John Fitzgerald Weaver

@SolarInMASS

John Fitzgerald Weaver is a director of business development with 10+ years experience in the industry. He’s developed and managed 50+ solar projects worth more than $10 million, ranging from 5 to 1500kW. He’s been involved in nearly every aspect in solar development – as a company founder, developer, project manager, manufacturer, permit runner, salesman, contractor and financier.

Check out his projects at commercialsolarguy.com – where he shares his expertise developing commercial solar in New England.

John can talk shop all day about solar – get in touch with him via Twitter, email or the article comments!

Today

Solar panel manufacturer Suniva, who recently filed for bankruptcy, has made a request for “global safeguard relief” from imports of crystalline silicon solar PV cells and modules. Suniva has requested that President Trump impose a four-year minimum import price on PV modules and cells, starting in year one at US$0.78 per watt for modules and $0.40 for cells.

This will more than double the price of the lower priced solar panels – and increase solar system pricing up to 40% for large-scale utility projects, 30% for commercial projects, and 20% for homeowners. This pricing for solar panels was last seen in the United States in 2014-2015. Suniva has lost more than $500M since 2015.

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Electrek Green Energy Brief

Coal company plans huge solar farm on strip mine – If we can make it about the money, and we can win the money argument – then the game will end. This plant is potentially being built on top of a former mountaintop coal strip mine. Let’s see it happen.

Trina sells 20MW of Bifacial PERC cells – These panels (here is their spec page) range from greater than 19-22% (cheap panels are 16-17%) depending on how much light is reflected by the surface behind them. I’m bringing up this relatively small purchase (bigger than anything in my life, but a tiny drop in the world) because of the technology involved – and because I think it will give consumers a buying opportunity sometime soon. Standard solar panels are going to get further price pressure from technologies like PERC, Bifacial, etc. Use it to your advantage as manufacturers are going to try to keep their old machines – building 16% solar panels – running as long as possible, but they really want to move onto the higher margin, higher efficiency products.

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Yesterday

Electrek Green Energy Brief

California oversupply volumes grow, ISO curtails more renewables – Rothleder said the ISO curtailed about 60,000 MWh in February and about 80,000 MWh in March – 140,000MWh at about $0.029/kWh (rough average wholesale California electricity rate) equals about $4 million in lost revenue to these generators. If the electricity curtailing was equal daily – it’s not – that’d be 2,300MWh/day to buy, hold and resell at the peak of the duck curve. Anyone taking bets on the duck curve beginning to decline by 2020?

Merkel: Need to develop a certain passion and joy for the Energiewende – “I think we should look at the Energiewende in a rational way, and of course always take into account the basic economic possibilities. But we should also develop a certain passion and joy for it. It’s beautiful to be a part of it. – Energiewende is the name Germany gave to their energy transformation. Germany named it. And yes, being part of a great transition toward a thing generations following us will hopefully admire (since it might save a large chunk of our species) is beautiful to be a part of. It’s good to see Germany still talking highly of Energiewende so long into it.

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9to5toys 

April 24

Suniva going to seek extreme protections against Chinese solar panels manufacturers – The company plans to lobby the International Trade Commission under Section 201 of the 1974 Trade Act — basically arguing that solar imports (not just Chinese imports, but imports in general) have caused “serious injury.”  The article goes on to say that if the 1974 Trade Act is applied to this case, and they agree that serious injury has occurred, there are many ‘solutions’ that can be applied against the industry – including tariffs against any country in the world, or minimum pricing. And it would be Trump filing these consequences. If we choose to attack solar panel pricing – it is only the USA that will suffer, the rest of the world will keep on keeping on.

