Seaward invests to become company of the future

We are delighted to announce that we are transforming our Peterlee manufacturing base with an investment of £500,000.

The work, which has already begun, will significantly improve efficiency, reduce waste, and lead to a 25 per cent increase in productivity, allowing for further company and employment growth over the next two years.

Andrew Upton, managing director, said: “Seaward is known for innovation in technology – and that extends to having the very best manufacturing facilities.

“Continued investment in both our site and our workforce is essential to our success and we’re committed to doing just that.

“We need to see the next generation of Seaward employees coming through to continue to carry the torch for electrical safety.

“By investing in state-of-the-art equipment, machinery, software and personnel we are futureproofing the whole company to ensure we make advancements in testing technology for years to come.”

We currently employ 160 people at our County Durham headquarters, as well as having a base in the USA. We also support a global network of distributors.

We are the UK’s leading manufacturer of PAT testing equipment and recently partnered with Labour MP Grahame Morris and other industry experts to launch a national campaign to improve electrical safety in rented properties.

Latest incident reinforces calls for solar safety

As electrical safety specialists, we are making renewed calls for better safety standards after a faulty solar panel caused a fire which destroyed a home and left a man in hospital.

The fire, which broke out at a house in Hampshire, is thought to have been caused by an electrical fault in a solar panel.

The episode has brought the technology’s safety back into the spotlight following another roof fire at a Manchester primary school in March.

Michael Middlemast, Renewables Category Manager at Seaward, said: “Solar is generally a very safe technology – but incidents like this highlight the occasional problems than can occur.

“Fortunately in this case no one was seriously injured – but it could have been a very different story.”

A 2017 report analysed more than 50 solar fire incidents in the UK and found that more than a third were caused by problematic installations.

Michael continued: “The research is very clear – the majority of solar panel fires are caused by errors in the installation process.

“Carrying out simple and regular tests and making sure the equipment has been installed correctly is the only way to guarantee that your equipment is safe – and it’s essential that people are made aware of this to minimise the risk of fire.”

The incident comes just days after Seaward partnered with Labour MP Grahame Morris and other industry experts to launch a national campaign to improve electrical safety in rented properties.


Click here to take a look at our range of Solar PV Testers for both 1000V and 1500V installations that will help ensure your solar PV systems are working correctly, efficiently and safely

Seaward is saddened to announce that its founder and former owner Rod Taylor has died at the age of 66

Rod Taylor SeawardMr Taylor was MD of the Seaward Group of companies, which includes Seaward Electronic, Clare Instruments, Cropico and Rigel Medical until its sale in June 2015.

Current Managing Director Andrew Upton said: “Rod was well-loved and is fondly remembered by the Seaward staff who worked with him, as well as by those in our distribution network and supply chain.

“It is due to his entrepreneurship, forward-thinking, hard work and diligence that Seaward is where it is today – leading the field internationally in biomedical engineering, renewable energy and health and safety testing and measurement.

“Under his guardianship Seaward won more than 20 business excellence awards, including the Queen’s Award for export in 2013, and accolades for innovation and employee development. Rod was awarded an MBE for services to industry in 2009."

Before establishing Seaward in 1982 Mr Taylor held marketing positions with the Sperry Rand Group. He received his electrical engineering degree from Nottingham University and was a fellow of the Institution of Engineering and Technology.

He was also past chairman of the North East Confederation of British Industry and former president of GAMBICA, the UK-based association for instrumentation, control, automation and laboratory technology as well as former Chairman of the Regional Technology Centre and Director of County Durham Development Company.

All at Seaward pass on their sincere condolences to widow Rosemary and children Russell, Frances and Jennifer.

Michael Middlemast in the US

Michael Middlemast leads Seaward Group USA growth

Renewable energy expert Michael Middlemast is bringing his knowledge of the international solar industry to the US, as Business Development Manager of Seaward Group USA.

He will lead Seaward’s growth across North America, working closely with renewable energy installers, utility-scale solar operators and managers of commercial solar installations.

Michael, has more than ten years’ experience in the global renewables market, and will use his expertise to identify challenges and provide solutions for operators who want to ensure efficiency and reliability.

Based out of Seaward’s office in Tampa, Florida, Michael will support customers with Seaward’s high-quality range of solar PV test solutions – including the new 1500V, 40A Solar Utility Pro.

His work will build on Seaward’s reputation as a trusted, worldwide provider of test instrumentation for the renewable industry.

Michael said: “The solar industry in the USA is in the midst of an exciting period of growth and opportunity – I couldn’t wait to get here and become involved.

“In total, US solar PV capacity is expected to nearly triple over the next five years – and by 2022, more than 17 GW of capacity will be installed annually.

