China-Europe fight over solar ends with whimper

The European Commission’s investigation of solar-panel imports from China was the world’s biggest antidumping case ever when it began in September, signaling a new willingness in Brussels to challenge China’s extensive assistance to favored export-oriented industries.

But the case ended with a whimper Saturday and illuminated deep divisions in Europe — and how good the Chinese are at exploiting those differences. The European Commission said Saturday that it had settled the case in exchange for a pledge from China not to export solar panels for less than 74 cents a watt, a price about 25 percent lower even than when the case began. The commission also decided to forgo imposing the steep tariffs on Chinese solar panels it had threatened.

The deal could end up strengthening the fractured Chinese solar panel industry and sending a wave of cheaper Chinese panels to the United States.

Trade experts said the European Commission’s meager outcome, in a case covering 6 percent of China’s exports to Europe, showed that while Brussels might have had a strong case in terms of law or economics, it was fatally weak from the beginning at the political level. Those political weaknesses increased as China’s leaders traveled repeatedly to European capitals and lobbied aggressively and successfully to divide Europe on the issue.

European makers of solar panels were furious about receiving so little after a year of litigation, and vowed to sue. The European settlement also undermined Obama administration officials, who had taken a tough stance toward China on solar panel trade and had tried for months to persuade European leaders to side with them.

EU, China near deal on solar panel dispute

The European Union and China are near a settlement in their dispute over solar panel imports, press reports said Thursday, but Europeans manufacturers challenged the figures involved as still harmful to their business.

The Handelsblatt business daily said negotiators were ready to set a minimum price on imported Chinese solar panels at 57 cents per watt of power they produced.

This price would apply to the first seven gigawatts of solar panels imported.

Any panels imported above the seven gigawatt quota would then incur an anti-dumping tariff of 47.6 percent, the German daily said, without specifying its sources.

EU officials declined to comment directly on the report and the figures given.

"Discussions are on-going at the highest level as both sides seek an amicable solution," EU Trade spokesman John Clancy said.

Volvo Invents a Solar Panel That Unfurls From the Car Trunk

Volvo is famous for favoring safety over style, making the selection of Synthesis Design + Architecture, best known for its sweeping, sci-fi inspired solutions, a bit of a surprise. The solar-powered pavilion is a stunning showcase for its new hybrid electricV60 model, and the parabolic platform is intended to highlight the sedate sedan’s impressive technological innovations at marketing events while charging it up for the ride to the next city.

Unlike many green design projects that tack on aesthetics like an aftermarket body kit, Synthesis was driven by them. Synthesis principal and USC professor Alvin Huang has been a long time researcher of “dynamic mesh relaxation”—a design approach pioneered by Frei Otto and amplified by computer science that is focused on the physical properties of dynamic materials and efficiently configuring them into complex, visually striking structures.

The design process involved digital and analog techniques—digital tools allowed for quick explorations of designs while physical models acted as proof of concepts for the carbon fiber frame, mesh surface, and artfully placed solar panels. The combination of the two styles of design equipped the team with an intuitive sense for what works to develop an attractive form that could stand up to the rigors of use in the field. “The iterative exchange between the parallel digital and analog models allowed us to further refine design technique, and perhaps more importantly, design intuition, in terms of achieving desired effects.” says Huang.

VA Selected for Nation's 2nd Offshore Wind Energy Lease Sale

Governor Bob McDonnell issued the following statement this morning following news that the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has selected an area off the coast of Virginia as the site of the nation's second offshore wind energy lease sale. On September 4th, the Department of the Interior will auction 112,799 acres offshore of the Commonwealth in a competitive lease sale. The area will be sold as one single lease and it is anticipated it will support 2000 megawatts of wind generation and enough electricity to power 700,000 homes.

"Today, the Department of the Interior's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management announced the formal date for the auction of lease blocks in federal waters off Virginia's outer continental shelf for the commercial development of offshore wind energy.  This will be only the second offshore wind energy lease sale in American history and it is an exciting and significant step in our  bipartisan effort to advance Virginia's ‘all-of-the-above' energy strategy. I want to thank Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and her team at BOEM for moving this project forward as part of a comprehensive approach toward meeting our nation's energy needs and creating more good jobs for our people.

