About the Author

John Fitzgerald Weaver

@SolarInMASS

John Fitzgerald Weaver is a solar consultant – aka The Commercial Solar Guy. As a project developer and installer, he’s sold and managed 50+ solar projects worth more than $10 million, ranging from 5kW to 1500kW. He’s been involved in many aspects of the solar supply chain – as a company founder, developer, project manager, manufacturer, permit runner, salesman, contractor and financier, climbs mountains, played football, enjoys an IPA or scotch, needs to get away, and really loves this strange connection between politics, energy, finance, environment, etc in the energy world, and likes run on sentences.

Current and occasional stock positions that I have written about are ASYS, TSLA, CAFD and TAN – plus Bitcoin and Etherium.

February 23

Electrek Green Energy Brief: A daily technical, financial, and political review/analysis of important green energy news.

SunPower to reduce workforce by 3% in new restructuring round – The company announced it would, ‘reduce its workforce by 3%, due to the Section 201 trade case decision by US President Trump to impose new import tariffs of solar cells and modules imported into the country. The company didn’t say where these specific jobs would be lost though. If jobs are lost in another country – the politicians won’t care. And the politicians might even celebrate that the jobs are being lost at an off-shore ‘low cost’ destination.

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February 22

The Benban Solar Park aims to reach somewhere between 1.6-2.0GW of solar power by the middle of 2019.

The projects will receive no incentives, however, it will be given a 25 year contract to sell its electricity at 7.8¢/kWh to the the state-owned Egyptian Electricity Transmission Company (EETC) and pegged to the value of the US dollar.

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Home Solar Power

Electrek Green Energy Brief: A daily technical, financial, and political review/analysis of important green energy news. Featured Image Source.

China January polysilicon output hits record, says CNMIA – Read this article, multiple interesting data points to build some mental models on. The one that caught my interest the most – China’s polysilicon output of 24,200 tons in January could support production of 5GWp of solar mono-Si wafers and 6.5GWp of poly-Si ones. A monthly output of 11.5GWp of solar wafers means an estimated output 138.0GWp in 2018, exceeding forecast total PV installation capacity of 100GWp to be added around the world in the year. Global installation volume for 2017 was predicted to be 65-80GW. It ended up being 98-100GW (~40% growth). How is it that predictions were off on this one so much? And, with that, what are the odds that the current projections of 100-110GW (5-10% growth) are correct?

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February 21

According to the IEA, the spot price for ‘mono crystalline’ solar panels fell from 72¢/W to 45¢/W over 2017. That 27¢/W drop represents a 37.5% fall.

Mono crystalline solar panels offer at least 10% more efficiency than poly crystalline in the same hardware package/size/weight, and today – in key markets – are only 6% more expensive.

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Electrek Green Energy Brief: A daily technical, financial, and political review/analysis of important green energy news. Featured Image Source.

Estimating rooftop solar technical potential across the US using a combination of GIS-based methods, lidar data, and statistical modeling – 38% of US electricity could come from rooftops and solar power only. There is no longer a sound argument that intermittent energy sources – wind+solar – can’t power the country. An aside, as a commercial sales guy, I’d love to get a hold of these databases of nationwide rooftop viability scans and turn them into a lead database. Gold mine.

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February 20

Electrek Green Energy Brief: A daily technical, financial, and political review/analysis of important green energy news.

China Flooded U.S. With Solar Panels Before Trump’s TariffsFourth-quarter deliveries from China were almost 11 times higher than in the first nine months of 2017, according to a report Friday by Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Manufacturers also hauled panels and cells across the border from Mexico, Canada and other countries to beat the import duties that were announced last month. Key point for folks buying solar – does your contractor have a connection to some of these panels? Were they all bought by bigtime developers for their projects alone? It looks like SunPower made some imports as well – so they’ve probably got decently priced product still. If you’re buying right now – use this knowledge as pricing leverage if a contractor’s price is a bit strong.

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February 19

Electrek Green Energy Brief: A daily technical, financial, and political review/analysis of important green energy news. Featured Image Source.