South Australia projected to have 80% of electricity demand met by solar+wind by 2021/2022 – South Australia also happens to be a place that is currently in a strange type of gas shortage – one where they export before they feed the local markets. These energy issues are driving record solar growth in 2017 and the largest projects the earth has seen involving solar+batteries. expand full story

April 21

Major Solar Projects List from the SEIA – The USA has about 45GW of solar power running currently. This report looks specifically at projects larger than 1MW – and they’ve got about 20GW worth in the database. More interesting is that there is another 50GW of solar power in the development stages. The installation dates go through 2021 – meaning if we do nothing but what we have in the utility scale pipeline, no new projects and nothing residential or small commercial considered (many 1MW+ projects are commercial or community solar), then we will double our installed solar capacity in five years.

While other industrialized nations are ridding themselves of coal, the Trump Administration is ramping up production. Great.

World’s largest – by 10X – battery storage park proposed4,000MWh lithium ion battery proposed for Australia – 2017 is the year we will see massive projects proposed all over the world for lithium ion, solar and wind. The prices fell so far in the past, and the global capital markets are ready to fund. Of course, this projects is proposed – that means there is a lot of work to do, and its got competition from hundreds of projects in Australia (South AustraliaElon – world’s biggest solar + storage).

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April 20

SNEC 11th (2017) International Photovoltaic Power Generation Conference & Exhibition (SNEC 2017) in Shanghai: The next big solar module trend on display – And the answer is bifacial solar panels. Including the ‘world’s first full-size IBC bifacial module to be displayed‘ which they believe is an effective 23% efficiency in the right conditions. One challenge of bifaciality, and this could be based on my in limited (none) experience, is understanding the production from the panels. Onsite conditions, reflectivity, drive the extra efficiency – and that might require an extra layer of work before a proposal with financial returns can be delivered. From a rough pricing perspective – if a standard, high efficiency PERC solar panel costs $0.50-60/W – then you add another layer of solar cells that cost $0.30/W – you should expect these panels to cost around $0.80-0.90/W as all other hardware should be the same. SunPower has historically cost over $1.20/W.

Walmart Aims to Wipe Out Supply Chain Emissions with Project GigatonWalmart has identified energy, agriculture, waste, packaging, deforestation, and product use and design as the goal areas in which to focus their Scope 3 climate efforts. The goal is to create a package of tools to work with suppliers so they can cut emissions. WalMart wants to cut it owns emissions 18% by 2025 – they call this Scope 1 and 2. Good to see the largest in the world working so hard.

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9to5mac 

April 19

Vietnam introduces utility-scale solar FiT and rooftop net metering – FiT for utility-scale solar PV would be VND2.086/kWh (US$0.0935), exclusive of Value Added Tax. The FiT would be subject to fluctuations in the VND/US$ exchange rate and would only apply to projects where the cell efficiency is more than 16% or module efficiency more than 15% – A 90 million person country opening the utility and residential solar power market. Each country is a laboratory (Bahrain doing net metering hit yesterday) – it reminds me just a bit of watching individual US states and their experiments. Utility scale solar power with an almost $.10/W revenue stream will grow the industry – net metering generally does as well. These two programs should lead to significant expansion.

Industry exemptions of renewable taxes at €17 bln in 2017 in Germany – Yet, public approval for the program stays high. If German economic growth can continue, while the environment can be greened – then the people will support. That industry can afford to keep jobs in house helps – that the renewable industry itself generates significant revenue from global exports that comes back to Germany probably helps a bit. Also, that so many regular people are getting the incentive paid to themselves – instead of power companies – also helps. Its a dynamic moment when the people whole heartedly support industry tax cuts.

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April 18

Goldman Sachs gaining on $1B in renewable bonds in Japan – The bond market can be a well priced, long term funding source for large volumes of solar power. The global bond market is $100 trillion. That’d be more than enough to completely convert the planet to green energy. Long term cash producing assets are the exact thing savers look toward.

