China Moving To Distributed Solar Over Utility-Scale

by Giles Parkinson.

China solar installation
China currently has around 2GW of distributed solar PV, according to Bloomberg data, but wants to increase this ten-fold to 20GW by the end of 2015.

Originally published on RenewEconomy

China is looking to switch the emphasis of its booming domestic solar market towards the “distributed” market – essentially rooftop and small, local, plants – rather than large, utility-scale solar farms.

China, for several years the largest exporter of solar modules, is widely expected to emerge as the world’s largest consumer of solar modules in 2014. The official target stands at 12GW, although some private forecasters such as Deutsche Bank think this could rise as high as 15GW.

Most major solar manufacturers expect China – along with Japan and the US – to account for most of their growth in coming years. But what’s got them a little worried is a draft proposal that will require two thirds of this growth to be from distributed systems.

The solar companies make higher margins, and bigger profits, from large scale installations, but it seems that the Chinese administration is worried about the potential transmissions issues and costs.

According to a Credit Suisse analyst report quoted in Barron’s, the solar market is also concerned that the central government’s focus on distributed generation, at the potential expense of utility scale projects, may make the ~12 GW target unrealistic if utility scale projects are capped at 4 GW.

“The emphasis on the distributed generation segment may make utility scale project approvals from the central government less obtainable,” the report said. And it noted there were concerns about how quickly the rooftop market could grow, given ambiguity about rooftop ownership, and the fact that new feed in tariffs for distribution generation do not commence until the new year.

However, another report from Nomura Securities says it would  make more economics sense for the government to install distributed systems instead of utility scale projects.

“The policy makes economic sense as retail/commercial tariffs are high in the eastern provinces and thus the policy’s focus on distributed installations will generate higher economic returns. In addition, lack of land availability will constrain utility scale projects.”

But that may disappoint some of the major manufacturers, who had big plans for utility-scale projects. These include GoldPoly (which had a pipeline of 1~3GW of large scale projects), Shunfeng (3GW), Hareon Solar (1~3GW), GCL (1GW), Jinko Solar (~300MW), JA Solar (~300MW), Trina Solar (500~800MW), and Yingli Solar (500~800MW). It is thought at 6-7GW of projects are already in development. Some Chinese solar stocks have taken a hit on the stock market in recent days as a result.

China currently has around 2GW of distributed solar PV, according to Bloomberg data, but wants to increase this ten-fold to 20GW by the end of 2015. That would require around 8GW to be installed in 2014, and another 10GW the following year.

Most of the installations are targeted for the major population and industrial centres around Shanghai, Guangzhou and Beijing.

This article, China Looking Towards Distributed Solar Over Utility-Scale, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

About the Author

Giles ParkinsonGiles Parkinson is the founding editor of RenewEconomy.com.au, an Australian-based website that provides news and analysis on cleantech, carbon, and climate issues. Giles is based in Sydney and is watching the (slow, but quickening) transformation of Australia’s energy grid with great interest.

Honda’s Solar Power Push

by Zachary Shahan.

Honda Fit EV
Honda FIT EV can charge with solar power. Image Credit: Honda

Originally published on Cost of Solar.

Honda (the car company, not the star soccer player) is going solar. Also, thanks to the low cost of solar today and incentives for selling solar power to the grid, the famous Japanese car company is going solar in a big way and will sell surplus electricity to the Japanese grid. (What, you thought Honda was becoming a solar power developer?)

Honda will install 70,000 solar panels (yes, 70 thousand!) at a new test course it is building in the city of Sakura in Tochigi prefecture, Japan.

Join the solar rooftop revolution!

Here are some more details from a Honda news release:

In 2007 Honda initially announced its plan to build a large-scale test course featuring a high-speed circuit with a 4 km long track, but postponed the plan due to the global economic recession that began in 2008. Reflecting recent changes in the business environment surrounding the automobile industry and in the market needs, Honda modified the purpose and scale of the plan and decided to build the new test course (approximately 25 ha in size) which will be utilized for the development of advanced safety technologies.

In addition, Honda will build a solar power generation system with an annual capacity of 10 MW within the same property in Sakura. After installing approximately 70,000 solar panels on an approximately 33 ha lot, Honda is planning to begin sales of the generated electricity in 2015. Moreover, as a part of its effort to conserve the natural environment, Honda is also planning to build a biotope within the property and will welcome members of the local community to enjoy it.

Pretty cool. But don’t be fooled. Honda isn’t going solar in such a big way because it is an environmental saint. It’s going solar in a big way because doing so provides huge financial benefits to the company. It’s the same as with 74% of the homeowners who go solar today. (Ask them… or at least actors pretending to be them.)

