Category Archives: Uncategorized

Crown Estate Scotland Makes Offshore Wind Data Public

Image source: Crown Estate Scotland

Crown Estate Scotland now has spatial data relating to the organisation’s offshore assets freely available on their website for the first time.

The data covers infrastructure projects and undersea cabling and can be used by a range of organisations from oil and gas companies to consultancies and educational institutes.

The data reveals the geographic extent and some attribute information for all the organisation’s offshore legal agreements, including Beatrice offshore wind farm, currently under construction in the Moray Firth, and the Hywind Scotland project, the world’s first floating wind farm which was recently installed off the north east of Scotland.

An interactive map, showing the organisation’s live agreements by sector ranging from aquaculture sites to various coastal activities, is also available on their website. Visitors to the site can pan across Scotland to view the variety of activities in each locale.

“As a land and asset manager, Crown Estate Scotland has a responsibility to maintain authoritative records about the status and change of the land and seabed we manage. We also want to work openly and transparently,” John Robertson, Senior Energy Manager at Crown Estate Scotland, said.

“With a number of both large scale and smaller projects already in Scottish waters, this will give companies working in the sector the chance to scope out other opportunities to work with Crown Estate Scotland and our partners.”  

Crown Estate Scotland, which was formed in April 2017, is responsible for around half the foreshore around Scotland, leasing of virtually all seabed out to 12 nautical miles and the right to offshore renewable energy and gas and carbon storage out to 200 nautical miles.


pv magazine 7th Quality Roundtable: why investors should spend a little to save a lot

At the 7th pv magazine Quality Roundtable, to be held on September 21 at the REI show in Greater Noida, India, a collection of experts will examine the chief quality concerns facing this growing market. Confirmed speaker Steven Xuereb of PI Berlin explains how investors should take a long-term view when entering the Indian market, looking beyond immediate gains.

What has been PI Berlin’s involvement in the Indian solar market to date?
Steven Xuereb
: PI Berlin has been active in India since 2010, since the early years of the solar market’s development phase. We began by conducting design and yield assessment of solar farms, including inspecting construction quality, and now we have added operations to that.

During these inspections, what have been the main quality concerns that you have come across?
Generally it has been the same issues that we see in other markets – from Europe to emerging regions. On the modules we have observed PID, cracks, delamination, hotspots, snail trails with recurring cracks underneath, corrosion of busbars, and visual corrosion where the climate has impacted the module. These are issues we tend to see everywhere.

Aside from the modules, we have observed poor installation of cables such as hanging DC cables, improperly buried or routed connector cables, and cabling damaged by wildlife. There have also been some specific grounding issues related to the environmental conditions such as salt in the air and the dryness of the desert regions.

How much of these quality issues were exacerbated by poor installation?
There have certainly been instances of unprofessional installation, and non-European standards of conduct onsite – for example with people walking around barefoot or the land still being used by farmers gathering water during construction. But our focus is to look at who is doing the installation, rather than what country we are in. With more than 15 GW of solar installed in India, there is sufficient experience there, with plenty of global developers active in India.

Are there any unique challenges facing India, and if so, how do you advise they are overcome?
There is intense price pressure still in India, and it runs throughout the whole supply chain. It starts with the modules – a massive amount of pressure is on producers to cut costs. EPCs will still often select the cheapest modules available. Certainly too, there is pressure to install as quickly as possible, and there are also instances of skimping on things such as monitoring systems and weather stations. These cost-cutting decisions are made during the procurement phase.

What advice and guidance is PI Berlin hoping to offer?
We interview the technicians on site to try to ascertain their level of training and qualification, and one of our main tasks is to get people to recognize problems and defects on site, and to understand the impact these issues can have. There often isn’t really an understanding of what might cause faults or their effects, so these matters are pushed aside. We want to demonstrate that India can learn from other regions that have faced similar cost and time pressures – such as Chile and MENA. Even in the U.K., too, where developers were working to very tight deadlines.

At the Quality Roundtable, we want to demonstrate to plant owners and investors how, by taking an active role in the quality of a solar development, they can really insure the future performance of their plant. We are talking just a small amount of the Capex – maybe 0.3 – 0.5% – for independent testing, inspections and O&M. We want to create an awareness of the technical risks that can hit the bottom line.

India’s PV landscape is evolving fast, with domestic and international component and material manufacturers, in partnership with project developers making rapid progress towards the country’s vast solar goals. But with the unique opportunity in India comes the need for unique approaches to product and project realization.

At the 2017 Renewable Energy India event, pv magazine will bring together solar industry experts and insiders to discuss pathways to success in the dynamic Indian marketplace.

REI, Conference Hall Olive 2nd floor
September 21, 2017  from 11 am to 1:00 pm

The registration works through the official conference page here!

