Solar News Roundup

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Some more solar energy news from around the net to wrap up the week:

SolarCity & Clean Currents have teamed up to offer fixed-price Power Purchase Agreements (PPA) for solar power with as little as $0 down and long-term electricity discounts/savings.

The largest city-sponsored solar financing program in the U.S. has relaunched in Phoenix, Arizona. The program “will allow up to 1,000 Arizona homeowners access to affordable solar power” and “Secretary Chu formally recognized the program as an ideal national model of private solar funding that can be easily replicated in cities across America…. Solar Phoenix 2 allows qualifying homeowners throughout Arizona who are within the APS (Arizona Public Service) and SRP (Salt River Project) service territories, to install a solar system on their home with no upfront investment. Homeowners simply pay monthly to lease the equipment and enjoy the clean solar electricity the system generates.” It’s expected that homeowners in the program will see 10-15% savings on their electricity bills from this.

JinkoSolar has introduced new, high-efficiency “WING” Series solar modules.

The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) of India has set solar capacity addition targets of 800 MW of grid-connected solar power generation capacity in FY2012-13.

MNRE has also release solar city masterplans for 6 Indian cities — Agra, Chandigarh, Aizawal, Kalyan-Dombivili, Kohima and Thane.

JCM Capital has “launched a $10 million solar development capital fund that will invest in early-stage photovoltaic (PV) projects installed on large commercial and industrial buildings across Ontario, leveraging the Province’s Feed-in-Tariff (FIT) program. The aim of the fund is to target application-ready projects to be submitted into the upcoming Ontario Power Authority’s (OPA) application window, and as such, assist with early-stage development costs such as FIT application fees, structural engineering assessments, FIT security deposits and grid connection impact assessment (CIA) costs. The fund will also invest in Ontario-based FIT contracted projects that have not yet reached commercial operation.”

Want to build a solar-powered lawn mower? TreeHugger’s Alex Davies has a “how to” slideshow for you on just that topic.

In India, the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) Limited recently “disclosed plans to install over 300 MW capacity of solar power projects across the country,” Climate Connect notes. “India’s leading thermal power generator has plans to install large capacity solar PV and solar thermal power plants in Gujarat, Rajasthan and Karnataka.”

Researchers at the University of Turku have written in the International Journal of Technology, Policy and Management that dye-sensitised solar cells (DSCs) are about to become a ubiquitous source of energy. “They point out that the rapid increase in research into novel solar energy conversion technology looks set to revolutionise the industry making electricity generation accessible to all without government or other subsidies.”

Credit: ACS

The first artificial leaf was “a milestone in the drive for sustainable energy that mimics the process, photosynthesis, that green plants use to convert water and sunlight into energy,” the American Chemical Society writes. Now, a “detailed description of development of the first practical artificial leaf” is being published in the ACS journal Accounts of Chemical Research. “The article notes that unlike earlier devices, which used costly ingredients, the new device is made from inexpensive materials and employs low-cost engineering and manufacturing processes.”

Harry Atwater of the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and Albert Polman of the Dutch Research Institute AMOLF have won the ENI Renewable and Non-conventional Energy Prize “for their research on high-efficiency solar cells based on nanophotonic design,” Caltech noted yesterday.

Clean Power Research this week “introduced industry-leading SolarAnywhere® High Resolution irradiance data and newly patented fleet analysis methodologies that together provide unprecedented insight into the impact of distributed PV on grid operation,” the company reports.

Skyline Innovations has expanded into the California solar heating market with the completion of solar water heating systems for three multifamily buildings in the Los Angeles area. “William Holdings will receive solar hot water at a 25 percent fixed discount to their utility rate for water heating. The Golden State projects mark Skyline’s 31st project for multifamily housing and the expanded availability of its innovative financing solution to businesses and multifamily buildings in California.”

The Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition (SVTC) this month released its 2012 Solar Scorecard, which “ranks manufacturers of solar photovoltaic (PV) modules according to a range of environmental, sustainability, and social justice factors.” The top scorers this year were: China’s Trina (94), the USA’s SunPower (93), and Germany’s SolarWorld (91). Companies evaluated in the Solar Scorecard represent 51.1% of the PV market share.

SolarPod (which we wrote about in April) has conducted field tests of its 1st Gen SolarPod for one full year in Minnesota and Wisconsin and found that it performed better than HIT Sanyo and SunPower installations. Mouli Engineering has released a white paper on this (linked above).

The UK’s solar sector has reportedly shrunk by 25% since the government implemented strong cuts to the country’s solar feed-in tariff program. “The research found more than 6,000 jobs had been lost.”

On April 1 the Coalition Government slashed the FiT rate at which homeowners are paid for generating solar power from 43.3p to 21p. Changes to the scheme were initially announced in the autumn of 2011.

And the Government is currently consulting on further reductions in July and again in October. Options for the July cut stand between 13.6p and 16.5p.

However, a survey of just under 200 UK solar businesses suggests that cuts to the tariff so far have had a devastating effect on the industry.

SolarCentury’s new boss has outlined plans for the company’s increased international expansion and recently discussed them in an interview with Business Green.

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Zachary Shahan

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