“That creates a significant challenge for installers and operators, who need to maintain efficiency, maximise output and minimise downtime by identifying faults quickly.

“At Seaward, we support the solar community and we are ideally placed to help meet that challenge. I look forward to helping operators and installers.”

Seaward’s range of products include solutions for residential, commercial and utility scale PV operators working at both 1000 and 1500V. Our latest innovation is the Solar Utility Pro 1500V 40A Solar Tester, which is the first tester of its kind to safely test multiple strings in parallel up to 1500V 40A.

For more than 35 years, Seaward has developed a strong reputation as an industry educator and provider of trusted products worldwide.

Seaward gives PV operators the experience and confidence to meet commissioning test requirements of the NEC and UL by providing webinars and solar training courses;

To see our latest edition visit www.seaward-groupusa.com/SUP

Solar Latest News Round-Up Issue 58

This issue covers:

REA’s annual review of UK solar sector

The UK solar market must “unlock” deployment on commercial buildings if the technology is to continue its cost-reduction path to a subsidy-free future, the Renewable Energy Association (REA) has claimed.

Hailing solar PV’s record for exceeding expectations, the REA’s Annual Renewable Energy View report highlights the uncertain future the technology faces in the UK given the government’s subsidy reset which has seen the Renewables Obligation and feed-in tariff closed and cut respectively.

With solar all but excluded from future Contracts for Difference rounds, the REA has stressed that for solar to continue to reduce its installation costs it must unlock deployment on buildings in the commercial sector.

The report has also sized the UK solar market, stating that the number of those employed across the whole UK solar supply chain reached a high in 2014/15 of 16,880. This comes despite a gradual reduction in the number of active companies, falling from 2,200 in 2011/12 to 2,005 last year.

Sector turnover rose to just below £2.5 billion last year (£2,477 million), however it is widely expected that this – and employment numbers – will fall as the industry continues to contract in the face of falling subsidies. Full details here

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Growth in US renewables

US renewable energy sources set a series of records for domestic electrical generation during the first quarter of 2016.

The US Energy Information Administration's (EIA) latest, "Electric Power Monthly" report shows net electrical generation from non-hydro renewables (biomass, geothermal, solar, wind) increased by 22.9% compared to the first quarter of 2015.

Within the figures electrical generation from utility-scale solar thermal and photovoltaics increased by 31.4% to 6,690 thousand megawatt-hours and comprised 0.69% of total electrical output. The EIA also estimates that distributed solar photovoltaics (e.g., rooftop solar systems) expanded by 35.2% and accounted for an additional 3,146 thousand megawatt-hours.

Combined, utility-scale and distributed solar accounted for over one percent (1.01%) of total generation, compared to 0.72% a year earlier.

Overall, the main source of renewable energy generation continues to be wind, which grew 32.8% to set a new record of 6.23% of total generation. Details at www.eia.gov/electricity/monthly/

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China’s aims to reduce solar PV costs

Declining costs in China’s solar industry could allow the government to reduce prices offered to solar PV developers by more than a third by 2020 and see PV plants competitive with coal within a decade.

A Bloomberg report in Renewable Energy World said it should be possible to allow prices to be cut to 0.5 yuan (U.S. 8 cents) a kilowatt-hour in four years. This year developers got at least 0.8 yuan a kilowatt-hour for photovoltaic power generated for approved projects.

China surpassed Germany last year as the nation with the most installed solar-power capacity, in the process making renewable energy more competitive by driving down costs. Solar power in China soared more than seven fold since 2012 as the country has sought to boost use of solar panels to cut carbon emissions and boost home consumption of renewable power.

In addition, it is reported that reductions in construction costs have already prompted a cut in the preferential rates provided to developers.

However, china’s National Energy Administration says moves to reduce costs will only occur if the government eliminates “abnormal costs” on developers such as idle solar power capacity and delays of subsidies for renewable power plants.

It says that rapid installations have left grids struggling to absorb the influx of renewable power plants, reducing profits of developers. About 52 percent of solar power sat unused in the first quarter in China’s north western region of Xinjiang, marking the highest idle rate in the nation, according to data from, the NEA, which said Gansu province has the second-highest amount of idle capacity.

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Global solar growth aims spreads to Armenia

Another indication of the global growth of solar PV comes with new legislation being passed in Armenia to promote the development of solar PV.

The Armenian Parliament has approved measures that are intended to provide new impetus for the development of solar energy in private and industrial segments of the Armenian economy.

According to the forecasts of the Armenian Fund for Renewable Energy and Energy Saving, by 2020 the country should produce up to 8 percent of all consumed energy from alternative resources. This total should be achieved with the commissioning of solar plants with a total capacity of up to 50 MW, with the amount of investment close to US$ 80 million.