"Earlier in our Administration we were pleased to accept the invitation of then Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to join the Department's Offshore Wind Consortium, and we worked with the Secretary on the ‘Smart from the Start' program.   Together with the General Assembly, we created the Virginia Offshore Wind Development Authority (VOWDA) to oversee the data gathering, research and planning that must be done to support offshore wind development off of Virginia's coast. As part of that effort we are currently working toward final approval of two offshore wind research leases.  

"Virginia's coast is ideal for wind development. The gradual slope of the Outer Continental Shelf and consistent offshore wind speeds make this a natural geographic location for the commercial utilization of offshore wind resources. At the same time, Virginia enjoys a robust commercial ship building industry poised to become the center of construction for the component parts needed to build the specialized ships, turbines and towers necessary for these upcoming leases, and potentially for additional future wind leases on the east coast.  This will result in millions of dollars in industrial activity and the creation of many new high-skilled jobs in our state.

Solar Energy Storage About To Take Off In Germany and California

Visitors to last week’s Intersolar North America conference in San Francisco could not help but notice the presence of a benign invader: energy storage vendors. Half the second-floor exhibition space at the Moscone West convention hall had been rented by energy storage companies.

According to Markus Elsaesser, CEO of Intersolar, the number of companies exhibiting energy storage technologies at Intersolar has increased from about a dozen just three years ago to more than 200 this year.

The surge in companies entering, or expanding into, the energy storage space is no accident. Bankruptcies, a panel supply glut, and falling feed-in tariff rates have shaken the PV industry. Panel and system manufacturers are looking for ways to grow earnings, and one likely new revenue source is energy storage. According to Elsaesser, the PV industry expects to boost revenue by $10 billion by 2017 globally with storage.

“The PV industry needs to look for future profit pools,” Markus Hoehner, founder of theInternational Battery and Energy Storage Alliance(IBESA), said at an Intersolar briefing. “When we look at the PV industry on the global level, most of it was feed-in tariff driven. It was about IRR [internal rate of return], making money out of the PV system. Now, due to the downturn in the feed-in tariff markets, and due to the much lower system cost, we’re talking about saving money.”

Homeowners in markets with high retail electricity rates, he said, are looking to shield themselves from rising energy costs with storage. Take the example of Germany. Matthias Vetter, a researcher with theFraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems(ISE), who also spoke at the briefing, said that he pays 26 euro cents ($0.34) per kilowatt-hour (kWh) for grid electricity in Germany.

Solar Impulse makes historic solar powered flight across U.S.

Solar Impulse has made history with the first aircraft to fly across the United States without a single drop of fuel. Instead, the innovative Solar Impulse HB-SIA prototype made its segmented journey using renewable solar power.

The ambitious coast-to-coast trip from NASA's Moffett Field in Mountain View, Calif., to John F. Kennedy Airport in New York City took two months to complete, landing safely on July 6.

The aircraft draws its power from 11,628 solar cells and has an average flying speed of 43 mph. Its maximum altitude is approximately 27,900 feet, while it boasts an extremely light carbon fiber structure and an enormous wingspan equal to that of an Airbus A340.

According to the project website, the solar powered HB-SIA was designed top to bottom to save energy, resist the hostile conditions facing the plane and pilot at high altitudes, and to marry weight restraints with the required strength.

The Flight Across America mission was steered by Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg, the Swiss pilots and founders of Solar Impulse. The two men took turns manning the single passenger cockpit as it made its way across the U.S. making stops in Phoenix, Dallas Fort Worth and Washington D.C. before reaching its final destination in New York.

China to Back Solar Panel Makers With 35 Gigawatt of Installs

China, the world’s biggest maker of solar panels, plans to increase fivefold its installed solar capacity to more than 35 gigawatt by 2015 to support an industry faced with declining profits, slowing exports and a supply glut.

The nation will add 10 gigawatt of solar-power capacity annually over the next three years, according to a statement from the State Council posted on the central government’s website today.

