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Electrek morning green energy brief: 117GW a year of capacity, China has largest solar plant, PERC picking up and more


Global solar panel production capacity estimated at 117GW/year – The topic of this article is about the growth of PERC solar cells, but the image inside of it is one I’ve been searching for. Last year we installed about 75GW of solar power, 50% growth from 2015 – this year we expect total volume of a similar amount, that means there will be pressure on manufacturers to make use of their capacity – and that pressure will push downward on solar panel pricing. One solution to lower pricing is to sell higher margin product – and PERC cells, higher efficiency than today’s common product, get that higher margin per solar panel because there are more watts in a solar panel.

850MW(?) Chinese plant is world’s largest solar plant right now – And the plant is under constant construction. Western China has open land, dry air, great sunlight and a seemingly determined China. The size of the plant I am not 100% on as they don’t seem to give a nameplate size – but instead they give the total energy produced. Other headlines will push that India currently has the largest plant – either way, I’m happy that this competition is occurring.

Investors in Cleantech beating broader Australian investment market – As a solar ‘expert’ I get asked a lot where to invest money, and so far my only consistent answer has been to own a solar power plant. Of course, that’s a challenge since most investors don’t have the time or knowledge to vet individual plants. So it is great to hear that clean stocks are moving as the Guggenheim Solar ETF “TAN” seems to get no love.

Eversource asks for $100M and FPL sued for $1B+ request – My home state power company says they need $100M more this year in order to maybe upgrade the grid. FPL is getting sued for the $1B+ request to build pipelines into central Florida. The real reason for reading these articles is to understand the amounts of money utilities are requesting from consumers – then you’ll better understand why Eversource thinks a 10% increase in pricing makes sense. And once you understand why prices are going up – you, the potential power generator on your business or home, will have the knowledge to make some decisions.

Faster recharging batteries possible after new insights – We look at things on the sub-atomic level these days. We’re pretty damn awesome. Many people talk conspiracy theories about why batteries didn’t develop while oil did – I’d instead argue that a cacophony of events in science around the world had to first occur before batteries could do what we need. To compete with the energy density of nature – all those energy sources that end in -ane (think methane) – we needed to be able to see and manipulate things smaller than light waves…serious technology driven by decades of knowledge. We’re now peering into these places.

27MW solar project ithe SunCatcher by Stirling Energy Systems – I am excited to see this technology being installed in large amounts – its ‘certified by Sandia National Laboratories as having the highest sun-to-grid energy conversion in the world’. I’ve been reading about Stirling Engines for a decade – but they’ve always been ‘too expensive, too complex, etc’ to take over the grid – however – it looks like 27MW worth of money disagrees with those former assessments.

75GW estimated built in 2016, estimates are for a stable volume in 2017 – After 2016 saw a 50% growth in total volume installed, expect 2017 to slow down…a lot. We will probably install about the same amount of solar power – maybe a slight bit more depending on how India, Japan and China smooth out their grid connection challenges. Along with the United States, these four countries are represent a potential 60GW+ of global volume (China 30GW, USA 15GW, India 10GW, Japan 10GW).

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