Vaisala completes world’s largest solar dataset validation study

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Vaisala, a global leader in environmental and industrial measurement, has released the results of the world’s largest solar dataset validation study undertaken to date. This extensive verification process, plays a critical role in ensuring that solar resource data stays accurate and consistent across the globe. In turn, it will support the efforts of international solar developers as the industry expands into important emerging markets within Asia, Africa and Latin America.

Vaisala's Global Solar Map

The most recent validation paper compares observational data from nearly 200 ground stations across six continents with satellite derived irradiance records from five different versions of Vaisala’s proprietary global solar dataset. The results of the study indicate that across the globe Vaisala’s values for global horizontal irradiance (or GHI, the key variable for PV projects) have a standard deviation of bias error, more commonly referred to as the uncertainty, of 4.4-4.9% depending on the version of the dataset.

To conduct a fair and unbiased study, Vaisala reserves ground station data exclusively for validation purposes and never uses data from these stations to calibrate or enhance the accuracy of its solar resource information. This provides users of the dataset an accurate estimate of how the data will perform at their project locations.

Keeping satellite resource information up-to-date

Due to sparse direct observation networks and the high uncertainty associated with publicly available solar resource information, satellite processing methodologies, which generate long-term, hourly records of solar resources specific to a project location, have become the standard in pre-construction energy assessment practices for utility-scale development.

Given the importance of this data in bringing projects to fruition, Vaisala actively maintains and updates multiple versions of its dataset to give solar project developers and financiers greater confidence and a more thorough understanding of local resource variability across the globe.

Accounting for variations in local conditions

“Vaisala has been working actively within the energy industry since 2009 to quantify and reduce solar resource uncertainty worldwide,” said Gwendalyn Bender, Head of Solar Services at Vaisala. “Over the years, we have seen how significantly local factors, such as pollution, dust, or seasonal variation, can influence the accuracy of solar resource information – and thus a project’s future solar power generation. In India, for instance, aerosol levels have changed dramatically over the past five years.

“These regional differences are often better captured by using a different aerosol or turbidity input or by employing a different irradiance model. By providing multiple, validated datasets that are processed consistently across the globe, our clients can now compare the results to find the solar data source that best fits local conditions.”

Bender further commented, “Understanding the reliability of resource data through validation is particularly imperative as solar development grows within emerging markets. For example, no other solar data provider has validated the accuracy of its resource information against actual ground observations within the important and thriving Mexican solar market.”

Choosing the most representative dataset

All five of Vaisala’s datasets are available online through its Solar Time Series Tools allowing developers and independent engineers to easily compare different datasets, understand the uncertainty associated with solar resource at a project location and quickly download the most representative solar resource time series information.

Click here to view and download Vaisala’s global solar dataset validation paper.

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April 27, 2017 at 09:10AM

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IEA: Global Installed PV Capacity Leaps to 303 Gigawatts

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A tariff-induced U.S. solar industry assault notwithstanding, there’s some good news in solar this week.

The International Energy Agency’s Photovoltaic Power System Programme’s latest report (Snapshot of Global Photovoltaic Markets 2016, PDF) found that 75 gigawatts of solar were installed globally in 2016 — bringing the installed global photovoltaic capacity to at least 303 gigawatts. 

That equates to producing 375 billion kilowatt-hours of solar power each year, which represents 1.8 percent of the electricity demand of the planet.

The 75 gigawatts added in 2016 was a record. As we’ve reported, worldwide installed capacity was 51 gigawatts in 2015, up from around 40 gigawatts in the two preceding years. In 2015, there were at least 227 gigawatts of PV cumulatively installed around the world, making up more than 1.2 percent of global electricity demand. 

Allow GTM to put that into perspective for you. If we rewind to 17 years ago — the total amount of PV installed in the year 2000 was 170 megawatts. That’s megawatts, folks.

Here’s the scorecard today.   

In 2010, we crossed the threshold of 10 gigawatts of PV solar installed globally in a single year. (We invited industry luminaries to reflect and celebrate in these pages at the time.)

PV module pricing has made radical progress as well, moving from $300 per watt in 1956, to $50 per watt in the 1970s, to $10 per watt in the 1990s, to $0.40 per watt today. It’s not exactly Moore’s law, but it’s that drop in pricing — the result of a chicken-or-egg debate between policy and technology — that’s driving this industry.

However, that downward cost decline could be reversed by potential import tariff pressure on Chinese solar modules by the Trump administration and its efforts to save Germany’s SolarWorld and China’s Suniva.

The IEA report notes that the market was driven by growth in China, America and India, while Japan and Europe contributed less than in 2015. "In other words, the global PV market outside of China grew by 5 gigawatts to 40 gigawatts, while China drove the global numbers up to at least 75 gigawatts." The report concludes, "Once driven by financial incentives in developed countries, PV has started to progress in developing countries, answering to a crucial need for electricity."

