Abound Solar is ending the year with glad tidings and good cheer — that is, $110 million in equity and a $400 million federal loan guarantee, almost all of which will fund an ambitious plan to build 775 megawatts of new manufacturing capacity.
Why develop your own project pipelines when you can just buy them? That seems to be a strategy among large solar electric equipment manufacturers such as Sharp, which announced Tuesday its plan to buy Recurrent Energy for about $305 million in cash.
SunEdison said Friday it has signed a memorandum of understanding with a provincial government in South Korea to install 400 megawatts of solar panels, a sizable project considering the country’s market shrank dramatically following a cut in incentives.
Can solar module producer Oerlikon inject new enthusiasm into amorphous silicon thin film technology, which until now has struggled to compete in cost and efficiency? The Swiss company hopes to do so with the launch Tuesday of a new line of factory equipment.
Thin-film solar companies are tired of being asked about their conversion efficiency, which is basically the amount of sunlight a panel can convert into electricity. Part of that is because the thin-film manufacturers say the efficiency standard is flawed. And increasingly some thin-film companies are pushing for a new standard.
At a Credit Suisse party last month, John Argo, vice president of operations for Bloo Solar, said he would like to see the formation of an independent body to come up with an objective standard more reflective of the sunlight a panel would get on an average day.
“No standards measure for that,” he said. “It should be possible to come up with an equation to do this.” He argues that what really matters is the total kilowatt-hours a panel produces, not the cost per watt. (This is in contrast to the viewpoints of people like Suntech Power CEO Zhengrong Shi, who has said that cost per watt is the only metric that matters.)
What’s the problem with the current efficiency measurement? Commercially available thin films aren’t as efficient as conventional silicon-based solar cells, at least the way efficiency is measured today. The standard of measurement is based on peak power, or the maximum amount of electricity that a panel can produce in ideal conditions.
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