Musk Notches a Small Win Against Buffett in Nevada – At its peak in August of 2015, the Las Vegas solar market had monthly volumes of over 700 ($14 Million assuming an average of $20,000 per system). The peak in August of 2015 was more than 3x the installation volume for all of 2016. Following the passing of AB 405, the market has rebounded to nearly 200 a month – a healthy recovery, which should continue in 2018, but still a fraction of the frothy market in 2015. The author said ‘small’ victory because they’re a solid optimist, forward-looking. ‘Pyrrhic’ victory could also be the case. If you look at their chart, residential solar has been smashed relative to what it was. Of course – the original growth of residential solar was huge and fast in Nevada, so maybe something had to be done. In the end I’d argue that Buffett won, and Buffett will end up selling a lot more electricity than he would have. Though, with Buffett building a lot more solar now – and residential growth coming back – ‘we’ win the long game.

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February 17

The solar panel industry is fighting physics’ stubborn hold on the secrets of photons exciting electrons – and the results of this atomic level focus are showing up for regular people.

A trio of solar efficiency records have been brought forward recently: Hanergy’s thin film unit developed a 25% solar panel, Trina Solar broke 25% with an IBC solar cell, and a lab in Europe has set an amazing record of a 26% solar cell using a standard, simple ‘p-type’ technology.

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February 16

Electrek Green Energy Brief: A daily technical, financial, and political review/analysis of important green energy news. Featured Image Source.

SolarEdge, the Israeli Inverter maker posts a 70% increase in full-year revenue blowing far beyond analyst expectations. The stock was up yesterday almost 25% on the news, and if you are long on SEDG (first of all congrats on the new yacht), you tripled your money over the past year. We’ve covered SolarEdge products quite a bit on Electrek, but what is happening here is that they are becoming the de facto solar inverter maker with their DC voltage optimizer strategy vs. the more expensive micro-inverter strategy employed by many rivals.  Will they run away with the market? What new technologies will they bring to make going solar easier and more efficient? Stay tuned…

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February 15

Electrek Green Energy Brief: A daily technical, financial, and political review/analysis of important green energy news.

UPDATED 2018 State Solar Power Ranking Report – A great tool to start your residential solar power research with.

Tesla spells out why markets are failing battery storage, big and small – Soon enough, we’ll look at powergrids that act this way as archaic. Limiting to society. “However, the true value of this rapid response is not fully recognised. The fastest contingency FCAS market is six seconds, while the Tesla Powerpack response time is <200ms (milliseconds).” It wants to see a market for fast frequency response that recognises the value of batteries (and presumably other inverter-based technologies) to fill that void, in much the same way that settlement periods are being reduced from 30 minutes to 5 minutes. Here’s the biggest part of this equation – when an instantaneous power source acts to smooth out power grid imbalances, versus waiting 6 seconds, you can actually build 90% less of these specialized peaker plants. This hardware – energy storage with fast acting batteries – has just ended an entire market worth tens of billions.

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February 14

Electrek Green Energy Brief: A daily technical, financial, and political review/analysis of important green energy news. Featured Image Source.

Germany mulls free public transport to quash air pollution menace – It’s real tough to lower our individual carbon footprints. The Netherlands managed to move to bikes. New York City and other subway heavy cities have done amazing jobs. Germany is a large country, with challenging climate issues (don’t want nuclear, but still have coal). Plus – people like me see Germany as a high-speed aggressive sports car. Well…Tesla has shown me that high-speed aggressive sports cars don’t have to pollute. Maybe we all can change.

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February 13

Electrek Green Energy Brief: A daily technical, financial, and political review/analysis of important green energy news. Featured Image Source.

Enphase and Panasonic announce AC module partnership – My gut is that soon enough, all solar panels will come with integrated panel level electronics. I lean more toward something like SolarEdge because I like DC voltage coming to the inverter (and potentially batteries/car charger/etc) – however – Enphase has shown that homeowners and installers want the simplicity, and flexibility of an Enphase installation. And you know what, it seems there’s enough space in the market for these two groups to make enough money to drive innovation. I’m excited to watch.

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February 12

Electrek Green Energy Brief: A daily technical, financial, and political review/analysis of important green energy news. Featured Image Source.

Project Bo aims to save babies’ lives with reliable solar/battery power – “Three of our oxygen-dependent babies died last night when the power went off. Not good enough in 2017. Low-cost tech e.g. affordable solar power must be a priority for saving newborn lives” Project Bo was established to see this never happens again. There is a philosophical aspect to solar power – its distributed nature bringing power – literally – to the people, its direct connection to a piece of our lives that we can almost always depend on – the sun. The reality of our world is that resources – technology, energy and finances – are not distributed evenly. However, we as humans are amazingly inventive with small amounts of these resources – electricity in particular. And just a small amount of electricity can save human beings. Solar can help with that. They accept donations. Thanks, Michael.