Still, the new potential tariff on Chinese solar modules could hobble the U.S. solar industry if costs get increased to 2015 levels. The solar industry has coped with setbacks like this in the past. But it might mean that breaching the 1-terawatt threshold of global installed solar will be delayed by a few years.

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April 27, 2017 at 09:40AM

GCL System consolidates position in solar industry super league

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China-based PV manufacturer GCL System Integrated Technology has consolidated its position within the ‘Silicon Module Super League’ (SMSL) ranks after it reported more than 4GW of module shipments in 2016. 

With the majority of module shipments supporting sister downstream project developer GCL New Energy in China, which achieved new grid connected solar power plants of over 3.5GW in 2016, which increased by 114% as official Chinese figures were reported to have seen 34.54GW of installs last year. GCL System’s shipments almost doubled from 2.1GW in 2015.

GCL System reported full-year 2016 revenue of just over RMB12 billion (US$1.74 billion), compared to RMB6.28 billion in 2015, a 91.31% increase and RMB2.68 billion in 2014, its first year of operation. 

GCL System reported full-year 2016 revenue of just over RMB12 billion (US$1.74 billion)

GCL System reported full-year 2016 revenue of just over RMB12 billion (US$1.74 billion)

However, weaker downstream demand in the second half of the year, coupled to rapidly declining module ASP’s took its toll on profitability in 2016. GCL System ended the year with a net loss of around US$34.3 million. 

Sluggish demand in China in the first quarter of 2017 also impacted profitability. GCL System made a provisional net loss of US$18.2 million in the first quarter of 2017 on revenue of RMB2.4 billion. 

GCL System made a provisional net loss of US$18.2 million in the first quarter of 2017 on revenue of RMB2.4 billion.

GCL System made a provisional net loss of US$18.2 million in the first quarter of 2017 on revenue of RMB2.4 billion.

In only three short years GCL System has become an SMSL member and is the sixth ranked member in 2016, behind Hanwha Q CELLS with reported module shipments of 4.58GW. 

GCL System achieved an integrated cell and module capacity of 5GW in 2016 and had plans to expand by a further 1.5GW of high-efficiency solar cells. 

However, after posting its annual report last Friday, after the close of SNEC 2017, GCL System stated it would cancel a previously planned private placement of shares that were expected to raise around US$450 million to carryout new capacity expansions. Some of the proceeds were also expected to be allocated to its JV with Samsung SDI to expand energy storage production at a new facility completed in 2016, adding around 500MW of storage devise capacity. 

It remains unclear whether the capacity expansions would still go ahead. 

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gcl system integration technology, solar cell, c-si manufacturing, pv power plants, pv modules, gcl new energy

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April 27, 2017 at 01:05PM

Edinburgh technology companies receive £2.5 million to develop wave power

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The two businesses have developed a technology named ‘Quantor’, which includes the use of “digital displacement® hydraulics” to draw on the potential of wave energy machines.

Commenting on the contract Dr Niall Caldwell, Managing Director of Artemis Intelligent Power Ltd, said:

 “We have combined the established advantages of hydraulic power – controlling tremendous forces in harsh environments at comparatively low cost – with the latest in smart digital control, to enable dramatic improvements in efficiency and controllability of wave energy devices”.

Now with Wave Energy Scotland’s backing, the firms will be able to build and demonstrate a complete hybrid power transmission on a laboratory test-rig. This will simulate the behaviour of a wave energy converter responding to a range of different sea conditions.

Their new innovation has been developed with engineering consultancy Quoceant, whose team developed the Pelamis wave energy device.

“Quoceant’s engineers have accumulated thousands of sea hours of practical experience in hydraulic power systems, and we have already proven in the lab that the Quantor concept performs as we expected,” Mr. Caldwell said.

He added: “Now we will have the opportunity to combine our knowledge to build and demonstrate a completely realistic power conversion system that has the capacity to work at sea”.

Artemis, which was bought by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries in 2010, already uses elements of the same technology to power the world’s largest floating offshore wind turbine which is currently operating 20 km offshore of Fukushima in Japan, for which Artemis was awarded the MacRobert Prize in 2015 – the UK’s highest award for engineering innovation.

The Quantor project was one of three technologies chosen by Wave Energy Scotland to be included in their power take-off (PTO) development programme. The University of Ediburgh and Italian company Umbra Cuscinetti SpA also received awards. 


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April 27, 2017 at 01:00PM

Coal Down, Renewables Up, India on the Rise in 2035 Energy Outlook

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Global energy demand will keep rising through 2035, but the nature of the mix and the key players will change significantly.

That’s the takeaway from the analysts at Wood Mackenzie, who surveyed global energy markets from the ground up and compiled their findings in a new comprehensive report.