Armenia’s Energy Ministry said that the potential capacity of the country in terms of solar power production is 3,000 MW, which is enough to not only meet domestic demand, but also provide the whole Caucasus region with energy. Full details of the story are here

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Saudi Arabia revives its solar PV ambitions

Saudi Arabia is seeking to revive its solar-power program, scaling back more ambitious targets it set four years ago.

Reports say the kingdom plans to install 9.5 GW of renewable energy under its Vision 2030 program, about a quarter of the previous goal. The new target is about 14 percent of the country’s current generating capacity and is achievable because of a plunge in the cost of solar PV, government officials said.

“Solar should be the fundamental solution for Saudi Arabia,” Ibrahim Babelli, the country’s deputy minister for economy and planning, told reporters at a conference in Dubai.

The goals reflect work by Prince Mohammed bin Salman to overhaul the economy of Saudi Arabia, selling off a stake in the state owned Saudi Arabian Oil Co. to diversify away from fossil fuels as a primary revenue source. The desert kingdom relies on oil and natural gas for almost all of its power generation, sapping what it earns from crude it could export.

 

Solar Latest News Round-Up Issue 56

 

This issue covers:

Rooftop solar PV fires in Australia

News reports in Australia have continued to highlight the fire risks associated with faulty rooftop solar PV electrical installations. In the latest case, Fire and Emergency Services in Queensland were called to two house fires caused by solar panels.

One of the fires was contained to a small area and extinguished, but an earlier fire in a separate property took an hour to get under control, causing damage to the roof.

The Electrical Safety Office said while the solar panels themselves were safe, problems and fire hazards occurred when the panels were installed incorrectly.

"Electricians and builders should be aware that photovoltaic (PV) solar panels must be installed in accordance with the Australian Standards for buildings and the Building Code of Australia.

"Incorrectly installed, PV solar panels can place stress on electrical wiring or be at risk of becoming dislodged, leading to serious safety risks.

"Before installation, the correct location on the building should be chosen to site the panels based on manufacturer's instructions, the wind load, the environment surrounding the building and the structure of the building." Read the full news report here

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‘50 States of Solar’ overview of US industry

An interesting overview of the US solar industry is provided in a report from the NC Clean Energy Technology Center and Meister Consultants Group. Their 2015 Policy Review, 50 States of Solar, provides key stakeholders in the solar PV industry with an overview of trends in relevant policy and regulation.

This special year-end version of the report highlights the key trends and major actions of the 2015 calendar year, providing insights and analysis on the solar policy environment. Overall, the report describes how new PV systems are being installed in the USA at a rate of one every two minutes. The only states that did not take significant actions related to solar policy in 2015 were Alabama, North Dakota, and Wyoming.

Included in the report is an analysis of solar PV industry issues such as significant state and utility net-metering or community solar laws, important legislative efforts, and utility proposed rate changes.

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Anticipated solar PV slowdown in Europe

If it wasn’t for the UK, Europe’s solar power market would have flat-lined last year, according to new industry figures that reveal the world’s biggest market for the technology is struggling to retain its scale.

According to the report, European solar grew by 15 percent last year, mainly because the UK market grew by about half. “Without the enormous growth in the U.K., the European solar market would have remained roughly at the 2014 level,” the report said.

However, with the recent ending of UK subsidies for solar farms, trade group Solar Power Europe warns that the European solar market will start contracting next year as a result. Already, it is reported that outside of the UK the industry has been in decline in recent years as Germany, Italy and Spain have removed subsidies and shifted to market-based support mechanisms for renewables.

The UK will install 2,000 MW to 2,500 MW in 2016 because many projects will remain eligible for a grace period for the subsidy. Overall the European market is likely to contract slightly in 2016 to about 7,000 MW, or by 7 GW, he said.

“We will see a very large reduction in growth in the rate of installation in the UK in 2017 to about half a gigawatt,” said James Watson, chief executive of Solar Power Europe. “2017 is a wild card because Turkey has set a target to have 5 GW by 2022, so could be installing as much as 1.5 GW a year in 2017.” Read the full article here

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O&M diversification is a realistic opportunity

Maintaining diversity in their solar PV installation businesses is the challenge facing UK solar contractors.

This is the view of Michael Middlemast, renewables development manager at Seaward, who says that for most installers, with a ready-made customer base, a wealth of transferable skills and the necessary know how, the barrier to entry into the secondary operations and maintenance (O&M) market is paper thin.

Michael makes the point that when solar systems were installed, owners were promised that they would last for 25 years, so the challenge for the sector is to get out there and make sure that they do so.