Exxon, Shell Join Ivanka Trump to Defend Paris Climate Pact – Headlines like this are tough to judge in today’s political climate. It could be that those who are in power in the White House believe very much so in climate change, however, feel they have plenty more time to negotiate to get the best deal possible. Exxon and Shell historically have talked one way in the public, but spent their lobbying money very much so against renewable energy. Exxon needs to argue for climate change to defend themselves in a coming RICO lawsuit. These publicly released statements could mean a lot…or nothing.

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April 17

Big installers charge more, some people are ok with that, the solution is to get multiple quotes – Using Residential Solar PV Quote Data to Analyze the Relationship between Installer Pricing and Firm Size – The numbers roughly say;

Large installer quotes are $0.33/W (about 10%) higher, on average, than non-large installer quotes offered to the same customer (Figure ES-1). The difference falls to $0.21/W after controlling for systematic differences between large and nonlarge installer quotes.

$0.21/W for install price for installs that cost between $2.75-4.50 is a 4-7% difference in pricing. The report suggests that some people simply want to buy from larger, more well known name brands – and that they will simply pay more. Other within the research group would ave benefited from connecting with local installers. Using tools like EnergySage was shown to lower costs $.30/W – for an average system that’s $2k that could be put toward a battery system.

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9to5google 

April 15

Researchers at Purdue University and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory have shown that a new crystalline material has the capacity to double the efficiency of solar cells, producing solar panels that are theoretically ‘two thirds’ efficient – instead of the current one-third efficiency available from the mainstream, silicon-inspired solar cells. Their goal is to catch ‘hot electrons’ with this hybrid-perovskite material.

Solar power research has shown that there is significant space for efficiency gains that will lower pricing even further than has already happened. If you read our Electrek Green Energy Brief (9 AM M-F) you’ll see constant updates from the industry showing a pathway from today’s standard 16% efficiency through a potential 26% efficiency with silicon only. Right now, we’re seeing PERC hardware upgrades across the industry. PERC, without any further research – just implementation and significant capital upgrades, seems to give a clear path to a 22% efficiency. If the whole of the solar industry can upgrade from a 16-17% average to a 22% average – the price per watt will fall 30% further – and that’s before we start considering next generation research from universities like Purdue.

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April 14

Solar Installers Struggle as Panels Become Cheap Enough to Own – This is the best problem in the world for these companies to have. They are going to be forced to sell directly to these populations, book revenue up front and get the Wall Street people – who hate the heavy debt load of the lease structure – off their backs. There will still be a lot of solar leasing going on for a bit – but, like SolarCity has already done since at least 4th quarter of 2016, a lot of direct sales will occur. Not to mention that this is great for the solar industry in general – regular people are paying cash for solar. That’s pretty cool.

Dong Energy bids 480MW with zero incentiveOWP West and Borkum Riffgrund West 2 – DONG Energy made bids at zero EUR per MWh, i.e. these projects will not receive a subsidy on top of the wholesale electricity price – caveat, these projects are to be commissioned by 2024, as such they’re expecting much price reduction from today. Nonetheless, this is a utility scale clean energy source that the owners think can make money without incentives. That’s cause for celebration.

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April 13

Global solar PV manufacturing capacity expansion plans rebound in Q1 – First quarter 2017 saw 10GW announced of solar power manufacturing capacity. With global capacity somewhere in the 115-135GW/year this is a big uptick – 7.5-8.5%. A few hours later, I get a Q2 announcement of a 2GW solar factory coming to Taiwan. This tells me that the demand of solar PV is predicted to continue to grow, and that significant investment in new factories, new machines and new technologies will continue. And since newer technologies, at the same price or lower than old technologies, are more efficiency – we will see continued increases in efficiency in the coming years.

Maryland governor has battery tax credit law on desk – The measure provides for a 30 percent tax credit on the installed cost of a storage system, capped at $5,000 for residential and $75,000 for commercial projects. The total credits awarded cannot exceed $750,000 in a year, and the program will run from 2018 through 2022. This is against state taxes – and state tax rates are lower than federal – so its not as strong as the federal incentive for solar, but its pretty close – and it will drive business. A Tesla PowerWall 2, costing $5500 retail plus about $500-2000 to install, will end up costing $4,200-5300 after $1,800-2300 tax credit.

