Tag Archives: solar industry

solar

APS proposes changing solar rates

A proposed rate change for Arizona Public Service Co. customers who install rooftop solar panels could affect the future of the state’s solar industry.

The utility is proposing to give customers with new solar panel systems less credit for the electricity their systems supply to the power grid under a proposal pending before the Arizona Corporation Commission.

The proposal would drop the rate of return by as much as 40 percent, but the utility says new customers would also be offered some incentives.

The utility says the change is needed because solar customers are not paying enough for the services they get when their panels are not producing electricity.

Greg Field of Arizona Solar Concepts says if the commission approves the proposed changes to the utility’s net metering program, it will destroy the state’s solar industry.

 

solar

Arizona ranked No. 2 in solar for 2012

GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) released U.S. Solar Market Insight: Year-in-Review 2012, an analysis of solar power markets in the United States.

With another record-breaking year, solar is the fastest growing energy source in the country, powering homes, businesses and utility grids across the nation. The Solar Market Insight annual edition shows the United States installed 3,313 megawatts (MW) of solar photovoltaics (PV) in 2012, a record for the industry. Perhaps most importantly, clean, reliable, affordable solar is continuing a major growth pattern that has made it a leading source of new electricity for America that’s increasingly competitive with conventional electricity across dozens of states today.

Even with the cost of solar falling for consumers, the market size of the U.S. solar industry grew 34% from $8.6 billion in 2011 to $11.5 billion in 2012 — not counting billions of dollars in other economic benefits across states and communities.  As of the end of 2012, there were 7,221 MW of PV and 546 MW of concentrating solar power (CSP) online in the United States, enough to power 1.2 million homes.

At the state level, 2012 was another year for breaking records. California became the first state to install over 1,000 MW in one year, with growth across all market segments. Arizona came in as the second largest market, led by large-scale utility installations, while New Jersey experienced growth in the state’s non-residential market. The Top 10 largest state solar markets based on megawatts (MW) of solar photovoltaics (PV) installed in 2012 were:

1. California, 1,033
2. Arizona, 710
3. New Jersey, 415
4. Nevada, 198
5. North Carolina, 132
6. Massachusetts, 129
7. Hawaii, 109
8. Maryland, 74
9. Texas, 64
10. New York, 60

In addition to record annual installations, the fourth quarter (Q4) of 2012 shattered all-time quarterly records as well, with 1,300 MW of installed PV, besting the previous high by 64%. The residential and utility segments had their best quarters ever, installing 144 MW and 874 MW respectively.

The residential market saw meaningful growth in California, Arizona, Hawaii, Massachusetts and New York, as average residential system prices dropped nearly 20 percent in one year — from $6.16 per watt in Q4 2011 to $5.04 per watt in Q4 2012. SEIA and GTM Research expect residential solar to surge in 2013 and beyond, as third-party solar financing options spread across the country.

The non-residential segment, which includes commercial, governmental, and non-profit systems, installed more than 1,000 MW in 2012. Leading non-residential markets included California, New Jersey, Arizona, Massachusetts and Hawaii.

Meanwhile, the utility market continues to be dominated by installations in the desert southwest. There were 152 utility solar installations in 2012, and eight of the ten largest projects currently in operation were completed in 2012. These installations represented 54% of total installed capacity, or 1,782 MW.

SEIA and GTM Research expect the growth to continue into 2013 and beyond. For this year, the report forecasts 4,300 MW of new PV installations, up 29 percent over 2012, and 946 MW of concentrating solar power. Over the next four years, the residential and non-residential markets are expected to gain market share as system prices decline, the industry becomes even more efficient, and new financing channels arise.

Solar in Australia

First Solar To Provide Power Projects Under Australian Solar Flagships Program

First Solar announced it will design, construct and maintain two utility-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) power projects totaling 159 megawattsAC (MW) for AGL Energy Limited as part of Australia’s Solar Flagships Program. AGL was selected as the successful proponent in the solar PV category of the program and will receive federal and state government funding to help deliver on its commitment to greater investment in renewable electricity generation.

The Australian Government’s Solar Flagships Program is one of a number of programs and market mechanisms providing unprecedented support for the development of a broad range and scale of solar energy projects and technologies in Australia. The Solar Flagships Program is offering funding to support the construction and demonstration of large-scale, grid connected solar (PV and thermal) power stations in Australia.