For example, the introduction of PV Health Checks for customers, using modern PV test equipment to compile reports of essential checks and inspections on installed solar systems, not only assesses the power efficiency of arrays, but can lead to suggestions for improved performance and upselling opportunities for other services and support.

In this way, he argues, rather than relying on subsidy to drive growth, effective operations and maintenance support can empower PV operators of all sizes to properly manage their solar investment and their energy use.

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Solar PV impact on traditional US power generation

The proliferation of solar power in the USA is starting to have a significant impact on traditional power generation suppliers.

According to a new report by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), solar PV rooftops could generate 1,432 Terrawatt hours (TWh) per year, or 39% of US electricity sales, a ratio that will increase further as solar module performance improves over time.

The new report shows that small building rooftops could accommodate as many as 731 GW of solar PV capacity and produce 926 TWh per year. Medium and large buildings have a total installed solar PV capacity potential of 386 GW and an annual power generation potential of 506 TWh.

On the same theme, a Bloomberg report in Renewable Energy World says that rooftop solar is casting a $2 billion shadow over power generators across the eastern USA. With the number of houses with solar panels set to break through the one million figure soon, power grid managers serving the eastern USA plan to cut the amount of electricity they buy from conventional plants by about 1,400 MW, starting in 2019, according to industry consultant ICF International Inc. That’s enough electricity to power about 780,000 households.

The result could be as much as $2 billion in lost revenue for generators that are already facing lower demand, tight environmental regulation and depressed prices. Power producers including NRG Energy Inc. warn that the growing reliance on solar may curtail investment in conventional power plants, threatening the reliability of the US electricity system.

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Solar could help meet London’s green challenge

The next mayor of London should set the capital a target of deploying 750MW of solar by 2025, a new report by the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) says.

The ‘London: Global green city’ report has outlined a series of challenges they will face if the capital is to meet ambitious climate and carbon reduction goals. For example, London must almost completely decarbonise by the middle of the century as part of the global effort to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions to zero beyond 2050, as set out in the Paris Agreement on climate change concluded in December 2015.

The report claims that there is potential for London to deploy as much as 9GW of solar – enough to meet a fifth of its energy demand – but cites Department of Energy and Climate Change figures from December 2015 demonstrating that just 54MW has been installed, equivalent to less than 1% of demand.

IPPR argues that the next mayor should look to maximise solar deployment across the Greater London Authority estate, including the 5,700 acres of land and trackside space belonging to Transport for London, and ensure that mapping tools are made available to assess street-by-street potential for solar, which is then fed into planning decisions.

Free solar PV webinars

Our Seaward Business Development Manager for Renewables, Michael Middlemast, is holding a series of free webinars throughout May and June and you're invited to join him.

Topics that will be covered include:

  • Maintaining diversity in your PV installation business
  • The benefits of IV curve tracing
  • An introduction to Seaward Solar diagnostic tools

Click here to find out more information and to register.

Solar Latest News Round-Up Issue 55

 

This issue covers:

UK breaks 10GW installation threshold

News reports in the UK say that total solar PV capacity installed in the country has broken through the 10GW barrier.

Solar Power Portal reports that during the first six weeks of Q1 2016 the volume of new solar installations totalled 340MW, adding to the cumulative solar PV in the UK at the end of 2015 of 9.66GW.

The drive was the result of a number of different factors, with drastic cuts to feed in tariffs leading to a spike in small rooftop installations to 15 January 2016.

In addition, pre-accreditation of stand-alone ROO-FiTs, driven by Renewable Obligation (RO) uncertainty from 22 July 2015, coupled with the ability to share grid connections with community based projects also had an impact, along with the build-out of under 1.3 ROCs for 4.99MW ground-mount farms

The news of the UK’s growth came just a week after European industry body SolarPower Europe claimed that the UK would continue to be the largest solar market in Europe in 2016 having also topped the tables in the previous year. Full story here

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Boom year for US Solar predicted

A report from the US Energy Information Agency (EIA) 2016 highlights the continuing growth impact of solar energy in the United States. In releasing data on planned additions to the US power grid this year, the forecast is that solar will be the number one form of new electricity generation capacity, ahead of coal, oil, hydro, nuclear, wind and even natural gas.

The EIA anticipates that a further 26 gigawatts (GW) of utility scale electricity generation will come online in 2016, with utility solar energy topping the list at 9.5 GW, natural gas at 8.0 GW, wind at 6.8 GW, and the balance of new generation (7% of total) from nuclear, hydro and oil.

Interestingly, the forecast is for utility scale solar only, and does not include residential or commercial installations. Last year saw 8.4GW of distributed solar installed in the USA (compared to 3.1GW of utility scale); and it is thought likely that the figure is also likely to continue to grow. This would mean that the actual solar capacity installed next year may be double the EIA's estimates.