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April 12

Wal-Mart, Advanced Microgrid Solutions to Turn Big-Box Stores Into Hybrid Electric Buildings – the-meter batteries at stores to balance on-site energy and provide megawatts of flexibility to utilities, starting with 40 megawatt-hours of projects at 27 Southern California locations – I specialize in installing solar power on top of structures like these (this is us), and the groups that occupy these buildings all listen real hard when I show them spreadsheets that sometimes eliminate their electricity operating expenses. Soon enough, with microgrid growth and recognition from utilities of services – I’ll be turning roofs and storage closets into revenue generators. Everyone listens then.

Trina launches bi-facial PERC solar module – First, the PERC cells mean a higher system efficiency. Secondly, bi-facial means you collect energy from the backside. Cool on both. The question I have is what’s the cost difference between single face and bi-face if the production increase is 10-25%. The images I’ve seen of bifacial show a lot of material to create the second layer – I guess the low pricing of solar panels makes it ok. Anyone have price estimates?

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9to5toys 

April 11

When solar panels became the jobs killer – A few solar people in my streams have pushed back on this article, its title and the lead in are a bit tough, but broadly it tells some good stories on the new growing-evolving-reacting-failing-attacking-living-breathing solar power industry. The Chinese are attacking the industry – with a vengence. This article is playing a bit to the times of Trumpism – the populist fears – and if we are to argue from a purist capitalist, free trade point of view – those fears are real. However, in my mind, we don’t exist in that clean world and to argue from that purist position is extremist. If nothing, check out the cool images and graphs.

14 Arab countries sign MoU to establish joint Arab electricity market – Multiple times they mentioned renewable energy as part of the driving ideas, and that excites me because I hear Saudi Arabia talking about building infrastructure to export solar electricity. If this happens, we’ll see the Middle East develop into a broad grid with much growth. Interconnection of large areas drives renewable development.

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April 10

A recent analysis by Redfin and Sun Number, has rated 10+ cities in the northeast based on their solar power potential. Sun Number is a U.S. Department of Energy SunShot-funded startup that has developed a patented automatic process for helping homeowners/buyers understand the solar energy potential of their homes or future homes, using a Sun Number Scale that runs from 1-100, where the higher a reading, the better the property is suited for solar energy installation and use.

As early as 2015, a multi-institutional research led by U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkley Laboratory (Berkley Lab) concluded that home buyers have consistently been willing to pay more for homes with host-owned solar photovoltaic (PV) energy systems. The data came from more than 20,000 sales of homes, about 4,000 of which contained a host-owned solar energy installation. The additional price home buyers were ready to pay was significant and worthy of serious consideration: a hefty premium of about $15,000. Redfin and Sun Number partially support that prior data.

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Solar and wind tax credit extension worth 29GW of utility scale wind/solar from 2016-2020 – Another interesting number, $23B in economic activity in the USA from wind and solar in 2017. Roughly – $5B will be given to solar power installations in the form of a federal 30% tax credit. There will be $25B’ish in solar power sales in the USA in 2017.

Green political groups attempt to influence Trump by going after swing states – First, I say its interesting, because that’s how you do it. You’ve got to attack strategically and you have to attack today – 3.5 years before the next election. One thing though – while many say Trump’s favorability ratings are down and that he might bend because of weakness…I’m not so sure. First, favorability is down in those outside of the groups that voted for him. Favorability within those who voted is up. And secondly, attacking Trump on the environment might be hard – check out the main chart. Those who supported Trump – feel the environment has gotten better by a HUGE amount. Have fun fighting that type of education.

