Monday, April 9, 2012

New Mexico #4 in US for Solar Installations

The Solar Energy Industry Association says New Mexico ranked fourth nationally last year in PV solar system installations by residential and commercial customers and utilities. Those projects provided 116 MW of power. California, New Jersey and Arizona were ahead of New Mexico. New Mexico ranked seventh in 2010. The state Public Regulation Commission attributes part of the growth to New Mexico's requirements that utilities generate part of their electricity from renewable sources such as solar energy. The federal government also has provided grants and tax credits for solar energy projects. The PRC said New Mexico ranks first in the nation in amount of installed solar power generation per person.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

China Likely to Invest in Mexico's Renewable Energy and Infrastructure Sectors

• According to Lawrence Chia, a managing partner at Deloitte, China's investments in Mexico over the next few months will be concentrated on the country's renewable energy and infrastructure sectors.

• The China Development Bank and the Chinese Import-Export Bank might be interested in investing in Mexico, along with Chinese engineering companies.

• While many Chinese investors would like to gain a foothold in Mexico's energy sector, government regulations make such moves difficult. A new law on public-private partnerships could open up the sector to more foreign investment, however.

• Chinese companies are also likely to invest in Mexico's manufacturing sector, with the ultimate aim of securing market share in the US. In this respect, Chinese investors find Mexico more attractive than Brazil due to its proximity to the US.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Asia Cleantech Gateway View from North America: States Bask in Sunshine while Federal Storm Clouds Gather

In the United States, the solar industry has shifted dramatically from niche investment interest to mainstream political notoriety, and the turbulence is best exemplified by the US$528m Solyndra failure. US trade hawks have joined cleantech opponents to attack the Obama administration’s handling of both energy policy and US/China geopolitics.

For many seeking explanations for solar’s downturn, China is a convenient villain. The Germany-based company SolarWorld, which has an Oregon manufacturing facility, has filed a suit against China, accusing Beijing of breaking WTO export rules by illegally subsidizing its domestic solar industry at the cost of US manufacturing. On March 20, 2012, the US Department of Commerce ruled in favor of SolarWorld and announced it will impose tariffs on Chinese solar products. The United States will slap duties of 4.73% on Trina Solar products, 2.90% on Suntech and 3.59% on all other Chinese companies. Asia Cleantech Gateway was predicting the tariffs would be higher than 5%, possibly near 10%. Such low tariffs indicate that Commerce is agreeing with SolarWorld while at the same time attempting to appease the US solar installers and others in the supply chain who would be adversely affected by higher duties.

Even with such low tariffs, the much publicized US-China solar ‘trade war’ is heating up: in response to the US Department of Commerce’s anti-dumping case, Chinese industry has reacted strongly by accusing the US of dumping polysilicon feedstock in China and putting its domestic companies out of business. To those who see the US-China relationship as inevitably confrontational, cleantech is destined to be one of the battlefields on which the two rivals will lock horns.

Despite the headlines and the posturing, Asia Cleantech Gateway is optimistic that US-China solar business will continue to provide profitable opportunities for both sides. With European clean energy subsidies being slashed or threatened in the face of broader regional economic woes, the United States is emerging as a safe harbor for global solar players. According to Ernst and Young’s latest Country Attractiveness Indices (CAI) report, the US market remains second only to China as a “smart investment”. Indeed, at a commercial level, the burgeoning solar business relationship between US-China is already more productive than many commentators suggest. Through partnerships, manufacturing facilities, and selling to utility-level and distributed projects, Chinese companies are starting to be more active on several levels in the US solar supply chain. They are profiting from their US business while helping strengthen the sector and provide American jobs.

And for medium-sized China solar companies faced with contracting markets and declining profit margins worldwide, tapping into the growing US market may be a matter of survival. However, the US solar market is complicated, and, given a febrile anti-Beijing political atmosphere, can be challenging. For this and other reasons, it pays to looks at the state rather than the federal level. While California and New Jersey grab the attention as the two largest solar markets, smaller markets like Arizona and New York also offer profitable options, as does Maryland, which has a solar carve-out that will drive cumulative growth of close to 80 percent between now and 2015.

Yet considering the US energy market as a group of smaller state-based markets rather than a homogenous whole is not a complete solution; creating contacts at the appropriate level is crucial. Once relationships are established, state level commercial development teams are usually straightforward, professional and focused on bringing in more business and jobs regardless of the storms in Washington or Wall Street.

For those Chinese companies with a smart and flexible approach, opportunities in the United States can be found. Picking the right US location, identifying mutually beneficial business propositions and presenting them effectively, structuring the supply chain, and having an extensive on-the-ground network are, ACG believes, the prerequisites to success.

For more insights on how China solar companies can profit at the state level in the United States, ACG has produced the following market intelligence piece:

States bask in sunshine while Federal storm clouds gather

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Suncore Opens PV Module Manufacturing Facility in Huainan, Anhui

Suncore began producing concentrating PV modules in February at its first factory in Huainan, Anhui Province in central China.

Suncore is a joint venture between Emcore, which has a 40 percent stake, and San’an Optoelectronics, an optical electronics giant valued at about $2.5 billion on the Shanghai Stock Market. The company broke ground in February 2011 on the PV factory, which is expected to produce up to 1 GW annually of solar PV components and subsystems within five years.
Suncore completed the first phase of construction in February, with a grand opening ceremony on Feb. 21 to mark the start of production.