Solar power offers one of the best returns on investment (ROI) around. Don’t miss out, go solar today (or at least get a solar quote).

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This article, Honda’s Solar Power Push, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

About the Author

Zachary Shahan is the director of CleanTechnica, the most popular cleantech-focused website in the world, and Planetsave, a world-leading green and science news site. He has been covering green news of various sorts since 2008, and he has been especially focused on solar energy, electric vehicles, and wind energy for the past four years or so. Aside from his work on CleanTechnica and Planetsave, he’s the Network Manager for their parent organization – Important Media – and he’s the Owner/Founder of Solar Love, EV Obsession, and Bikocity. To connect with Zach on some of your favorite social networks, go to ZacharyShahan.com and click on the relevant buttons.

TEPCO President: Fukushima Was “A Warning To The World”

Originally published on Planetsave by Sandy Dechert

TEPCO workers are using a 91-ton cask to transport nuclear fuel from the damaged secondary containment pool at Reactor Unit 4. (Photo: TEPCO.)
TEPCO workers lower the 91-ton shielded transfer cask in preparation for relocating unused nuclear fuel. Photo courtesy of TEPCO

Today, officials at Tokyo Electric Power Company could breathe a sigh of relief.

Using remote-controlled cranes, workers at Fukushima Daiichi cleared some of the dangerously radioactive uranium fuel rod racks from the upper-story cooling pond of damaged Reactor Unit 4.

You can see TEPCO’s video of parts of the operation here.

Technicians loaded unused fuel assemblies underwater from the unit’s secondary containment into a specially designed steel-walled canister (see photo), which looks like a huge home hot water heater and must be decontaminated every time it is transferred from radioactive water to air. At 1:2

0 this afternoon (Tokyo time), the operators began the process of moving the cask onto the truck that would carry it to a safer storage location at ground level nearby. TEPCO has reported that the transfer has gone smoothly so far. After the fresh fuel rods are removed, the company will tackle the problem of moving the reactor’s spent fuel, which is hotter and more dangerous than fresh fuel.

“TEPCO has worked out individual scenarios to deal with stoppages of pool cooling, water leaks from the pools, a massive earthquake, a fire, and an accident involving the trailer, but not for dealing with a situation in which two or more incidents occur simultaneously. Therefore it must proceed in an extremely careful[ly] manner,” the Japan Times reported earlier today.

TEPCO president acknowledges miscalculations

The president of the utility, Naomi Hirose, told The Guardian this week that:

“What happened at Fukushima was, yes, a warning to the world.” Hirose stated that “We made a lot of excuses to ourselves” and unwarranted assumptions that others had discussed adequate “counter-measures” for large tsunamis.

“We tried to persuade people that nuclear power is 100% safe….But we have to explain, no matter how small a possibility, what if this [safety] barrier is broken? We have to prepare a plan if something happens.… It is easy to say this is almost perfect so we don’t have to worry about it. But we have to keep thinking: what if.…”

International oversight visit

Adequacy of international consultation has been an issue since the incident occurred. Concerns have increased since the revelation of TEPCO’s apparent bravado and inattention early in the process. Although TEPCO has performed nuclear fuel transfers before without incident, this is the first time the company has had to deal with a reactor damaged by earthquake, flooding, and explosions.

Apprehension will be mitigated somewhat when 19 experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency visit the site from November 25 to December 4 to assess the success of this week’s mission and the current state of TEPCO’s efforts to prevent contaminated water from leaking out of multiple storage tanks. The Japanese government requested the visit. Hahn Pil-soo, the IAEA’s director of radiation, transport, and waste safety, will be on the team.

IAEA, the world’s clearinghouse and watchdog for nuclear operations, formed in 1957 as energy firms began installing nuclear plants across the world on a wide scale. Vienna is the agency’s headquarters. IAEA’s goal is to promote safe, secure and peaceful nuclear technologies.

Next step in decommissioning

Japan News describes the second phase of the reactor decommissioning process, which will begin when the Unit 4 work has finished, possibly as early as 2015. The company then needs to tackle the problem of recovering spent fuel from Reactor Units 1-3.

These reactors were online at the time of the magnitude 9 Great East Japan subsea earthquake, tsunami, and explosions that killed more than 18,000 people in March 2011. They present unique challenges because at least some of their fuel melted down, the molten fuel’s location below the reactors is presently unknown, and its chemical composition is likely more toxic because it contains more plutonium and unstable isotopes. The tricky core meltdown work will probably start around 2020.