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9to5mac 

April 7

According to the EIA, California solar power has been driving wholesale electricity rates towards – and sometimes below – $0/MWh – and on March 11th total solar power production broke 50% of demand. The increase in utility-scale solar power , which grew 50% in the state in 2016, is quickly changing the landscape. Recently we saw California solar + wind hit a record high at 49.2%, with all renewable energy above 56%.

In March, during the hours of 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., system average hourly prices were frequently at or below $0 per megawatthour (MWh). In contrast, average hourly prices in March 2013–15 during this time of day ranged from $14/MWh to $45/MWh.

This type of event has happened in other places – Germany gets the headlines often. It is expected that there will be so much solar power this spring and summer (plus large amounts of hydroelectric power) that curtailment will need to occur on solar assets.

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FPL wrote portions of bill that imposes requirements on solar – Florida voters chose to lower taxes on certain solar installations within the state. The State of Florida legislature then took up the task given to them by the voters – and they created a document they thought represented the will of the people. The law, instead of focusing on lowering taxes on solar installations, instead had multiple requirements added to the sales process. And now we know where the language came from – Rep. Ray Rodrigues, R-Fort Myers took an MS Word document from Barbara J. Washington senior legal assistant at NextEra – the company that owns the Florida utility. Technically – is it illegal for an interest group to be involved in writing legislation? Nope. What matters though is the Rodrigues took $15k from FPL to write a law that he himself said was not being broken…but it might be. And this is how Electrical Utilities – like FPL – abuse their state sanctioned monopoly power. And in turn why Florida, the Sunshine State, lags places like New York and Vermont in Solar installs per capita.

Major transmission lines being built across the USA to move renewable energy – A lot more renewable energy will be able to be integrated into the US power grid because of these power lines being built. The Department of Energy thinks we can hit 30% of US electricity from wind alone by building cross national transmission. Solar power would also benefit from this in that excess noon time energy will be pushed east or west as it is needed.

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April 6

85GW of solar power projected in 2017 – These are the first projections I’ve seen saying 2017 will be a growth year. Greentech Media says about 78GW of solar was installed in 2016 – 2017 to 85GW would be 9% growth. Four countries – China, USA, India and Japan in that order – will comprise 73% of global volume. Interesting that the globe will grow as it is while the USA is projected to contract 10% on a slowdown in utility scale growth. 2018 numbers now show project about 0% growth over these new 2017 numbers – now my emotions make we think those numbers will be altered upwards when the time comes. That might see us break 100GW in a year in 2019.

Kentucky Coal Mining Museum converts to solar power – “It is a little ironic,” said Communications Director Brandon Robinson, “But you know, coal and solar and all the different energy sources work hand-in-hand. And, of course, coal is still king around here.” – A great headline showing that many groups see the economic value of solar power in their electricity mix.

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9to5google 

April 5

Edmonton structure’s south facing facade made of solar glass – Header image above is from Google Street View, October 2016. The system, composed of 500 solar panels, cost $400,000 and will pay for itself in five years. Overall the combination of solar energy collected and additional natural light reduced the projected energy use by 80%. The technology – Building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV) – is the same thing as the Tesla Solar Roof. If the technologies are sound enough for architects to integrate at time of design – this will proliferate. In the area of 600-900,000 new houses and 70-100,000 new commercial buildings in the US each year – that’s a lot of solar potential.

2,500 utilities from 26 of 28 EU countries commit to no new coal after 2020 while the EU shows that it cut fossil fuel usage – mostly coal and gas – 11% since 2005 with significant help coming from renewables. In the end – the goal is to lower co2 right now – and cutting coal and gas are a way to do it.

Keeping in the spirit of solar as default – residential housing development with 2.7kW solar system (SolarWorld plus EnPhase if you were wondering) as default option. A 2.7kW system will meet 20% or less of a 4,000 ft home’s energy use with an average of 2.6 people living in it – but – 700,000 new homes at 2.7kW means 1.9GW of solar that is ready for energy storage.

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