Archive for the ‘Solar Finance’ Category

The Challenges to Developing PV Power Plants

There are 6,500 megawatts (MW) of PV project development currently in process across the United States.  Clearly the PV industry is poised for strong growth but the hurdles for PV project developers are numerous, and many of these MW

solar energy, solar project development, photovoltaics

How long before this technician could go to work?

may not be implemented. These hurdles include extensive permitting regulations which vary widely at the local, regional and national levels, interconnection standards that vary across thousands of utility companies, and locating new transmission lines for large projects to name a few. A good example of the challenges and complexity for PV project developers can be found here.

A recent article regarding new transmission lines for a large solar farm in Colorado for the utility company Xcel Energy highlights one of these challenges. With an objection to the new 140 mile transmission line by one landowner, PV project developers are now unable to secure project financing until this issue is cleared up. This could take months or years. This type of project roadblock can happen as a result of any number of matters that must be checked off by developers.

While German PV project developers work under a national set of standards and can implement projects in as little as 6 months, their American counterparts face a cornucopia of various technical and installations standards, permitting requirements, and environmental requirements, which can result in a year or more of wrangling before most large projects can simply break ground.

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Price/Performance Improvement Enabling Thin-Film on Rooftops

Historically, the residential and commercial rooftop solar energy market sectors have been dominated by solar modules using crystalline silicon wafers. Recently, the utility Southern California Edison began implementing the first phase of a 500MW project plan which is mainly supplied via 1MW installations on large (larger than 100,000 ft2) roofs. The program, which demonstrates the unique distributed generation nature of PV, is using First Solar thin-film product for some of the installation sites along with crystalline vendors including efficiency leader Sunpower . Once the exclusive domain of crystalline wafer modules only, the cost and efficiency of high performance thin-film product like First Solar’s produces acceptable internal rate of return for system owners on rooftops where many variables line up for this technology type. An article today in USA today features a good overview of the program and a picture of installers placing First Solar modules into service.

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Both Sides Now: The Thin-Film/Crystalline Debate

A financial industry client recently asked whether “thin-film” PV product can ever compete with highly established crystalline PV technology based product which currently has 85% market share.  His question was prompted by a spate of recent press articles that talk about the 50% drop in module sale prices in the last year, with claims of margin pressure on the thin-film category.  A good summary of the situation, here.

Like all things related to solar energy generation, there are many factors to consider.  First, thin-film is a broad term; there are many technology types with different performance capabilities, cost points, and structures which factor heavily in a comparison to crystalline products.

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Solar Energy, a Key Component of America’s Clean Energy Future

The PV Advocate

Environment America Research & Policy Center has recently published an excellent read entitled, “Building a Solar Future: Repowering America’s Homes, Businesses and Industry with Solar Energy.” The whitepaper first covers various technology and product types available and then reviews broad applications including homes, factories, farms, transportation and many others. It finishes with a roadmap to deployment and the challenges to establishing widespread solar energy.

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