Under the program, AGL will develop a 106 MWAC project in Nyngan and a 53 MWAC project in Broken Hill, both in New South Wales. First Solar will design and construct the integrated PV power plants, using its leading engineering, procurement and construction services and its advanced thin-film PV modules for both projects. First Solar will also maintain both projects for AGL Energy for their first five years of commercial operation. The electricity produced by the projects will be sold under power purchase agreements to AGL Hydro Partnership, a wholly owned subsidiary of AGL.

The projects will be supported with funding provided by the federal government and the state government of New South Wales under separate funding agreements.

“This is a significant step forward for the utility-scale solar industry in Australia—an order of magnitude increase in project size—and a testimony to the confidence our customers have in First Solar technology and its performance in some of the hottest and harshest conditions in the world,” said Jim Hughes, First Solar Chief Executive Officer. “These projects demonstrate First Solar’s ability to apply its vertically integrated capabilities to deliver competitive, comprehensive, utility-scale solar solutions in future sustainable markets. We look forward to working with AGL on more projects like this in the future.”

On an annual basis, the projects will produce enough electricity to meet the needs of at least 30,000 Australian homes. The projects are expected to provide approximately 350 GWh of energy annually.

The projects are expected to create approximately 450 jobs at peak construction. Construction is expected to begin on both projects in 2014, with commercial operation in 2015. AGL will be the majority owner of the project vehicle.

“AGL is delighted to be working with the Commonwealth and New South Wales Governments, the people of Broken Hill and Nyngan, and our project partner First Solar to deliver these significant renewable energy projects. These projects represent a tremendous opportunity for AGL and the broader solar industry to begin the roll-out of solar power as a meaningful source of generation supply in Australia,” said Michael Fraser, AGL’s Managing Director.

AGL is one of Australia’s leading integrated renewable energy companies and is taking action toward creating a sustainable energy future for investors, communities and customers. Drawing on over 175 years of experience, AGL operates retail and merchant energy businesses, power generation assets and an upstream gas portfolio. AGL has Australia’s largest dual fuel customer base. AGL has a diverse power generation portfolio including base, peaking and intermediate generation plants, spread across traditional thermal generation as well as renewable sources including hydro, wind, landfill gas and biomass. AGL is Australia’s largest private owner and operator of renewable energy assets and is looking to further expand this position by exploring a suite of low emission and renewable energy generation development opportunities.

For more information on First Solar and Australia’s Solar Flagships Program, visit First Solar’s website at firstsolar.com and visit Australian Government’s website at ret.gov.au.

first solar - new ceo

First Solar Appoints Hughes CEO

First Solar, Inc. announced that James Hughes has been appointed Chief Executive Officer. Hughes succeeds Mike Ahearn, First Solar’s founder and Chairman, who has been serving as interim CEO since Oct. 2011. Hughes joined First Solar in March as Chief Commercial Officer. Ahearn will continue in his role as Chairman of the Board.

“Jim has been instrumental in developing the strategic plan that will enable us to compete and win in this new era for the solar industry, and it became clear he is the right person to lead the execution of that plan,” said Ahearn. “Jim brings a wide range of experience that will be invaluable in leading our organization, having owned and operated utilities, built power projects, cultivated partnerships and led profitable growth in a wide array of key markets around the world.”

“I am excited for this opportunity to lead First Solar into a new era for the industry,” said Hughes. “First Solar is unrivaled in terms of talent and experience and has the premier platform from which to implement solar power at a meaningful scale around the world. The rapid cost reductions in the industry position solar at the threshold of the mainstream energy markets, and we are well-positioned to capitalize on that opportunity.”

Hughes has nearly 20 years of experience in the global energy industry. Before joining First Solar, he served as the CEO of AEI, which owned and operated power distribution, conventional and renewable power generation, natural gas transportation and natural gas distribution businesses in 19 countries. Prior to that, he was President and Chief Operating Officer for Prisma Energy.

Hughes earned a juris doctor from the University of Texas at Austin School of Law, a Certificate of Completion in international business law from Queen Mary’s College, University of London, and a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Southern Methodist University.

For more information on First Solar, visit First Solar’s website at firstsolar.com.

2 wind turbine with solar panels in front of a blue cloudy sky

Can Green Save The Day? Leaders Across The Valley And State Are Betting That Sustainability Will Help Lead To Economic Stability

Search for the word “sustainability” on Google and you’ll end up with nearly 25 million hits. But what does sustainability mean to Arizona, especially as the state’s economy crawls out of the crater left behind by the recession?