In a word of caution to the developers of eight proposed British nuclear generating stations and of similar facilities across the globe, TEPCO president Hirose offered the following advice:

“Try to examine all the possibilities, no matter how small they are, and don’t think any single counter-measure is foolproof. Think about all different kinds of small counter-measures, not just one big solution. There’s not one single answer.”

Hirose now feels that Japan will achieve its best electric power results through energy diversification, using oil, gas, and renewables as well as nuclear generation. Before the disaster at Fukushima, Japan had planned to expand nuclear power to supply half the nation’s energy needs.

TEPCO’s official position, stated on its website, is that “Nuclear power generation has excellent long-term prospects for the stable procurement of nuclear fuel and for effectively countering global warming problems.”

Forty percent of the company’s revenues have historically come from nuclear power generation

Presently, all 50 of Japan’s nuclear plants (17 of which are owned by TEPCO) have been shut down. Fukushima Daiichi Units 1-4 are unusable, and the company has just bowed to a government request that the other two reactors (5 and 6) on the site be mothballed.

Many in Japan, from ordinary people to three high former government officials, believe Japan should abandon nuclear power completely.

Uncertainty about nuclear renewal and the high cost of using carbon-based technology to fill in for the power previously generated by nuclear plants (one third of Japan’s electricity) forced the country this week to renege on an earlier promise and greatly lower its climate change goals.

This article, TEPCO President: Fukushima Was “A Warning To The World”, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

Deutsche Says Solar PV Market Could Reach 50 GW In 2014

by Giles Parkinson

Germany solar power
Germany solar power

Originally published on RenewEconomy

The upgrades to the outlook for the solar PV market continue, with analysts at Deutsche Bank now suggesting that some module manufacturers expect the global market to rise as high as 50GW in 2014.

It says solar companies are bullish on the fundamentals of the market and demand from Japan, China and the US. The market could rise to 45-50GW in 2014, which would be nearly 50 per cent more than the anticipated 35GW of installations in the current year.

It says most companies now expect at least 45GW next year – compared to recent industry estimates of around 40GW – and some companies such as Yingli – the world’s biggest manufacturer – suggest it could be as high as 50GW.

China appears to be the big source of demand upside – and could install up to 15GW in 2014. This is after major revisions to the current year’s target to as high as 9GW from prior estimates of 5-6GW, mostly the result of a big boost to the distributed market in that country.

This will be supported by strong demand from Japan, the US and other emerging market.

Deutsche Bank said this was good news for solar stocks, given that increased demand will bring improvements in pricing, margins and therefore revenue and profit improvements. “We expect the current solar rally to continue through the year-end. Trina, Yingli are its top picks in the China solar sector.

Adding to the improved outlook for solar companies was a further shake-out in tier 2 and tier 3 Chinese module manufacturers, most of whom were struggling to access finance and could face problems meeting debt payments.

“Most solar companies plan to add module capacity by spending limited amount on CAPEX or in some cases acquire equipment of bankrupt companies at a discount to market price. In any case, capacity growth from tier 1 companies would be likely constrained by availability of poly, wafers and cells.

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This article, Deutsche Says Solar PV Market Could Reach 50 GW In 2014, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

About the Author

Giles Parkinson is the founding editor of RenewEconomy.com.au, an Australian-based website that provides news and analysis on cleantech, carbon, and climate issues. Giles is based in Sydney and is watching the (slow, but quickening) transformation of Australia’s energy grid with great interest.

Grid Parity, Low LCOE Driving 34% Global Renewables Capacity by 2030

by Silvio Marcacci

When it comes to global electricity generation, coal is still king – but not for long

Fast-changing economics mean renewable energy worldwide will represent 34% of all installed capacity by 2030, according to the World Energy Perspective: Cost of Energy Technologies — a report from the World Energy Council (WEC) and Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF).

Global levelized cost of electricity graph via World Energy Council
Global levelized cost of electricity graph via World Energy Council

The report finds many clean energy technologies are already cost competitive with fossil fuels and only getting cheaper, echoing another analysis that found US wind and solar costs fell 50% since 2008. As a result, fossil fuel’s slice of the world energy pie is projected to fall fast, from 67% in 2012 to 40%-45% in 2030.

Falling Renewable LCOE Powers Clean Energy Surge

Vast differences in the cost of building and generating power exist across the globe, but one trend is clear – the levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) continues to fall for mature renewable energy technologies, placing them close to grid parity with fossil fuels. In addition, the cost of producing power from renewables fall continue at a rate related to the level of usage, a trend known as the “experience curve.”

Our study finds that although fossil fuels continue to dominate, renewable energy and the investment appetite for them are growing.

