Solar Latest News Round-Up Issue 30

This issue covers:

South Africa the next solar PV bright spot?

South Africa's target of building 8.4 gigawatts (GW) of solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity by 2030, combined with the success of its large-scale tendering process in attracting investment to fulfill that goal, positions the country as the most attractive emerging PV market globally, according to analysis by IHS Technology.

South Africa scored 66 out of 100 in the IHS Emerging PV Markets Attractiveness Index for the fourth quarter of 2013, 17 points ahead of the second-most attractive market, Thailand.

 Market analysis released by solar consultancy Sunwiz showed that more than 1.15 million Australian households have installed rooftop solar. Approximately 360,000 Queensland homes now have solar power, with NSW the next best on 252,000.

The index ranks the attractiveness of PV markets in emerging countries to investors, developers and manufacturers in four key areas: macroeconomic climate, potential market size, project profitability and pipeline maturity.

"South Africa has consolidated its position as a growth market for PV by cultivating a policy environment stable enough to attract financing from commercial banks," said Josefin Berg, senior PV analyst at IHS.

According to Berg, Thailand's position as the second-most attractive emerging market for PV reflects investors' enthusiasm for the country's adder scheme, under which the government paid feed-in premiums to solar power producers. But as that program has now been discontinued, replaced with a rooftop feed-in tariff, Thailand is potentially in jeopardy of becoming less attractive to PV investors.

Turkey rounds out the top three emerging markets, the result of conditions conducive to the development of PV including soaring power demand and prices, relatively low country risk and established PV incentives. An obstacle to Turkey's growth, however, is the relative immaturity of its PV pipeline-with projects larger than 1 megawatt (MW) currently at a standstill awaiting the tender of 600 MW of licenses. More at http://press.ihs.com

India makes plans for world's largest solar power plant

A group of state-owned Indian companies have signed an initial agreement for setting up what the Indian government says is the world's largest solar power plant.

The 4,000-megawatt plant in the northwestern state of Rajasthan would be spread across 19,000 acres. An MOU for the project was signed in January by a consortium of six state-run companies includes Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited, known as BHEL, and Power Grid Corporation of India Limited.

Construction for the first phase of 1,000 megawatts is expected to start in about three years. The plant will rely on crystalline silicon technology.

The plant is expected to reduce India's carbon footprint by more than 4 million tons per year according to reports on the proposed scheme.

Solar jobs growth in USA

The Solar Foundation (TSF), an independent nonprofit solar research and education organisation, has released its fourth annual National Solar Jobs Census, which found that the US solar industry employed 142,698 Americans in 2013.

This figure includes the addition of 23,682 solar jobs over the previous year, representing 19.9 percent growth in employment since September 2012. On this basis, solar employment grew 10 times faster than the national average employment growth rate of 1.9 percent in the same period.

"The solar industry's job-creating power is clear," said Andrea Luecke, Executive Director and President of The Solar Foundation. "The industry has grown an astounding 53 percent in the last four years alone, adding nearly 50,000 jobs. Our Census findings show that for the fourth year running, solar jobs remain well-paid and attract highly-skilled workers. That growth is putting people back to work and helping local economies."

Solar employers are also optimistic about 2014, expecting to add another 22,000 jobs over the coming year.

Solar companies are also reporting that cost savings are driving their clients' decision making, as 51.4 percent of customers report going solar to save money, and another 22.9 percent because costs are now competitive with utility rates.

The full report is available at http://TheSolarFoundation.org.

EPIA voices concern over EC state aid proposals

The European Photovoltaic Industry Association (EPIA) has criticised the latest draft guidelines on state aid by the European Commission, claiming they could "constrain member states' capabilities to reach their 2020 binding renewable targets".

The UK Solar Trade Association's (STA) head of public affairs, Leonie Greene, also offered a criticism of the guidelines, calling them "incredibly ill-informed" and arguing their implementation could seriously damage STA members' businesses.

The draft was put forward in November last year and suggested replacing feed-in tariffs with feed-in premiums to reflect market prices. The EC also recommended the use of reverse auctions for tendering processes for projects in order to encourage competition.

The EPIA argues that the adoption of a technology-neutral bidding process could constrain the choices of member states from helping energy technologies to mature and "achieve their full competitive potential." EPIA believes this provision should be abandoned from the guidelines.

The trade association also argues for a threshold of 5MW to define small-scale generation, so that co-operative driven projects can qualify for support; the association feels that many of the provisions laid out by the EC’s proposals appear to be aimed specifically at large-scale generation. In making the distinction, EPIA still regards the feed-in tariff as a viable form of aid for small-scale installations, and believes the Commission Regulation should "explicitly recognise" this.

Panama switches on to solar PV

The number of countries around the world investing in solar PV was increased by one recently with the Central American nation of Panama bringing online its first PV solar plant – a 2.4 MW installation located in The Sarigua National Park.

The $10 million plant was officially inaugurated by Panama's President, Ricardo Martinelli, having received a donation of $9 million from Rome-based Enel Green Power and the Italian government.

With 11,886 PV panels, the plant is set to provide clean and green solar energy for 2,600 local households, and has already created a number of stable jobs in the nearby community.