“The word sustainability and the word green means different things to different people — it’s more than just environmental technologies … The real question is how is the concept of sustainability affecting businesses at large. Because sustainability is a business issue,” said Rob Melnick, executive dean of the Global Institute of Sustainability/School of Sustainability at Arizona State University.

Though 2009 proved to be a difficult year economically, it was a landmark year for the green industry in the Grand Canyon State.

In October 2009, Clean Edge Inc., a research and publishing firm devoted to the clean-tech sector, listed Phoenix in the top 15 U.S. metro areas for clean-tech job activity. Phoenix was in the company of established cities in the industry such as San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose, Calif., as well as Denver, Boulder and Greeley, Colo.

A month later, Gov. Jan Brewer signed Senate Bill 1403 into law, creating the Renewable Energy Incentive Program, which provides refundable tax credits and property tax reductions for manufacturers.

“That sent a resounding alert to the industry that Arizona was serious about becoming a global leader in the renewable energy sectors,” said David Drennon, spokesperson for the Arizona Department of Commerce. “The result has been a solid response in companies — particularly in the solar industry — to consider establishing operations in Arizona. It means investment in our state and jobs for Arizonans.”

In her State of the State address in January, Brewer reinforced her belief that the sustanability industry will have a positive effect on the state’s economic recovery.

“We celebrate significant progress in establishing our foothold in the solar industry, and in advancing our competitive position in the national and global economy,” she said. “Our goal is to land the top solar manufacturers in the world and we are well on our way.”

School of Sustainability building at ASU
The School of Sustainability at Arizona State University has done much to advance the state’s reputation in the global green industry.

And on the federal level, President Barack Obama in January unveiled $2.3 billion in Recovery Act Advanced Energy Manufacturing tax credits for clean energy manufacturing projects across the United States. Companies with plans to build in Arizona requested nearly $30 million in tax credits. In a release announcing the funds, Obama stated, “Building a robust clean-energy sector is how we will create the jobs of the future. (The credits) will help close the clean-energy gap that has grown between America and other nations, while creating good jobs, reducing our carbon emissions and increasing our energy security.”

Slow Beginnings
Although the Renewable Energy Incentive Program signaled the state’s shift toward a valid future in the green sector, Arizona still has a way to go before catching up to other states.

A new study by the nonprofit research group Next 10 found that between 1995 and 2008, California had a 2.4 percent annual growth rate in its core green-economy employment. The study also found that although total jobs in California decreased 1 percent between January 2007 and January 2008, green jobs increased 5 percent.

“The state has to make some strategic investments,” Melnick said. “It’s got to be creative about regulation, work force development, finance and marketing itself. Right now, no one is saying Arizona is the green job capital of the world. We really could have been the solar capital of the world 20 years ago. We were growing so fast and so rich, but now we need it.”

Barry Broome, president and CEO of the Greater Phoenix Economic Council (GPEC) echoes these sentiments.

“It’s a very policy-specific industry,” Broome said. “We have to think critically about energy policy, planning and community economic development.”

Now more than ever, Arizona needs to take the right steps in securing the industry as a valuable economic engine.

Green Jobs
The burgeoning sustainability industry is growing green jobs, bringing the prospect of much-needed employment to the state.

Brewer recently announced that one of the world’s largest solar-cell manufacturers, China-based Suntech Power Holdings, will bring its U.S. headquarters to the West Valley this year. Suntech, a multibillion-dollar corporation that makes photovoltaic solar cells and solar electric systems, will potentially be one of the first companies eligible for the Renewable Energy Incentive Program.

“We did quite an extensive search around the country,” said Steven Chan, chief strategy officer of Suntech Power Holdings. “(Arizona) had a combination of a strong potential market, very supportive policies and incentives, and very good educational institutions.”

The plant is set to open in Goodyear and is expected to begin production in the third quarter of this year, with an initial production capacity of 30 megawatts. The 80,000 to 100,000-square-foot plant will be designed with growth in mind, due to the anticipated expansion of the U.S. solar market.

Suntech announced it is expecting up to 150 jobs for the company’s first phase — 75 at launch, with the potential to double within the year. The plant will have a variety of jobs that will be focused mostly on manufacturing and operations.

“We’re looking forward to building a long-term base for Suntech in Arizona. We feel that both in Arizona and across the U.S. there is a promising future for a green work force,” Chan said.

