What Changed In The Solar Energy Industry In Quarter 1, 2018?

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What actually changed in the world of solar in Q1 2018? Here’s our rundown:

Solar Markets

India kept pumping a ton of money into solar power plants in order to clean its grid while providing electricity to more people. Maharashtra in India launched a 1 GW solar tender; NTPC floated 2.75 GW of solar tenders; Tamil Nadu planned a 500 MW solar farm; Solar Energy Corp. of India launched its own 2 GW solar tender and 3 GW solar tender, a new record for the country; and India opened the year with 1.2 GW of solar tendered in one week. Additionally, ground was broken on the largest solar power park in the world. By the way, 4 years ahead of schedule, India has reached 20 GW of solar power.

As if all of that wasn’t enough, India announced $1 billion — yes, $1 billion — in assistance for solar power projects in several African countries.

China was reported to have installed 54 GW of solar in 2017 (or perhaps 53 GW), a dramatic increase over just a few years ago and even more than the whole world installed not too many years ago. We expect Q1 2018 was huge as well, but we’re still waiting on those numbers.

In one of the other major solar power markets of the world, the USA, more new renewable power capacity was installed than fossil fuel capacity for the year as a whole (2017), but jobs dropped by 10,000.

Trump tariffs on Chinese solar panel tariffs did actually get implemented in Q1, based on an obscure, absurd, irrational, counterproductive law no one treated as serious. Minor backlash outside of the cleantech world and in the major media almost totally missed the story —  which is that more US jobs will be lost than saved or created. Did that poor reporting and lack of attention empower Trump to implement steel tariffs as well? Perhaps. And, alas, the solar tariffs are already hurting SunPower, one of USA’s top solar panel companies, with 200 or so jobs getting cut.

New York started becoming much more of a solar power player, with 26 new large-scale solar power plants approved for development, a community solar push, and broader efforts to stimulate the industry.

Community solar power continued its new role as the fastest growing solar segment in the US. Meanwhile, in the residential market, Sunrun passed up Tesla/SolarCity as the top solar installer (after SolarCity sat on top of the list for several years). In the utility-scale market, meanwhile, the fun news has been US utilities turning coal power plants into solar farms.

Australia rooftop solar kept blowing up, and plans were announced for a 50,000-home virtual power plant using rooftop solar, energy storage, and Mr. Tesla. Furthermore, Australia’s largest floating solar farm went live.

It was technically Q4 of 2017, but the numbers rolled in during Q1 2018 — new solar PV manufacturing capacity additions set a new record, which should mean record production in 2018.

Home Solar & Storage Products

Tesla Solar RoofTesla Solar Roof Tile mass production reportedly began. Tesla also started selling solar power in 800 Home Depot stores.

Nissan brings “all-in-one” solar + storage to UK market for EV drivers who want to go a step further — or non-EV drivers, for that matter. Building on its EV leadership, it also started offering energy storage from 2nd life batteries.

Sunnova introduced its own solar + storage offering, SunSafe, in the US — it uses the Tesla Powerwall 2 for the storage.

Solar Projects

Microsoft signed the largest solar PPA in the US, for a 315 megawatt solar project in Virginia.

Shell rejoined the solar energy market, after a long hiatus, acquiring a $217 million stake in Silicon Ranch Corporation and then putting money into a UK solar PPA.

Capital Dynamics acquired First Solar & SunPower Yieldco 8point3.

Vestas started testing a solar + wind hybrid project in Spain, something we expect to see a lot more of in the coming years.

We got another record-low solar power bid, this time in Saudi Arabia.

Apparently aiming to make today’s largest solar power projects look like anthills, Saudi Arabia and SoftBank announced plans to build a 200 gigawatt solar power project. Yes, 200 gigawatts. No, not 200 megawatts. Needless to say, ask us for details later on. Also, yeah, we can’t see this being anything close to a single project or even closely located accumulation of projects, but we’ll be happy to be proven wrong if it comes to that. It sounds more like a national goal, but still a rather ambitious one for Saudi Arabia — if it’s legit.

Other Notable Stuff

ACWA Power became 1st utility anywhere in world to adopt blockchain currency SolarCoin.

WePower raised $40 million for blockchain-based Green Energy Trading, the largest ever ICO in the energy sector.

Wind has been the electricity leader on cost per kWh for the past several years, but solar is starting to pass it up, even in Denmark. Along similar lines, even solar + storage is starting to beat natural gas in some US electricity markets.

Despite years of claims that solar panel price drops are going to taper off, we’re still seeing quicker price drops than were projected in recent years.

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Zachary Shahan

Zach is tryin' to help society help itself one word at a time. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director, chief editor, and CEO. Zach is recognized globally as an electric vehicle, solar energy, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, Canada, and Curaçao. Zach has long-term investments in Tesla [TSLA], NIO [NIO], Xpeng [XPEV], Ford [F], ChargePoint [CHPT], Amazon [AMZN], Piedmont Lithium [PLL], Lithium Americas [LAC], Albemarle Corporation [ALB], Nouveau Monde Graphite [NMGRF], Talon Metals [TLOFF], Arclight Clean Transition Corp [ACTC], and Starbucks [SBUX]. But he does not offer (explicitly or implicitly) investment advice of any sort.

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