NREL teams with Swiss researchers to break 35% cell efficiency

A collaborative project between the U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the Swiss Center for Electronics and Microtechnology (CSEM) and the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) has tested a range of multi junction cells in tandem configuration, and achieved efficiencies of up to 35.9%.

August 28, 2017

A team of researchers from three leading institutes tested a variety of materials based on III-V elements, in stacked, tandem configurations with silicon bottom cells. A dual-junction solar cell, combining an NREL-engineered gallium arsenide (GaAs) top cell and a silicon heterojunction cell developed by CSEM, was measured at 32.8%, while a triple junction cell also incorporating a layer of indium gallium phosphate (GaInP) achieved 35.9% efficiency.

Efficiency of 32.8% represents a new record high for two junction III-V/Si solar cells, breaking the same research group’s previous record of 29.8% set in 2016. “This achievement is significant because it shows, for the first time, that silicon based tandem cells can provide efficiencies competing with more expensive multi-junction cells consisting entirely of III-V materials,” says NREL scientist Adele Tamboli. “It opens the door to develop entirely new multi-junction solar cell materials and architectures.”

Tandem cells are a popular area of research in PV, thanks to their potential to push higher efficiencies without forcing the industry to move away from silicon solar cells, where enormous cost reductions have been achieved in recent years.

While impressive, these cells are far from being financially viable – NREL estimates a cost per watt of $4.85 for the GaInP cell, and $7.15 for the GaAs cell, based on 30% efficiency. The scientists estimate, however, that by adjusting to 35% efficiency and incorporating savings from economies of scale that could be achieved through ramping up production, the cost per watt could quickly be reduced to below $1/W. “Such a precipitous price drop is not unprecedented,” notes NREL. “For instance, the cost of Chinese made PV modules fell from $4.50/W in 2006 to $1/W in 2011.”

NREL goes on to note that, if costs for a III-V solar cell cannot be brought down to these levels, then cheaper materials will need to be sought. The researchers still stress though, that this breakthrough serves as proof of concept for the use of silicon cells in tandem with other high efficiency materials, and the researchers mention that CSEM is also studying the use of perovskite to optimize solar’s cost/efficiency ratio.

“These records show that combining crystalline silicon and other materials is the way forward if we are to improve solar power’s cost/efficiency ratio,” states Christophe Ballif, Director of CSEM’s PV-center. “It affirms that silicon HJT solar cells, when integrated into the structure that we’ve developed, can generate multi-junction cell conversion efficiencies over 32%.”

Chinese module prices rise 10% above forecast, causing problems for India

Growth in the booming Indian solar market, heavily reliant on Chinese modules, could slow as strong Q3 demand for panels in China and the U.S. push up prices and impact Indian firms’ financial modelling.

August 25, 2017

Strong domestic demand for solar modules in China, allied to a pre-Section 201 rush of orders in the U.S., is pushing up module prices to around 10% more than many Indian developers had expected – a situation that could lead to a slowdown in surging Indian solar growth.

According to data compiled by PVinsights, the global spot market price for solar panels in Q2 fell at its slowest rate in almost two years. The data revealed that while modules are 10% cheaper now than at the turn of the year, the equivalent drop in 2016 was 35%.

Chinese module prices In India have actually risen in the past few weeks to approximately $0.34/W, according to independent solar market analyst Corrine Lin. This is compared to pre-June prices of around $0.32/W, she said. Many solar project developers operating in India had planned their large-scale solar projects on projected Q3 module costs of below $0.30/W, Lin adds, meaning that there is around a 10% discrepancy between their modelling and the actual price paid for Chinese solar modules.

Indian media platform Mint reports that this situation has prompted some leading Tier-1 Chinese module suppliers to renege on supply contracts, demanding an increase of around six U.S. cents per watt in revised contracts – many of which already have 25-year PPAs in place.

“Many Chinese manufacturers are going back on their contracts. They are completely reneging on the contracts signed with Indian developers,” Hero Future Energies CEO Sunil Jain told Mint.

Another Indian developer that wished to remain anonymous said that their firm finalized a contract in June for module delivery in August, but said that the Chinese supplier has since come back to renegotiate the price. “The Chinese manufacturers are aware that we have a firm deadline and that the failure to meet it will result in penalties on us, so they have resorted to this strategy,” the Delhi-based developer told Mint.

“This year, China’s solar installation volume is set to reach around 45 GW, pushing worldwide installations up to 90 GW,” Lin told pv magazine. “With the Section 201 case causing an order rush in the U.S., Q3 demand is going to be higher than Q2 demand, which has caused module prices to increase a lot in August.”

