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Won’t anyone think of the seniors!? April 30, 2014

Posted by Maury Markowitz in power grid, solar.
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Image of people pulling out their hair due to their bills

No trip to Florida this year, dear. Damn those solar panels!

It came as no great surprise to learn that recent anti-solar ads being played in the US were funded by the power companies.

Only slightly more surprising was how the money turned into a TV spot, via the Koch brothers’ “Americans For Prosperity“.

What really interests me about all of this is that I’ve had people quote the argument from this TV spot to me. In spite of the argument being made up, it’s getting repeated, and defended, in that great marketplace of ideas. It’s astonishing to see it regurgitated without giving it a second thought.

So let’s give it a second thought.

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Almost 40 GW of PV in 2012 April 8, 2014

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Well the numbers are in, and through 2013 just over 39 GW of PV went in around the world. This is the record, as you might imagine. Wind added about the same, for a total of 91 GW of renewables in the year. This compares to 95 GW of all other forms of power combined.

But the really interesting statistic is this: in spite of installing 25% more PV than the year before, the total amount of money spent to do it dropped 23% to $104 billion. That’s because the prices are falling so quickly, faster than you can install it. That $104 billion for 39 GW is $2.66 a Watt; systems today are going in much lower than that.

PV: Aiming for 50GW in 2014? April 7, 2014

Posted by Maury Markowitz in solar.
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Pie chart showing worldwide shipments of solar panels in 2013, dominated by China, Taiwan and Japan.Paula Mints’ superb article on PV shipments in 2013 has numerous tidbits for the interested reader. For myself, it was the predictions at the end that stood out.

Basically, Mints’ demonstrates how worldwide potential to build panels turns into actual panels. In 2013 there was about 41 GW worth of capacity which turned into about 34 GW of panels, a duty cycle of around 83%

If you trace that forward with known capacity expansions coming online in 2014, and combine that with the expected flows (similar to the graph above), that puts us on a trajectory for 49 GW in 2014. As Mints’ points out, however, there are a number of factors that make this unlikely, notably a slowdown in Europe.

That said, looking back over the last couple of years, the pattern is clear. When companies overproduce, fire sales follow, which sell into markets that were otherwise marginal. The market is essentially infinitely flexible, given the right price points. If this pattern continues, some significant fraction of that capacity will be used, and the worst-case outcome is additional price depreciation as the year goes on.

I never thought I’d see panels below $1 retail, but such is commonplace today. With MW-sized orders in the 50 to 60 cent range, one might go so far to predict retail prices down around there by end of year. Combined with the expected rapid decline in inverter prices due to new Chinese entrants this year, it seems we are well on our way to $1/W systems at the residential end of the scale.

SMA Sunny Boy 240 micro inverter, what the?! April 4, 2014

Posted by Maury Markowitz in solar.
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Image of the SunnyBoy 240 micro inverter, all bright red and shiny.

Purdy!

The SMA Sunny Boy 240 micro is finally starting to appear in numbers at all the online stores, which is my definition of “real”. So now that we have some concrete numbers to work with, it’s time to write up a quick overview/review of the product.

And all I can say is “what the hell?” This thing’s been in development for years, and they still managed to release a product that is so obviously flawed that it would be a hard sell even if it wasn’t the most expensive product on the market.

And it is. The most expensive.

Well, at least it looks nice.

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Lunacy! February 25, 2014

Posted by Maury Markowitz in solar power satellites.
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The Luna Ring

The Luna Ring, of DOOM!

I’ve written on the topic of solar power satellites on several occasions. I thought it would be obvious to anyone that the negatives are so great that it’s a dumb idea, even if there is no night time cutting off your power half the time.

So what’s an even dumber idea? Putting them on the Moon. Now you have all the problems the problems of a satellite in terms of launch costs and beaming losses, and a night time that lasts two weeks!

And yet the interwebs are all alight with this silly idea.

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Widespread grid parity is here February 11, 2014

Posted by Maury Markowitz in power grid, solar.
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I’ve posted on the concept of “grid parity” in the past.

Basically the concept is that if the interest payments on your panels are less than what you’d pay to the power company for the same amount of power, you’re at  parity.

The industry has long been predicting that we would hit parity at some point. Most of them suggested this would happen around 2020. It came early.

We are clearly at grid parity for most of Canada today. And that means it’s also true anywhere south of us, and most of Europe.

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