With wider deployment the price of renewables will fall, reducing the risk for investors, and we expect to see greater uptake over the years. — Guy Turner, Chief Economist at BNEF.

The WEC report uses several cost metrics exist to evaluate power generation including capital expenditures, operating expenditures, and capacity factor, but LCOE stands as arguably the most important indicator of renewable energy’s value because it’s the only one that evaluates the total lifecycle costs of producing a megawatt hour (MWh) of power.

LCOE is best explained as the price a project must earn per MWh in order to break even on investment and considers cash flow timing, development and construction, long-term debt, and tax implications to equally evaluate all energy technologies on an equal basis in terms of their actual costs.

But most importantly, LCOE underlines the ascendance of renewable energy across the world – especially wind and solar.

Wind Power Gusts Ahead

Wind power has already become the largest non-hydro renewable electricity source and is projected to more than triple from 5% of global installed capacity in 2012 to 17% by 2030, breezing past large hydropower. From 2000-2010 global onshore and offshore wind capacity increased 30% per year, reaching 200GW installed in 2010.

Onshore wind LCOE by region
Onshore wind LCOE by region graph via World Energy Council

Onshore wind’s LCOE has fallen 18% since 2009 on the strength of cheaper construction costs and higher capacity factors.

Turbine costs have fallen nearly 30% since 2008, outpacing the traditional experience curve.

The LCOE for onshore wind is cheapest in India and China, running between $47-$113 and making well-sited wind farms in these countries among the cheapest in the world – an incredibly important factor considering their surging demand for power is currently being met by coal.

The LCOE picture isn’t as clearly defined for offshore wind, as 95% of the world’s 4GW installed offshore wind capacity is located in European waters.

By 2020 installed capacity growth in Asia will surge, offsetting Europe’s dominance with 40% of all installed annual capacity – China alone will have 30% of all new capacity. As more offshore wind comes online in different markets, LCOE will become clearer.

Solar’s Remarkable Shine

But if wind’s LCOE drop has been steady, solar energy’s has been meteoric.

The WEC reports feed-in tariffs and plummeting photovoltaic module prices make solar competitive with most forms of power generation – in some markets with expensive power, like Germany, businesses with installed solar now find using their generated power more profitable than selling it to the grid.

Solar power LCOE over time chart via World Energy Council
Solar power LCOE over time chart via World Energy Council

As a result, solar power’s worldwide capacity will absolutely boom, growing from 2% of installed capacity in 2012 to 16% by 2030. China and Japan will be biggest beneficiary of solar’s rise, with China set to exceed 50GW installed solar by 2020.

The WEC’s forecast for solar power is incredible, but even this outlook is underestimates solar’s clean energy potential, because it only includes projects above 1 megawatt in capacity – completely ignoring the spread of small-scale rooftop solar and the rise of distributed generation

Solar power LCOE by region graph via World Energy Council
Solar power LCOE by region graph via World Energy Council
Fossil Fuel’s Achilles Heel: Operational Costs

In spite of falling renewable costs, fossil fuel generation is still cheaper in most regards, except for one – the price of operation.

The WEC notes that once renewables are built and online, their costs are mainly marginal operational and maintenance expenses. Compare that to fossil fuels, whose costs are volatile and subject to change from factors like commodity price swings and external costs like carbon pricing and pollution.

This trend is most clearly seen in developed nations like Western Europe, America, and Australia, where the WEC says the potential for significant amounts of new coal generation to come online is low.

Today, developing nations buck this trend and coal is a growing generation source in Brazil, China, and India. In fact low capital costs make China the cheapest country to generate power from coal, less than half the LCOE in Europe or the US.

Coal LCOE by region chart via World Energy Council
Coal LCOE by region chart via World Energy Council

But the tide is starting to turn, evidenced by growing concerns about air pollution in China and the development of carbon markets in many of the world’s developing economies where fossil fuels have dominated generation.

Grid Parity For Renewables Fast Approaching

Put it all together, and it’s clear to see global energy economics are changing fast.

While coal still dominates global electricity production, renewables are catching up with net investment growing seven-fold from 2004-2011, outpacing fossil fuels for the second year in a row in 2012. And as more renewables come online, their costs continue to fall faster and faster from larger economies of scale.

The cost of most technologies, and most dramatically that of solar PV, is coming down with production scale-up in many areas of the world.

With such growth, grid parity will become reality in the coming years. — Dr. Christoph Frei, World Energy Council Secretary General

This article, Grid Parity, Low LCOE Driving 34% Global Renewables Capacity by 2030, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

About the Author

Silvio Marcacci is Principal at Marcacci Communications, a full-service clean energy and climate-focused public relations company based in Washington, D.C.

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