Lin added that she expects there to be a shortage of polysilicon, multi wafer and modules in China come September. “The global PV market will not be able to locate any major demand support from late September through October,” she explained, as both Chinese and U.S. demand will have weakened by then, and Indian developers may be cautiously eyeing pricing before placing orders.

As ever, though, pricing will be closely related to demand, so as demand tails off, prices will begin to fall again – which could lead to an upturn in Indian demand in Q4. “Nobody can accurately predict what will happen, but module makers believe that, at least in the U.S. in Q4, market demand will remain weak because most developers are buying enough modules now to see them through to the end of the year,” Lin said.

BNEF says that module prices in the U.S. have risen by about 20% since Suniva first brought the Section 201 case.

In India, experts believe that there could well be a short-term contraction in development as investors are scared away, but as Azure Power CEO Inderpreet Wadhwa told Mint, the best buffer to these fluctuations is to develop long-term relationships with quality suppliers. “There can be blips in terms of supply and demand. So one must think about one’s procurement strategy with suppliers having long-term goals rather than ones with transactional approach,” Wadhwa stressed.

China’s Solar Appetite Eats Into India Renewables Effort

Indian solar projects banking on a continuous supply of ever-cheaper panels are now under threat, as China’s appetite props up prices.
The global spot market price for solar panels in the second quarter fell at the slowest pace since the three months ended in December 2015, according to data compiled by PVinsights.
While the decline has picked up slightly this month, they’re down 10% since the beginning of the year, compared with a 35% drop in 2016, Bloomberg reported.
The slowdown is complicating plans for solar developers in India, who were anticipating the cost of their panels would fall more quickly and are now facing an unexpected reduction in their returns. That is making the industry more cautious about future developments, adding a hurdle to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ambition for quick growth in clean energy.
“If the current module prices do not go down, the developers would take a hit on their expected returns as these bids carry razor-thin margins,” Allen Tom Abraham, a New Delhi-based analyst with Bloomberg New Energy Finance, said.
China, which accounts for more than 80% of global solar panel production, is also the biggest market for solar panels. It added 23 gigawatts of new solar capacity in the first half of this year, almost double the 13 gigawatts India has installed to date. The government in China is seeking to double installations by the end of 2020.
In India, developers have been bidding aggressively in auctions for power-purchase contracts, offering regulators some of the cheapest power from photovoltaics anywhere. Those calculations were made in anticipation of further sharp declines in PV prices. Now, developers are seeing their returns dwindle.
China’s demand and a reduction in the production of polysilicon, a raw material used in most panels, are contributing to the firming of prices.
It is not just India that’s seeing panel prices inch higher. They have also risen about 20% in the US since Suniva Inc., based in Norcross, Georgia, asked the government to impose duties on solar panels imported from China, according to BNEF’s third-quarter market outlook for the solar industry published on Aug. 18.

Shell wins approval for 250MW solar plant in Queensland coal country

Supplied by Council

Supplied by Council

International oil giant Royal Dutch Shell has won planning approval for a 250MW solar plant in the heart of Queensland’s coal country, in what appears to be its first big move into large scale solar in Australia, and indeed the world.

The company last week revealed it had won the planning approval for the Delga Solar Farm from the Western Downs regional council, which now finds itself in the middle of a large scale solar boom, including a 1,000MW project being considered by the Singapore-based investor Equis.

Shell’s partner in its renewable energy push, through its New Energies division, is with another Singapore-based group Sunseap.

The Wandoan area is mostly known in energy circles for the huge thermal coal project – potentially 30 million tonnes a year – that is proposed by Glencore.

But it has also become a centre for large scale solar proposals. The local council says it has approved eight large scale projects – including a 300MW project by Luminous, Energy, a 107MW Dalby solar farm by Origin Energy, and another 30MW project by FRV, and a 20MW solar plant near Chinchilla by Eco Energy World.

It has also approved the 450MW Coopers Gap wind farm which will begin construction shortly.

“We’ve fully embraced the future of renewables and energy production in our region, and we welcome the proposal of Shell Australia onto the solar energy scene in the Western Downs,” Mayor Paul McVeigh said in a statement on the council’s website.

“This interest from a leading multi-national energy company to invest in renewable energy in our region is a great boost to the Western Downs’ already impressive energy portfolio.

“The Shell Australia solar farm project will bring many benefits to our communities and has the potential to value-add to our existing resource industries and experienced network of supply chain businesses in the region.

Bloomberg New Energy Finance estimates there are 29 large scale solar farms under construction in Australia. RenewEconomy estimates 34 projects totalling 2,350MW are being built, or about to begin construction after signing PPA.

RenewEconomy further estimates another 89 large scale solar projects totalling more than 16GW in the “pipeline”.