In the EIA forecast, California will see the most installations, with 3.9GW of capacity, followed by North Carolina (1.1GW), Nevada (0.9GW), Texas (0.7GW), and Georgia (0.7GW).

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Solar slowdown in Brazil

The Brazilian state of Minas Gerais has put a planned auction for solar power on hold indefinitely because the region lacks enough transmission lines.

The auction had been set for August, and without adequate power-transmission infrastructure, solar farms that won contracts in the event might not be able to deliver electricity to the grid, according to Guilherme Augusto Duarte de Faria, superintendent of the state’s Economic Development Secretary.

The decision is described as a setback for Brazil’s emerging solar industry. The country had about 59 MW of solar capacity in operation last year, less than 1 percent of the total supply, and the government is seeking to boost that figure as part of an effort to diversify its energy mix.

The Minas Gerais auction had been expected to sell contracts for as much as 200 MW of solar capacity. Full story here

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China's solar PV outlook

A recent article on Renewable Energy World looked at developing trends in China’s solar PV industry. It was reported that the country’s solar PV industry has been in recovery mode since 2013, but more recently, as the capacity utilisation rate of PV firms has improved, the sector continues to grow and new technologies have been developed, while the PV makers have seen their margins improve.

China’s newly added installed capacity in 2015 is estimated at 16.5 GW, the highest worldwide for another year in a row, while the country’s total installed PV capacity is expected to exceed 43 GW, surpassing Germany’s to become the world leader.

Looking into 2016, the sector is expected to maintain growth, thanks to favourable policies and increasing market demand. The full article is available here

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Solar incentive comes under scrutiny in the USA

An interesting report from Reuters describes how two US states have come to very different conclusions on a controversial solar PV incentive that is seen as essential to the industry's growth.

In California, regulators voted in January to preserve so-called net metering, which requires utilities to purchase surplus power generated by customers with rooftop solar panels. But neighbouring Nevada scrapped the policy - prompting some solar companies to exit the state.

The decisions foreshadow an intensifying national debate over public support that the rooftop solar industry says it can't live without.

More than 25 of the 40 US states with net metering policies are reconsidering them, according to the North Carolina Clean Energy Technology Center at North Carolina State University.

Opponents raise fairness concerns and argue that the industry no longer needs generous incentives, citing its rapid growth and solar panel prices that have fallen about 40 percent in five years.

Solar supporters counter that the costs of the traditional grid should fall with the rise of solar because utilities will eventually need fewer power plants and transmission lines. Net metering, solar companies argue, fairly compensates owners for energy they feed back into the grid - so it should be a permanent policy, not a temporary boost to get the industry going.

Solar Latest News Round-Up Issue 54

 

This issue covers:

Healthy project pipeline for future global solar

The global solar PV pipeline now exceeds 200 GW, according to new figures released by market research consultants IHS.

In the latest edition of its Solar Deal Tracker, it is reported that the global solar PV pipeline has now exceeded 200 GW, thanks in large part to the extension of the US Investment Tax Credit. The US leads with the most amount of projects in its PV pipeline, and together with China and Brazil, make up 110 GW, or half of the current global PV pipeline.

“A large share of the planned projects is still immature, with developers scouting for tenders and other opportunities to sign power-purchase agreements,” said Josefin Berg Senior Analyst for IHS Technology. “The previous panic to complete project phases ahead of schedule has reverted to a development pipeline responding to demand and contract fulfilment.”

The US had a bumper 2015, unsurprisingly, given most investors and developers assumed that the US Congress would not extend the valuable Investment Tax Credit. According to IHS, 16 GW of new projects entered the US solar PV pipeline in 2015, while at the same time, 10 GW of tracked projects exited the pipeline, i.e., were installed or entered construction.

On the flipside, the UK has seen its pipeline of pre-construction projects decrease by more than 4 GW in 2015 as many developers await the expiration of the Renewables Obligation Certificates scheme in April. Full report is here

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Installers guide to solar PV energy storage

The UK’s BRE National Solar Centre has published a series of new guides on solar storage systems, one of which has been aimed specifically at installers.

The guide has been published to help installers select and fit battery storage systems so they operate properly with domestic solar installations, with storage set to become an increasingly viable investment for consumers.

The publication, ‘Batteries with Solar Power - A Technical Guide to the use of Energy Storage with Grid-Connected Solar Photovoltaic Systems’ includes information on the technical requirements of domestic or small commercial battery systems.

It includes guidance on different battery types, DC and AC coupling, appropriate sizing and design requirements as well as information on charging profiles and maintenance.

