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The Week in Solar Energy

July 21st, 2008 · No Comments

A new series in which we’ll comment news items that appeared elsewhere. 
Increasing short position in solars

We ran that last week, but the thesis is somewhat funny though. So far, 2008 has not been a stellar year as far as stock performance goes for the solar companies. It has been (another) stellar year for oil. So, basically, when oil goes up, one of it’s main long-term alternatives doesn’t go up along side, instead, shorters hugely increase positions in solar as a bet on falling oil prices.

That almost seems like a “heads I win, tails you loose” kind of bet. The solars cannot win. Curious.

Fundamental knews continues to be good

Canadian Solar (CSIQ) upped guiding

The march of solar still doesn’t show any signs of slowing down any time soon..

  • Net revenue is expected to be between $210 million and $214 million, compared with its earlier forecast of $185 million to $190 million. Analysts on average were expecting revenue of $187.5 million, according to Reuters Estimates.

Trina Solar (TSL) upped guiding

But it takes a hit on the pricing of the convertibles. We reported on that already.

Technological innovation

Last week we had a story about a Toyota solar car (well, sort off), here there is another version of that story. There are better ways to use solar than put it up a car roof, here is one idea

  • Experts such as Frank and Markel say that building large, stationary solar installations to generate the power to charge electric vehicles will be more cost effective than installing solar onboard. “We want to see sunshine drive the entire society, including our transportation,” says Frank. That, he says, will require megawatts of energy. “The ultimate would be to have all shopping centers and industrial parking lots with solar arrays on top. It gives you a little shade and at the same time is charging your car.”

This week, a solar plane, and nothing less than ‘our own’ Trina Solar (TSL) is involved! And what’s more, it’s a plane that will run totally on alternative energy (fuel cells and solar). We have to wait a little though, the first model will only be completed by the end of next year, and when (or rather, if) these planes will take off in any commercial way remains to be seen.

Nevertheless, it’s good to see people coming up with innovative solutions. The plane will be a lot quieter on landings and take-offs (and in the air as well), so that’s another advantage.

Spray solar dies on windows. Science came with a story about a truly novel approach, here is the abstract (you’ve got to have a subscription to read the whole article)

  • The cost of photovoltaic power can be reduced with organic solar concentrators. These are planar waveguides with a thin-film organic coating on the face and inorganic solar cells attached to the edges. Light is absorbed by the coating and reemitted into waveguide modes for collection by the solar cells. We report single- and tandem-waveguide organic solar concentrators with quantum efficiencies exceeding 50% and projected power conversion efficiencies as high as 6.8%. The exploitation of near-field energy transfer, solid-state solvation, and phosphorescence enables 10-fold increases in the power obtained from photovoltaic cells, without the need for solar tracking.

New way to produce polysilicon may help cut the shortages, price

  • Silicon can also be found as silica dissolved in water, in a cheap material called waterglass. It has been known since the 1990’s that you can easily filter out many impurities (excluding boron, phosphorus) with reagents. But the real breakthrough came this century as Rohm and Haas (ROH) had developed some chelating (ion exchange) resins with useful functional groups for the mining industry.
  • But it took the genius of Steve Amendola to put it all together in a world-wide patent and start Reaction Science inc. Production costs are three times less compared to a typical Siemens plant. Additionally the capital costs for building a chemical silicon purification plant is 1/10 the cost of a comparable Siemens process plant with a much shorter completion time. The fast plant fabrication time and easy scalability is another factor contributing to the low price of refining, along with the high yield. The ROI time on such plants is projected to be less than two years.
  • The RSI proprietary process has been demonstrated on a small scale and vetted by leading Princeton and M.I.T. scientists. The process and cost estimates in the plan were validated by Black and Veach, a leading engineering firm. RSI already has orders exceeding .5 $ billion, customers include BP-solar. As a result the price of silicon PV solar products will be able to drop significantly. Plants such as these in Alabama, Europe and China will obviously benefit the entire silicon solar PV sector. The RSI method will also be used for forming mono-crystalline silicon.


Backlash in Germany over solar incentives.

Germany has been very forward looking, setting generous incentives with the argument that these would allow solar energy to reap economies of scale, thereby become cheaper and price itself into the market.

Scale it did, but the ramping up of production that got us scaling also triggered the polysilicon shortage and exploding prices, and making these incentives particularly expensive as they subsidize solar electricity feeded to the grid (so called ‘feed in tariffs’).

In Spain, similar problems are also emerging, according to the article, and cutbacks in these subsidies will be serious, as they are the top two solar markets. But a slowdown will also relieve the polysilicon shortage which will bring the price of poly based cells a lot lower.

Compensation might come from potentially very big, but as of yet almost untapped markets in China and India.

And people have contacted Trina over the Spanish situation and the response indicates that reductions there are more than compensated for elsewhere (Italy more especially).

Will decreasing oil prices throunce solar as in the 1980s? It didn’t address the question. It hardly addressed anything. Funny blog.

Tags: Solar sector