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February 10

Huawei’s first residential energy management system, the “FusionHome Smart Energy Solution”, is being launched in Australia, with availability this quarter.

Originally announced last year in June for Europe and shown off at Solar Power International in Las Vegas this fall, the new system is aiming for a ‘1-size-fits-all solution’ for residential energy management purposes.

Huawei is really trying to wake up your house.

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February 9

Electrek Green Energy Brief: A daily technical, financial, and political review/analysis of important green energy news. Featured Image Source.

The ‘PV Celltech 2018‘ conference in Malaysia is coming up. The program topics themselves (PDF) are enough to give me pause and think about perspectives at this stage of a growing industry. Topics – 1. Cell technology trends impacting the 100GW+ landscape; 2. Why P-Type Multi continues to dominate solar cell manufacturing; 3. Production equipment and materials for advanced cell architectures; 4. N-Type solar cell mass production at the GW stage; 5. Mono Wafer supply at the 50GW+ level; and more. The industry is grappling with continued growth at amazing rates, while also evolving its technological base. There are multiple dimensions of intertwined evolution – a global dance of machines and business and people.

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February 8

Electrek Green Energy Brief: A daily technical, financial, and political review/analysis of important green energy news. Featured Image Source.

Both China and the European Union have expressed a demand for ‘compensation’ from the US as solar panel manufacturers. Reuters showed an interesting difference between the complaints though: China said it was asserting its right as a major exporter to demand compensation, and said it believed the U.S. measures broke numerous WTO rules versus The EU request said Germany was a major exporter and cited WTO rules under which it could demand compensation. The EU move follows similar steps by China, Taiwan and South Korea, but unlike them it did not accuse the United States of breaking WTO rules. I can’t really answer a question like this – are rules broken? – as I am not an expert on the topic and it seems these folks are getting into nuances. Of interest is that the US has a similar action going on against India.

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February 7

Solar power jobs in the US fell by 3.8% in 2017 – a total of approximately 9,800 jobs per The Solar Foundation’s annual jobs survey. This partially aligns with current projections of total solar installations falling by approximately 20% in 2017.

The numbers under the hood are far more complex though. The largest, most developed markets were hit hardest. California itself lost over 13,000 total solar jobs, while Massachusetts and Nevada lost 3,052 and 1,807, respectively. We saw growth in job count in 29 states and Washington DC.

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Electrek Green Energy Brief: A daily technical, financial, and political review/analysis of important green energy news. Featured Image Source.

Mission Solar to double solar module manufacturing – The move by Mission to add more module lines follows on its announcement shortly after the Section 201 decision that it was hiring 50 workers so as to reach its full 200 MW of module capacity. It also follows on the company securing a supply contract with PetersenDean Roofing and Solar. There are definite expansions of solar panel manufacturing in the USA. ITEK, Solaria, Solartech Universal and First Solar – are the pure American plays – with a Tesla/Panasonic hybrid in Buffalo. CSUN and Jinko – international groups – have also announced expansions within last year. Interestingly, SunPower is holding off a US based expansion as leverage to not tax its imported products. The numbers of jobs aren’t huge in the factory directly, but there are jobs at partners and suppliers that aren’t easily accounted for.  An evolving – growing – market.

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February 6

Electrek Green Energy Brief: A daily technical, financial, and political review/analysis of important green energy news.

U.S. installs nearly 4 GW of solar in Q4 2017GTM Research has given its preliminary estimate for installations over the full year 2017 at 11.8 GW, a 22% decline from 2016 levels. Down 22% from the record-setting 2016. What amount of this was hangover and what amount the Suniva/Trump Tax? What amount was the residential lease company shrinking and cash purchases just starting to grow? Residential and Utility fell – Small business/Commercial/Industrial grew. In my opinion – good report!

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February 5

Electrek Green Energy Brief: A daily technical, financial, and political review/analysis of important green energy news. Featured Image Source.

Sign up for South Australia’s Virtual Power Plant – We covered the new Tesla-South Australia virtual power plant yesterday. Today’s link is where you can sign up for the program if you’re a local. This example of energy usage seems so intelligent – a machine smart enough to coordinate energy storage, solar power, and the broader power grid into a single mesh network of electricity. This is the future of our energy networks. Watch this program, it’s coming to you soon.

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