Jonny Williams, director at BRE National Solar Centre, said: “These guides explain how the systems work and how to choose the right system for the right application. Ultimately battery storage for PV will help people and businesses get the best return on their investments so making the right decisions is crucial.” Copies of the installer’s guide are available from www.brebookshop.com

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Positive outlook for solar PV in USA is confirmed

The guide outlook for solar in the USA was also reflected in a new study by Bloomberg Energy Finance (BNEF) and the Business Council for Sustainable Energy.

With investment in solar on the rise, the report says that cumulative solar PV capacity in the USA has now reached 28 GW, of which 7.3 GW was installed in 2015, as part of overall growth in renewable power generation of 16GW.

Overall, cumulative renewable capacity is said to stand at 221 GW, with hydro and pumped storage representing the lion’s share at 102 GW, with wind in second place and solar in third.

However, solar PV holds the record for the fastest growing renewable energy type, averaging 60% growth annually since 2008. Of its overall capacity, 17 GW comes from utility-scale projects and 11 GW from distributed systems. This year it is forecast that a further 16GW of solar will be installed.

For a full review of the report visit here

 

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India breaks through the 5GW solar PV mark

The installed capacity of solar power in India has crossed 5 GW milestone. With newly installed capacity of nearly 1.4GW in the last financial year, the country’s cumulative installed capacity is now 5.13 GW – and more projects are in development.

Rajasthan state leads the way with 1,264 MW of installed solar power, followed by Gujarat (1024 MW), Madhya Pradesh (679 MW), Tamil Nadu (419 MW), Maharashtra (379 MW) and Andhra Pradesh (357 MW).

The Indian Government has set the ambitious target of generating 100 GW of solar power by the year 2021-22 under its National Solar Mission. It is envisaged this will be achieved by the addition of a further 60 GW of ground mounted grid-connected solar power and 40 GW through roof-top grid installations.

The country’s Ministry of New & Renewable Energy has a number of schemes and financial support projects in progress to meet its objectives, with the aim of adding a further 2GW this year and 12GW next year. The full report is here

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UK large scale solar to be excluded from CfDs

It has been reported in the UK that there are no plans for large-scale solar to be handed future contracts under the government’s Contracts for Difference (CfD) mechanism.

The announcement came from energy secretary Amber Rudd, who noted that, subject to planning permission, the industry had said that solar could be developed without the need for subsidies.

“We don’t have plans at the moment for a large-scale solar contract. What we have found is that large-scale ground-mounted solar have confirmed to us that they do not need any subsidy and that they can continue, subject to planning permission, because costs of fallen to such a great degree they can continue without any form of contract,” the secretary of state said.

Solar Power Portal reported that the confirmation will come as a significant blow for large-scale projects left stranded by the premature closure of the Renewables Obligation (RO) scheme and developers with any interest in the CfD process, which was originally designed to replace the RO.

The government has previously stated its intent to launch a possible three CfD rounds over the course of this parliament but it has not been made clear which technologies would be able to apply.

At the same time as the latest news, the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) also appeared to have upgraded its 2020 solar forecast again, this time to 13GW.

This would appear to be a significant upgrade on the previous forecast of 12GW, issued just three months ago and would mean that DECC’s solar forecasts for 2020 have increased by more than 36% in the space of six months.

Solar Latest News Round-Up Issue 53

 

This issue covers:

China moves to top of solar PV capacity league

China's continued rollout of solar PV panels has taken it to first place in the global solar race, ahead of previous world leader Germany.

Installed solar capacity stood at 43GW by the end of 2015, according to China Photovoltaic Industry Association (CPIA) figures, with around 15GW new capacity installed during 2015.

China's National Energy Administration (NEA) predicts that the country's PV power capacity will hit 150GW by 2020, the agency reported.

Meanwhile, Germany's solar capacity now stands at around 40GW, according to data from the Federal Network Agency and Fraunhofer ISE.

The new Chinese figures match estimates released on Monday by industry body PV Market Alliance, which also showed Japan had recorded around 10GW of new installations - up from 9GW in 2014.

Elsewhere in the world, new solar capacity in the US grew from around 6GW in 2014 to 9.8GW in 2015 - a rise of more than 50 per cent, the PV Market Alliance said.

The European solar market also took a turn for the better: after three years of declining installations, new capacity rose from 7GW in 2014 to around 8.5GW in 2015, according to PV Market Alliance. The UK and Germany continued to, drive the market, installing 4GW and 1.4GW respectively. Full details of the news report are here

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UK solar still a good investment says STA

With UK homeowners facing new and reduced feed-in tariffs, the Solar Trade Association says that solar remains a good investment for the average household.

The reduced solar FIT for UK residential customers came into effect in mid-January, with any homeowner deciding to install a rooftop solar array receiving a rate of 4.39p/kWh for their system when the scheme is 'unpaused' on February 8.

