Following up on our “What Changed In The Electric Vehicle Industry In May?” roundup, below is a summary of major solar energy and energy storage news from May. This roundup isn’t just about big project announcements. The point is to highlight notable shifts or milestones here or there in the industry.
Energy storage news related to electric vehicles isn’t included here since that’s in the report linked above.
Rooftop Solar (& Storage)
The biggest rooftop solar news of the month was surely that California approved new standards requiring that solar panels be installed on the roofs of nearly all new homes, condos, and apartment buildings by 2020. One report already found that this would lower the cost of home ownership in California and another one increased California’s 4 year solar installation forecast by 14%. The news seemed to prop up the stock of solar companies like Vivint Solar and Sunrun as well. Of course, Fox News got the story all wrong.
Curious where rooftop solar is winning in the USA? The Institute for Local Self Reliance just released a report diving into just that (well, a bit more broadly, it’s about “distributed solar” — projects under 1 MW in size). It’s a fascinating look at which states are leading in rooftop solar, how solar industries break out according to segment (distributed vs utility scale) in each state, state policies, etc.
Rooftop solar + storage leader sonnen just landed €60 million ($70 million) in a new round of investment, with this influx led by Royal Dutch Shell. “The investment will help it to develop its U.S. and Australian solar + storage market share.”
Guatemala-based company Kingo aims to bring small-scale solar + storage to 500 million people, which means a ginormous in net. That may sound like a wild dream, but it did attract the eye and investment of Leonardo DiCaprio. “Kingo launched as a 500-household pilot project in 2014. As of last summer it had already grown exponentially to include 48,000 households in Central America, adding approximately 6,000 new users every month. Last month Kingo reported a roster of more than 60,000 households and upped its installation rate to 7,000 monthly.”
Tesla announced that it plans to triple its energy storage business this year. It’s already a leader in this industry in many markets. Tesla’s CFO, Deepak Ahuja, also more recently stated that the company is still production constrained — it has more demand than it can supply promptly.
Simpliphi, another California company, recently saw a tripling of its energy storage sales, and that led to cutting prices … which we presume will lead to more sales. Simpliphi Power’s batteries use lithium-ferro-phosphate (LFP) chemistry, which means no cobalt and no real risk of fire.
Hanwha Q CELLS, a Korean solar cell and solar module manufacturer, announced that it would build a +1.6 gigawatt solar module factory in Georgia (the US state, not the country).
Okay, I said this roundup didn’t focus on projects, but some projects are too epic or interesting to not mention.
In particular, the Indian government approved a 5 gigawatt solar park. 5 gigawatts! The solar park is to be located in Gujarat. “Rupani also stated that the park would be spread across 11,000 hectares area and would attract investment worth Rs 25,000 crore ($3.70 billion). The first tender for the solar park is expected to be floated [in June]. … Apart from the Dholera solar park, Gujarat is also working on two more solar parks with a combined installed capacity of 1,200 megawatts.”
Just to highlight how low solar costs now are in India, it appears that they are stable at around 4¢/kWh in major, including gigawatt-scale, auctions. Indeed, it took a bid of 4.16¢/kWh to score Softbank-backed SB Energy a 200 megawatt solar project contract in the southern Indian state of Karnataka, and that was a fairly small auction with just one other bidder.
Demonstrating how solar power continues to expand not just in major markets but across emerging markets, Tunisia has decided now is the time to jump in. The country recently issued a 500 megawatt solar power tender, as well as a 500 megawatt wind power tender. These are the cheapest options around for new power capacity. What else would you hold power auctions for?
In a similar vein, “solar energy developer SkyPower has announced a landmark foreign direct investment of $1.3 billion into Uzbekistan to build 1 gigawatt (GW) of solar capacity.”
Austrian Federal Railways (ÖBB) has followed India’s solar-powered train and Holland’s wind-powered train lead. It launched a pilot project powering its trains with solar power.
Solar R&D continues in the USA, despite the anti-renewables president and Congress. “The Solar Technologies Office of the US Department of Energy (DOE) has awarded research grants to several US universities to develop new solar integration technology. The goal is to reduce costs by 50% before 2030. The research will have two principal objectives.
- In the first area, projects will focus on advancing inverter/converter technology that lowers lifetime costs by reducing upfront costs, extending product life, improving efficiencies and lowering manufacturing costs.
- In the second area, projects will explore enhanced grid integration capabilities, which include holistic power electronics designs that: integrate solar with other power flow devices like energy storage or reactive power devices, provide online operations and maintenance services that can detect and respond to fault events, or help to quickly recover from power outages.”
Additionally, next-gen concentrated solar power (CSP) got $72 million in funding from the DOE. “Gen3 CSP high-temperature thermal systems have the potential to lower the cost of a CSP system by approximately $0.02 per kilowatt-hour (kWh), which is 40 percent of the way toward the solar office’s 2030 cost goals of $0.05 per kWh for baseload configurations. This cost target is highly competitive with other dispatchable power generators and would enable more solar to be connected to the grid while also increasing its value.”
Technically, it was in 2017, but we got the news last month that solar passed up biomass in the USA to become the #3 source of renewable electricity generation in the country.