The first phase brings production capacity at the plant to 200 megawatts of concentrating PV modules. Suncore is producing components for its first 50 MW purchase order for a solar installation in Golmud, China. Once completed, that project will be the largest concentrating PV installation in the world.

Emcore is based at the Sandia Science and Technology Park in Albuquerque, where it has 165,000 square feet of manufacturing space. It employs about 1,065 worldwide, with about 450 in Albuquerque.

Monday, March 5, 2012

APS Testing Energy Storage at Flagstaff

Arizona Public Service (APS) Company began testing a new 1.5MW/hr energy storage system that is the size of a shipping container and can generate the equivalent power output of 1,200 hybrid cars or 300,000 cell phone batteries.

The goal of the company’s two-year pilot in Flagstaff, Ariz., will be to determine the benefits for storing electricity and putting it onto the grid at times when APS customers need it most.

“We plan to study a number of things, including how we can decrease equipment stress on high demand days and how we can provide solar energy to our customers after sundown,” says APS Director of Energy Innovation Barbara Lockwood. “This pilot has great potential to change some of the ways we deliver electricity in the future.”

The energy storage pilot will be two-fold. In 2012, the energy storage system, which was developed by Electrovaya Inc., a lithium-ion battery manufacturing company, will reside in an electrical distribution substation. At a later date, the system will be trucked a few miles up the road to support a neighborhood-scale solar power plant.

In the substation, the system will store energy when it is inexpensive and the electricity flowing through the substation equipment is at lower capacity. Then, APS will have the ability to dispatch the energy at times of higher demand when electricity is both more expensive to purchase or produce and equipment is at maximum capacity.

“The steadier flow of electricity on peak days could keep our equipment healthy for longer periods, so we can improve reliability and keep maintenance costs down,” says APS Energy Storage Project Manager Joe Wilhelm. “In the future, if a piece of equipment fails and causes an outage, we could also dispatch energy from storage units temporarily until repairs were made.”

At the Doney Park Renewable Energy site, a 500 kW solar power plant, the energy storage system will help reduce the intermittency of solar power generation and help to get more renewable energy onto the grid. For example, when a cloud passes over and system output decreases slightly, APS can dispatch energy from the storage system to fill the gap and keep a smooth flow of generation to the grid. APS also plans to test dispatching the energy after dark.

“Energy storage can make renewable resources more reliable for our operations teams and for our customers. One of the busiest times on our system is between 5 and 9 p.m. That’s when many customers get home from work, turn on the lights, the TV and the air conditioner. However, by that time, solar systems have largely stopped producing for the day,” says Wilhelm. “With storage, we can gather solar energy during the day and dispatch it in the evening, when it provides the greatest benefit to our customers.”

The 500-kW Doney Park Renewable Energy site is part of the APS Community Power Project. With Community Power, APS is studying the effects of a high concentration of solar energy in a single neighborhood as part of a $3.3 million U.S. Department of Energy grant awarded in 2010. In addition to the solar plant, 125 APS customers and a local elementary school are generating electricity from rooftop solar systems.

Flagstaff is home to a number of APS Energy Innovation pilots. In addition to Community Power, APS is engaged in a self-healing/self-isolating grid pilot and a distribution fault anticipation pilot. The latter two technologies help predict and manage system faults, resulting in reduced power outages and quicker repair times.

Mesa, Arizona Considers Residential Solar Incentives

Mesa, Arizona is preparing to bolster incentives to residents and businesses who want to cut their electric bills by installing solar panels. The city's current approach hasn't made solar a popular option. Of the 15,000 customers in the Mesa-owned utility, only five homeowners have solar panels. But other homeowners are considering solar panels if the city offers the right incentives, said Frank McRae, Mesa's energy resources director.

Now, Mesa doesn't allow homeowners to get credit when solar panels produce more energy than a house consumes. The meter simply stops. But the city is looking to have meters spin backward at time of excess energy production, which McRae said is an important financial consideration for those considering panels.

"There is more of an incentive for them," McRae said. Some homeowners have probably put off solar panel installation until the city allows them to get credit for that extra energy production, he said.

Mesa's initial round of incentives will be small. It will offer rebates of $1,000 per kilowatt of solar production, with a limit of 5kW for a home and 10kW for a business. The program is capped at $100,000 of incentives, split evenly between businesses and homes.

The city will study the financial impact to avoid losing money if its solar customers begin producing large amounts of energy. After evaluating that, Mesa will look at the possibilities of industrial-level solar production. "Then we'll use that data to see how the city can invest in solar in larger scales, whether buying large power plants or put in our own facilities," McRae said.
The solar program will include energy audits. It's more cost-effective to address leaks or poor insulation than to install excess solar panels on an inefficient building, he said. "We feel that's really important when customers are contemplating solar to make sure they've done as much as possible to make sure they're consuming energy as efficiently as possible," McRae said.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Blow Against Arizona's HB 2789

The Arizona Legislative Council responded to lawmakers’ requests to assess the bill’s legality, stating in a public memo, “HB 2789 would allow the Legislature to usurp the executive authority of the Arizona Corporation Commission and impinge upon the commission’s exclusive ratemaking authority. Therefore, the bill is unconstitutional.”