Solar Latest News Round-Up Issue 32

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Government welcomes growth in UK solar PV activity

Ed Davey, the energy and climate change minister, has praised the UK solar industry’s rise to the sixth largest market for utility-scale solar in the world.

According to Wiki-Solar.org, 500MW of new projects were connected in March in the run up to the Renewable Obligation rate degression. As a result, the UK has now joined a select few markets which have more than one gigawatt of installed utility-scale capacity. Welcoming the news, Davey said: "The UK is among the world leaders for deploying solar energy and was top in Europe for new solar projects coming online in 2013."

"The market framework created by the UK government has resulted in significant investment in solar energy generation projects since 2010. Overall, renewable electricity generation investment of up to £40 billion is expected by 2020. Our Solar Strategy launched recently, sets out our clear ambition to see further deployment of solar and help us deliver the clean energy supplies that the country needs, at the lowest possible cost to consumers, creating jobs, growth and exports."

Wiki-Solar.org notes that it took six years for both Germany and the USA to reach the 1GW of utility-scale solar installed milestone, whereas the UK reached it in just four years.

Commenting on the figures, Wiki-Solar's Philip Wolfe said: "Even these figures may be understated. The energy regulator Ofgem has a backlog of several months in the registration process – when final figures are published we may find a lot more capacity was actually installed in the first quarter. I wouldn't be surprised if the UK has even overtaken Spain and broken into the top five."

More details at www.solarpowerportal.co.uk

Global solar PV demand set to breach 50GW

According to the latest assessment by NPD Solarbuzz, global solar PV demand is set to rise above 50GW this year.

The market research firm said that demand in the first quarter of 2014 quarter increased by 35% to more than 9GW, compared to the previous first-quarter record set in 2013.

End-market demand was said to have been driven by Japan and the UK, which together accounted for more than one-third of demand globally as well as setting new quarterly records for PV deployed.

"The record demand added by the PV industry is the fifth straight year that a quarterly record has been set at the start of the year," said Michael Barker, senior analyst at NPD Solarbuzz.

"While demand during the first quarter typically sets the low point for the year, deployment levels during this quarter provide an excellent means of benchmarking demand for the rest of the coming year."

As a result, the research firm said that the trailing 12-month demand indicates that the PV market is almost at the 40GW level and poised to go beyond the 50GW level in the next 12 months.

"Purely on a pro-rata basis, the first quarter of 2014 provides strong confidence that 2014 solar PV demand will indeed reach, and possibly even surpass, NPD Solarbuzz’s 2014 full-year forecast of 49GW," Barker added. More details at www.solarbuzz.com

Centex Homes Recalls Solar Panels Due to Fire Hazard

The US Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that Centex Homes, a Nevada real estate development partnership, has announced the recall of SolarSave-brand solar roof panels installed on about 240 homes.

Two incidents in which roof fires originated in or near the recalled roof panels have been reported, although no injuries were reported.

The recall involves Open Energy 34 watt (OE-34) Solar Panel energy systems sold under the brand name Open Energy SolarSave Roofing Tiles. Centex has contacted directly customers impacted by the recall and performed free installations of new solar panels. Owners of homes with qualifying solar energy systems who have not been contacted by the company should turn off their solar energy systems immediately and contact Centex to schedule the installation of free replacement panels.

The reports also serve as a reminder of the importance of the safety and quality of installation of rooftop solar PV systems. Fires associated with rooftop solar systems have been reported in the UK, Australia, France and elsewhere in the USA. In all these cases, effective electrical testing as part of solar PV installation and commissioning processes, in line with recognised standards, can help to ensure the safety of installed PV systems.

US military extends solar PV commitment

The US Department of Defense has announced the start of work on a solar power plant at Fort Huachuca is south east Arizona that will be the largest installation on a US military base, demonstrating the military's increasing reliance on alternative energy.

The 18MW plant being built by E.ON power will be owned and maintained by Tucson Electric Power, which has a state requirement to get 15 percent of its power from renewable sources by 2025.

The Defense Department and individual branches of the military also face myriad requirements to use alternative energy, which increasingly is viewed as a matter of security.

"The project goes beyond the megawatts produced," said Maj. Gen. Robert Ashley, Fort Huachuca commanding general. "It reflects our continued commitment to southern Arizona and energy security. The project will provide reliable access to electricity for daily operations and missions moving forward."

The new scheme is a joint effort between the US Army Energy Initiatives Task Force, Fort Huachuca, The General Services Administration, TEP and E.ON.

"Army chose this route in this instance because it provides a way to procure renewable energy at the price of conventional energy," said Kyle Smith, an attorney with the Army Legal Services Agency, in a letter to state regulators regarding the project.

The solar panels will cover about 68 acres and are expected to generate about one-fourth of the electricity used by the base in a year. Their peak output of 18 megawatts will be just shy of the peak demand at the base of 23 megawatts, according to project details.

Global renewables generation continues to grow

Renewable energy's share of world electricity generation continued its steady climb last year despite a 14 per cent drop in investments to US$214.4 billion, according to a new report.

Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2014 - produced by the Frankfurt School-UNEP Collaborating Centre for Climate and Sustainable Energy Finance, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and Bloomberg New Energy Finance – says an investment drop of $US35.1 billion was partly down to the falling cost of solar photovoltaic systems. The other main cause was policy uncertainty in many countries, an issue that also depressed investment in fossil fuel generation in 2013.

However, were it not for renewables, world energy-related CO2 emissions would have been an estimated 1.2 gigatonnes higher in 2013. This would have increased by about 12 per cent the gap between where emissions are heading and where they need to be in 2020 if the world is to have a realistic prospect of staying under a two degree Centigrade temperature rise.

2013 was also the first ever year that China invested more in renewable energy than Europe. China's total was down by 6 per cent at US$56 billion, while Europe's dropped 44 per cent to US$48 billion.

The US saw a fall of 10 per cent to US$36 billion. India moved 15 per cent down to US$6 billion and Brazil 54 per cent down to US$3 billion, the lowest since 2005.

The Americas, excluding the US and Brazil, increased investment in renewables by 26 per cent (to US$12 billion) in 2013. Japan's solar boom helped to drive an 80 per cent increase in renewable energy investment to US$29 billion in 2013.

Overall, the report says installed solar jumped 26 per cent - from 31 Gigawatts in 2012 to a record 39 GW in 2013 even as investment in solar capacity decreased 23 per cent from US$135.6 billion to US$104.1 billion.

UK Government announces solar strategy

British Energy Minister Greg Barker said the government wants to install solar panels on top of more than 900 square miles of south-facing rooftops.

"There is massive potential to turn our large buildings into power stations and we must seize the opportunity this offers to boost our economy as part of our long term economic plan," he said in a statement.

Barker said the measure is part of the so-called Solar Strategy, touted as the first plan of its kind for the country's renewable energy sector. He said the strategy envisions a shift away from large-scale solar farms to one that expands the market on top of the estimated 250,000 hectares of south-facing commercial rooftops in the country.

The British government estimates there are about 2.7 gigawatts worth of solar capacity installed in the country. The Solar Strategy calls for as much as 20 gigawatts of installed capacity by the early part of the next decade.