, Italy. The silicon supply chain-leveraging Solaria system is claimed to be the largest of its kind in the world (yay, another world record!). An interesting twist to the story is that the single-axis MX1 trackers helping the Solaria panels follow the sun were built and codeveloped by Convert and the module company as well, reflecting yet another flavor of collaborative vertical integration in the solar space. Apparently, the Italian firm is building a couple more power plants with Solaria glass, although no further details have been forthcoming; the Fremont, CA-based company also introduced an integrated azimuth (dual-axis) tracker system at Solar Power International 2011 last fall.

Many solar companies have more than just the obligatory passel of press releases as their websites’ media content, with news coverage, videos, photo galleries, and blogs supplementing the mundane minimum. The Curator, always on the prowl for worthy fodder to harvest, came on this new Suntech blog about South Africa’s commitment to solar, penned by Ryan Ulrich, the company’s communications manager for the Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa, or APMEA, region. (Gotta love an acronym that’s one letter away from a sleep disorder.) Although the post doesn’t break any new ground, it provides a solid summary of one of the most exciting emerging—and seriously coal dependent—markets on the solar flightpath. As the piece notes, the government will be allocating nearly 3.725GW of renewable energy tenders over the next two years or so; of the ~1.4GW already awarded, about half went to PV projects.

If ever there was a solar company with very cool, innovative technology but a losing cost model and mountains of debt, it’s ECD’s United Solar Ovonic (Uni-Solar) group. The firm, which declared for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in February, was the first to scale manufacturing of a flexible thin-film PV laminate, using layers of amorphous-silicon as its active material. Its roll-to-roll manufacturing systems represented a portfolio’s worth of patented invention, with the main deposition tool stretching the better part of a football field in length on the production floor.

Sadly, the company has announced it was “discontinuing the court-approved sale process” because it could not find an “acceptable qualified bid” and has pulled the plug on the going-concern auction of its Auburn Hills and Greenville, MI, factories. As a result, the majority of its remaining workforce will be let go. Greenville plant manager, Tim Kelley, was quoted by WZZM that there had been three or four prospective buyers. “It’s been like a roller coaster,” he told the news outlet. “We’ve heard exciting news, prospect for buyers. Then things would die off and it would look bleak.”

If you’re intrigued by the Uni-Solar saga, click here to read my glass-half-full PV-Tech report based on a visit to the company’s main fab in summer 2010–a guardedly optimistic time there before the bottom dropped out. Note especially the concluding paragraphs; maybe the nasty weather I encountered after my tour was a sign!


Sources: EPIA, PV-Tech, Reuters, Bloomberg, CleanTechnica, Solaria, Convert Italia, Suntech, ECD, WZZM 13, Detroit Free Press, SolarCurator

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