Another manufacturer also has announced plans for an Arizona presence — and it comes from an unlikely source. Tower Automotive, a producer of structural metal components for the automobile industry, plans to invest $50 million in an Arizona plant. The decline of the U.S. auto industry hurt the company and spurred it to diversify its product line. The plant will manufacture mirror assemblies for solar-power systems and will employ about 200 people.

GPEC Profile: Steve Cowman, CEO Of Stirling Energy Systems Inc.

Steve Cowman
CEO, Stirling Energy Systems Inc. (SES)

With more than a hint of an Irish brogue, Steve Cowman sounds like he has found a home in what he calls the solar capital of the Southwest.

The CEO of Stirling Energy Systems Inc. (SES) is enthused about the prospects for an expanding solar energy industry, the strategic access to his market that Phoenix provides, and the proactive reputation of the Greater Phoenix Economic Council. SES is a pioneer in the design and development of Concentrated Solar Power solutions.

Cowman joined the company in May 2008, after having worked for General Electric for 10 years, including eight in the United States. He’s been living in the U.S., mostly on the East Coast, for 12 of the past 20 years.

Barely a year after taking the helm of Stirling, and choosing Phoenix for its corporate headquarters, Cowman joined GPEC and sits on the economic development organization’s executive committee. Though a relative newcomer to the Valley, Cowman, who has a background in semiconductor engineering, had a longtime involvement with Intel, Motorola and Arizona State University.

With Stirling targeting markets in Nevada, New Mexico, California, Texas, and of course, Arizona, Cowman says of Phoenix, “I liked the location and the infrastructure.”

While Cowman was working in Dublin, GPEC dispatched a representative to his company to reinforce the story about what Phoenix offers.

“I was impressed with the people and with the vision they have to reverse the trend of losing engineering and manufacturing-intensive businesses in the Valley,” Cowman says. “I like GPEC, and I want to stay here and grow here.”

Cowman applauds the efforts of GPEC to attract more solar energy businesses.

“A number of companies are looking to relocate their design or manufacturing operations to the Phoenix area,” he says. “The larger solar infrastructure we build in the Valley, the better it is for companies like Stirling. It improves the gene pool we can all draw from and helps with collaborative programs.”
In addition to marketing and promoting the Phoenix area from coast to coast, GPEC also gets into what Cowan refers to the “hard stuff,” pushing legislation that helps the solar industry.

On the lost manufacturing jobs, Cowman says, “These jobs are not going overseas. A lot of them are going to places like Nevada and New Mexico.
Arizona has some catching up to do, and GPEC is doing that. GPEC is trying to make the Valley look more attractive, and state officials need to wake up to the reality that we have a competitive disadvantage.”

www.stirlingenergy.com

Arizona Business Magazine

February 2010

ValleyForward

Valley Forward: Lynn Paige

Lynn Paige
CEO
PerfectPower
www.perfectpowernetwork.com

When Lynn Paige, CEO of PerfectPower in Phoenix, first joined the company six years ago she lacked a background in solar energy. But it didn’t take her long to see the light.

She was brought in to grow the company, which designs and installs solar energy systems, focusing primarily on Arizona.

“I quickly fell in love with the solar industry,” Paige says. “It’s been a six-year crash course.”

Paige, who has been a member of Valley Forward since 2005, brought an accounting degree, an MBA and some 30 years of business experience to PerfectPower. She established solid management systems, hired a professional sales team, facilitated an alliance with a professional training group and instituted strict guidelines for working with commercial and residential clients.

Although Arizona is the sunshine capital of the country, it’s also one of the nation’s heat capitals, which presents a bit of challenge for solar, as well as other energy industries.

“Heat de-rates a solar system, which means it produces less electricity than the same system would in, for example, Kansas City,” Paige says. “Our big goal at PerfectPower is to figure out a way to design a system around that heat factor that will produce more kilowatt hours than it would otherwise. We’ll be using the sun to do that.”

Yet another challenge is convincing consumers that solar energy is cost effective.

“People do not believe that solar is less expensive than producing electricity through nuclear or coal plants,” Paige says. “It pays for itself in a short time with federal and utility incentives and tax credits. There’s really no excuse today for anyone not to be using solar.”

For a commercial customer, solar would pay for itself in 18 months. For residential, depending on the size and type of system, the break-even point is three to seven years, Paige says.

“If you’re not using solar, at the end of seven years you’re still paying the utility company,” she says. “With solar, at the end of seven years you could have all of your energy for free. It’s a no-brainer. I’ve had solar at my home for three years and I have no energy bills. I can’t tell you how liberating that is. It’s kind of heady to be your own little power plant. It’s really a neat thing.”