The maturation of China’s economy has slowed growth in conventional energy demand, but India and South Asia are picking up the slack. Renewables continue to register more on the global energy share, stealing thunder from coal. Natural gas has a particularly rosy path ahead of it, seeing substantial growth throughout the world.

Here are five key charts to help breakdown the changing face of international energy consumption.

China demand fades, India grabs the baton

China has led global energy demand for the last 15 years as it fueled massive economic development. That process reoriented the economy around the service sector, which requires less energy than heavy industry. As a result, demand growth there has fallen faster than previously expected.

China will remain the number one energy consumer in 2035. The transport sector will sustain oil demand growth and China will still be the world’s second largest consumer of oil, after the US, in 2035. Its rate of demand growth, though, is slowing, while others speed up.

India has the fastest growing energy demand, increasing at an annual average of 3 percent from now to 2035, by which time the country’s population will outpace even China’s. Renewables will surge from 22 percent to 54 percent of total installed capacity, while oil consumption rises 80 percent.

Coal’s role in China’s fuel mix peaked in 2013 and will continue to decline as the government pursues efforts to clean up the air and reduce contributions to climate change. India, though, will increase coal consumption as a way to power more economic activity, while mitigating exposure to oil price shocks.

Gas expands to fill the space

The award for most improved market share in absolute terms goes to gas. While oil and coal will see a small bump, global gas gas demand will grow 41 percent and claim coal’s trophy for second most popular energy source.

Much of that success derives from the expanding role for gas in the power sector. In the U.S., gas in the power generation mix will grow 60 percent for that period, working alongside renewables to outcompete coal. Chinese gas demand for power is expected to grow 366 percent by 2035, and India’s by 156 percent. The Middle East will also be turning more to gas for electricity in an effort to conserve oil for exports. 

On home soil, the American fracking boom will lead to some striking geopolitical implications.

For one thing, Wood Mackenzie expects the U.S. will ride the wave of cheap gas to become a net energy exporter by 2021, achieving the elusive dream of energy independence pursued by many a president. "Although vocal, the effect of the Trump administration on the markets may be negligible. The markets are ultimately controlled by demand and price," the analysts note. 

The interconnectedness of global energy markets nullifies much of what it means to be "independent," but the reduced reliance on overseas imports and the enhanced ability to export could change the way America conducts foreign policy.

More than half of U.S. LNG exports will go to Europe, supplying a fifth of Europe’s gas need by 2035. Currently, Russia supplies 35 percent of Europe’s gas. Russia is unlikely to sit idly by as the U.S. challenges a key source of leverage over its neighbors.

Renewables rising faster

Wind and solar are beating all of the other fuels on speed of entry into the energy mix, but starting from a much smaller base.

Wind will grow 7 percent a year on average, and solar will rise 11 percent. That still only gets them to 13 percent of electricity generation in 2035, up from 4.5 percent in 2015, according to Wood Mackenzie’s analytics. The authors note that clean energy technology has already beat expectations several times, though, and this trend could continue.

"Technology is continually improving and is tending to push renewables from their previous role of more expensive green options requiring important government subsidies, to one of serious competitors," the report states. "Renewables are in a strong position to force the market to reshape."

The report also identifies grid-scale energy storage as a "significant risk to our outlook." If the storage industry delivers on its promise of cheap, widely deployed storage in the next few decades, it could boost the renewables market share by making wind and solar power dispatchable and by displacing natural gas for peaking capacity.

That’s salient, because 13 percent market share for wind and solar would make achieving the carbon reduction goals of the Paris treaty nearly impossible. A recent report from the Energy Transitions Commission called for wind and solar to power 45 percent of the world’s electricity by 2040 to avoid catastrophic temperature rise.

EVs slowly enter the fleet

The electrification of transport is also relevant to decarbonization. The report predicts a cumulative electric vehicle deployment of almost 100 million by 2035, displacing 1 to 2 million barrels a day of oil demand.

Faster-than-anticipated battery improvements have helped EV sales grow exponentially, outpacing expectations. "But given the average lifespan of a car is over 10 years, it will take decades for EVs to significantly penetrate the global car fleet," the report states. EVs currently account for 1 percent of the worldwide vehicle fleet. By 2035, Wood Mackenzie projects EVs could grow to 9 percent of all vehicles. 

The level of EV penetration will ultimately depend on additional technology advancements and government policies, since vehicle sales and infrastructure still rely heavily on subsidies.

Overall, these changing dynamics in the global energy landscape show carbon emissions on the decline.

"Globally, carbon and energy intensity have peaked and will trend downwards towards 2035," the Wood Mackenzie report states. "Even fast-developing, emerging economies such as India show a reduction of greater than 30 percent in both energy and carbon intensity over the forecast."

The trends are moving in the right direction for the international climate change goals. But given the relatively modest pace of clean energy adoption, the current trajectory may not be sufficient to meet them.

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April 27, 2017 at 01:26PM