Despite this 64% cut on the previous rate for systems of 4kW and under, solar in the UK can still represent a good investment for householders, says the Solar Trade Association (STA).

According to the STA, the new FIT rate will deliver a tax-free return of investment of around 5% provided homeowners install a competitively priced solar array. Compared to savings accounts – bedeviled by record low interest rates – solar represents an attractive investment that could be paid off fully in 13 years through intelligent use of their system.

"Let’s be clear, solar is still a good investment for householders and an essential investment for the planet," said STA CEO Paul Barwell. "Costs have come down so fast that solar is much more affordable today than five years ago – around half the price of a new car.

“There has never been a greater need to go solar because acting on climate change is more urgent than ever. Solar will save on your energy bills, and potentially add value to your home." Full details here

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China continues green energy roll out

China's ambitious renewables energy rollout pushed the global renewables industry past its latest milestone last year, as global installed capacity hit a record 913.5GW, according to new data released this week by research firm GlobalData.

The country installed more biopower, small hydropower and onshore wind than any other in 2015, and retained its title as the leading installer of solar power for the second year running, said Ankit Mathur, GlobalData's Practice Head for Power.

"China became the largest consumer of solar photovoltaic (PV) modules in 2014, overtaking both Japan and the US," he explained in a statement. "China's annual solar PV installations have grown rapidly over the past few years, from 500MW in 2010, to 10.6GW in 2014, and an estimated 18.43GW in 2015."

As part of its emissions reductions strategy, China plans to have installed 150GW of solar PV capacity by 2020 further cementing its position as the world's largest renewables market.

Mathur added that China was closely followed in the solar race by Japan and the US, with both countries adding an estimated 8.2GW each of solar power in 2015. More at www.energy.globaldata.com

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EU extends import trade duties to Malaysia and Taiwan

The European Commission (EC) has announced further import duties on solar panel imports from Asia.

Following an investigation launched in 2015 into whether Chinese manufacturers had been circumventing European anti-dumping duties by shipping product via Malaysia and Taiwan, the EC has found that some companies were involved in this practice.

As a result, anti-dumping and anti-subsidy duties of 53.4% and 11.5% respectively have been imposed on PV modules from Malaysian and Taiwanese firms found to have been enabling Chinese sources to circumvent other duties.

In addition, import duty payments on modules found to have been non-compliant with EU trade requirements will be backdated to May 2015 when the investigation was launched. European solar PV importers will be invoiced for the funds, regardless of whether or not they were aware that the products they purchased were in fact of Chinese origin.

A full news report on the new EU trade measures is available here.

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US ITC extension for solar PV projects

The USA has announced an extension of the solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC) – the main driver of solar growth in the United States.

The unexpected decision to implement a five year extension will relieve the US solar industry of the pressure to complete its residential and commercial solar power project in 2016. Under the terms of the recent proposal, the ITC will be extended from December 31st, 2016 and will instead be stepped down from 30% to 10% until 2024.

PV projects that start construction by 2019 will receive the current 30% ITC, while projects that begin construction in 2020 and 2021 will receive 26% and 22% respectively. All projects must be completed by 2024 to obtain these elevated ITC rates.

For residential PV systems, a similar tax credit phase-out applies until December 31st, 2021, after which the tax credit scheme ends.

According to GTM Research, the ITC extension will foster a $40 billion in incremental investment in solar between 2016 and 2020. Full details are provided here.

Solar Latest News Round-Up Issue 52

 

This issue covers:

New Global Solar Council created

A number of national and regional solar industry associations have joined to form the Global Solar Council (GSC) to cooperate on promoting the solar power sector at an international level, share best practices and accelerate global market developments.

The announcement was made at the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties (COP21) in Paris.

According to the GSC, solar power is already one of the cheapest forms of electricity globally, and prices continue to decline fast. The levelised cost of solar electricity is 80% lower than it was during the COP15 conference in 2009. The group says that solar could be a 10% share of global power generation by 2030 as compared with less than 1% today, given the right market conditions.

The principal members of the organization are national and regional solar associations from both established and emerging markets, including China, Europe, India, the Middle East, Australia, South America and the USA. The group hopes to establish its secretariat and legal entity in the USA and headquarters in China. Membership is open to any association active in solar power.

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UK solar PV outpaces rest of Europe

Market consultancy Solar Intelligence predicts that the UK will comfortably remain the leading European market for new solar PV installations during the calendar year 2016.

The analysis service says that, in the rush to complete installations under the 1.3 ROC fiscal period, almost all leading module suppliers are now sold out until 31 March 2016, with new inverter and mounting suppliers rushing to get new business from a more diverse range of developers and chosen EPCs.