What’s more, solar improves Arizona’s quality of life.

“It’s cleaner and it produces a steady line of electricity — no sporadic spikes,” Paige says.

man sitting in chair in front of office window

CEO Series: Steve Cowman

Steve Cowman
Appointed CEO and Board Member, Stirling Energy Systems (SES)

How has the recession affected the alternative energy industry?
It’s had a major impact on the solar industry and the renewable energy industry on two fronts. First of all, there are a lot of solar companies that are not going to make it through the current credit crisis because they are going to run out of capital. … You need to have a pretty strong balance sheet at the moment and you need to have a pretty strong parental structure to support you through this. That’s not just solar — that’s a lot of the renewable companies.

The second issue is getting the funding for the projects themselves. That is a huge challenge because these projects are typically between half a billion and a billion dollars in terms of capital requirement. … What’s really impressed me about the Obama Administration and the DOE (Department of Energy) is that they recognize that there is a technical challenge here given where the credit markets are. They also recognize that renewable energy has the real potential to be competitive in price with fossil fuel after three to five years. But to do that (companies) need some help to actually get there. I think the stimulus package, as it’s been outlined, has tremendous potential to help the renewable (industry) in general and the solar (industry) in particular.

Why is Arizona behind other states in developing solar energy?
Arizona is a great state and Phoenix has clearly grown, but it’s grown on the back of a particular focus … real estate, the holiday center, the golf complexes. … It hasn’t really focused on the industrial side of it. I think if you look at what has actually happened to Phoenix over the past 10 to 15 years, there’s been a slow erosion of its industrial and technological base. And some of the very large companies like Motorola, ON Semiconductor, Intel … have significantly slimmed down or have actually outsourced. And they haven’t just outsourced overseas. …

They’ve moved to New Mexico, they’ve moved to Nevada, they’ve moved to California. I think, to be honest, Arizona fell asleep at the wheel. … (it) didn’t really provide the right type of incentives, and I think it has paid the price.

However, I would say that in the last year, there’s been a shock of reality. Obviously, Arizona has seen the biggest collapse in housing prices. It saw the biggest run-up and it saw the biggest collapse, as well. I think of GPEC (Greater Phoenix Economic Council) as being particularly proactive in terms of trying to bring that awareness, in terms of trying to attract (companies). … That (Arizona) Senate bill (1403) that just went through … is significant, but it won’t fix the problem. But, it does show a culture change in the Arizona Legislature in terms of wanting to be more proactive about attracting inward investment at this time.

What do governments have to do in order to get more companies to turn to alternative energy?
There are two things the state has started to do. The first thing they’ve done is they are mandating renewable targets. So, they are mandating to the utility companies that they must have a certain percentage of their power come from renewables. And if there’s not, there will be financial penalties. That’s the stick, if you like. And the carrot that they are actually providing is the stimulus package to help the renewable companies to get the projects in the ground. So they’ve got those two things running parallel.

What do you see in the future for the alternative energy industry?
The potential is tremendous. You have a fantastic manufacturing and engineering base here. …  You have a large number of really blue chip, Fortune 100 U.S. multinationals that have established a really strong technology base here. You have Arizona State University that has some fantastic programs, and you have a great environment for people to live in. So, it’s a really attractive place and I have to think that the future will be really good. … (However) there are companies who have worldwide headquarters here but do no manufacturing here — who shall remain anonymous. So, the real challenge for Arizona is how do you get those companies to increase their level of vertical integration and move beyond just having headquarter functions to having manufacturing and design (here)?

What kind of leadership team works best for a company like Stirling?
Ideally, you want someone who brings a well-honed skill set. You want someone who has experience in, hopefully, one or two different areas, someone who has good interpersonal skills. … So it’s your personality, it’s your attitude. … If you have a can-do, we can knock down any barrier to make it work (attitude), you will make it work. … So what’s the ideal executive? The answer is there is not an ideal executive. What you want is a good mix.

    Vital Stats



  • Appointed CEO of Stirling Energy Systems in June 2008
  • Held numerous senior management positions at Greenstar Ireland, General Electric, Harris Corporation, General Semiconductor, Vishay Intertechnology, Volex Europe.
  • Earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree in engineering from the University College, Dublin and Sheffield University; master’s degree in management science from Trinity College Dublin
  • www.stirlingenergy.com