This extends to most UK-established EPC (Engineering, Procurement, and Construction) contractors, many of whom have a finite bandwidth and are forced to find new sub-contractors when taking on extra work at short notice. The vast quantity of sub-5MW sites is also allowing sub-contractors to step up to lead-EPC roles.

Solar Intelligence also says that the market is not simply vibrant for solar farms deployment, but also across all other segments, in particular residential and the small to mid-size commercial rooftops.

According to the latest figures from the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), UK solar PV generation reached almost 3.2TWh in Q2 2015 according to the following a period of substantial growth in the sector. The 3,191GWh generated between April and June was three times that of the previous quarter and shows generation has more than doubled when compared to 2014 Q2.

Backed by this situation, it is forecast that the UK will be some distance ahead of any other European market in 2015 accounting for about 40-50% of European solar installations this calendar year.

Going forward, the UK will also be the largest solar market in Europe for 2016, with more capacity installed in Q1 2016 than what any other European market will install during the whole year. Full news report here

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Turkey has new solar PV ambitions

Turkey has announced a series of new subsidies to support renewable energy equipment production, as it raises its renewable energy targets.

A report says that Turkey needs to make investments of around $130 billion in the sector to meet its increasing energy demands by 2023. Some $33 billion of this amount will be invested in the hydro power sector and $30 billion in wind and solar power technologies

Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci said state incentives for renewable energy equipment manufacturing would also be supported through VAT exemptions, other tax exemptions, and non-rate subsidies.

The Government says that existing and planned solar power projects will enable the country to meet some 5 percent of its electricity needs from solar power.

Some parts of the Central Anatolian province of Niğde (Turkey) have been announced as a specialized energy industrial zone after the first site of this kind in another Central Anatolian province, Konya. Full details here

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New IET Code of Practice for Solar PV

A new Code of Practice setting out the requirements for the design, specification, installation, commissioning, operation and maintenance of grid-connected solar photovoltaic (PV) systems in the UK is available from the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET).

The IET Code of Practice for the Grid Connected Solar Photovoltaic Systems has been published following widespread consultation. It provides solar PV system designers and installers with the information required to ensure that a solar PV system is designed, installed, operated and maintained to comply with relevant UK and international standards and good practice recommendations.

The Code of Practice updates UK industry practice to ensure safe, effective and fit-for-purpose installation of solar PV systems at all scales of application. Topics such as system earthing, fault alarms, fusing, connectors and fire detection, have been reviewed in detail, with key changes supporting good practice within the UK as well as aligning with international standards where relevant.

Import tariffs extended on panels from China

The European Commission (EC) has extended its import tariffs and price controls on solar panels from China. The expiry review means that the import tariffs could remain in place for several more years, and possibly, until 2020.

The EC says it will undertake two expiry reviews into anti-dumping and countervailing measures as well as an interim review as to whether cells should remain subject to the tariffs.

The UK Solar Trade Association has expressed disappointment with the move, which it says will continue to artificially inflate the price of solar unnecessarily. However, the European Union can now, as part of its proceedings, officially consider whether the import duties are doing the European solar industry more harm than good, which the Solar Trade Association hopes will help bring the tariffs to an end.

"These price controls on imports of Chinese solar panels need to be dropped," says Paul Barwell, CEO of the Solar Trade Association. "Europe is currently paying far more than it should for its solar - and that applies both to our homeowners and our governments."

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Christmas opening hours

We would like to make you aware as early as possible about our reduced working hours over December and January.

The UK office
Seaward Group’s Christmas party is taking place today, 18th of December. Staff will only be available until approximately 11.30am. Seaward officially break up for Christmas at 12:30pm on Thursday, 24th of December, and do not return until Monday, 4th of January.

The US office
Our US office will close at 1pm on the 24th December and will reopen from 28th to 30th December then close from the 31st December until the 4th January.

Season's Greetings to everyone.

Free solar PV installation industry white paper

Our new free white paper looks at the role of effective commissioning and periodic testing in ensuring that solar PV system installations remain safe and continue to operate at optimum performance.

The special document looks at the ever increasing installation of both roof top and ground mounted solar PV installations across the world and the dangers associated with any failure to properly test and evaluate systems before they are brought into service.

The briefing note considers the role of formal installation standards and the implications of safety, fitness for purpose and fire risk considerations.

Also included are details of the existing IEC 62446 standard that sets out the testing, information and customer documentation required for solar PV installations and how it can be used to establish best practice procedures for the initial and periodic electrical inspection and testing required by systems.

The paper concludes with a review of solar PV testing technology and its role in ensuring solar PV system safety and energy generation performance. The white paper is available as a free download at www.seawardsolar.com/PVWhitepaper