The move will help reduce the industry’s reliance on exports and ease oversupply that contributed to a 20 percent plunge in the average price of solar panels last year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. China will provide credit support to profitable photovoltaic manufacturers and encourage restructuring and overseas investment, according to the statement, which didn’t specify what period the government will consider to measure profitability.

Risen Energy Co. (300118) jumped 10 percent, its daily limit and the most since Feb. 18, to 6.71 yuan in Shenzhen trading. Hareon Solar Technology Co. (600401) rose as much as 6.8 percent and traded 4.6 percent higher to 6.49 yuan as of 1:25 p.m. in Shanghai.

“While the Chinese government is determined to boost the domestic market, it is not sufficient to eliminate oversupply,” said Wang Xiaoting, a Beijing-based analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance. “Panel prices will stay stable in 2013."

Intersolar North America

19,000 visitors visited to learn about the latest technology innovations, financing models, business best practices and policy and incentive programs that are contributing to the growth of the U.S. solar industry. Products from nearly 600 exhibitors from 22 countries were on display on all three levels of Moscone West, representing the entire system of solar technology and showcasing advances in solar cell and module technology, balance of system components, solar heating and cooling and energy storage. has once again partnered with Intersolar to bring all the industry news and exciting new products to our eMagazine and help our readers make sense of this key tradeshow. Here we have compiled a list of some product releases from this years show.

Check out our special Intersolar 2013 Newspage for Exhibitor news. 

Solar Power International: The Full Spectrum of Solar Opportunity

The solar energy industry is in high gear and at Solar Power International 2013 (SPI ’13), October 21-24, McCormick Place, Chicago, Illinois, participants can plug into the technologies, personal connections and professional insights that give rise to new business and learning opportunities.

Widely regarded as the can’t-miss industry event of the year, SPI draws over 15,000 professionals in solar energy and related fields, from 75+ countries. One in six attendees comes to this global event from outside the United States. Attendees include manufacturers, installers and contractors, distributors, engineering firms, utilities, government representatives and policy makers, investors and financiers, architects, builders and developers—anyone who needs to stay on top of the latest developments in solar energy.

Nearly 700 companies representing the entire solar industry spectrum exhibit on 300,000 net square feet of space. Exhibits highlight the latest in PV cells and modules; balance of systems; material and equipment suppliers; distributors; integrators; installers and solar service providers; thermal solar technologies; concentrating solar power (CSP) and solar thermal electric and concentrating PV (CPV); publications; and an additional array of products and services.

SPI presents a full range of opportunities to make connections in Chicago and throughout the solar energy industry. Build your network face to face in SPI’s general sessions, conference sessions, receptions and training workshops—or as you explore the dynamic exhibit floor.

SPI is presented by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA). Unlike other solar conferences, all proceeds support the expansion of the U.S. solar energy market through SEIA's and SEPA's year-round research and education activities, as well as SEIA's advocacy, research and communications efforts. Join SEIA or SEPA by October 18, 2013, to enjoy a membership discount on Solar Power International 2013 registration as well as many member benefits year round. For details on association membership, visit or

For networking, ideas, making deals and discovering opportunities, solar energy professionals head to one event: Solar Power International 2013.

Register today!

Marine energy technology leader Minesto develops world's first simulator for anchored flying underwater vehicles

Nordic marine energy technology leader Minesto has developed a simulator to aid the development of its Deep Green marine power plant. 

The simulator has been developed in-house by Minesto’s own research and development department, and is in essence based on two existing open source programs: one for commercial flight simulation and one for marine vehicle simulation.

The end result is an analysis and simulation tool called HAMoS, Hydrodynamic Analysis and Motion Simulation, believed to be the first in the world to simulate the movements of a flying tethered underwater vehicle. It will be used to predict how Minesto’s marine power plant, Deep Green, moves subsea in various ocean environments and depending on the plant’s design.

Minesto’s research, development and testing staff can change a number of variables in the power plant’s design to simulate and optimize its performance. The simulator can be used to predict Deep Green’s behaviour and power performance in different real-life site conditions (i.e. the strength and direction of the currents).

Deep Green resembles a sweeping underwater kite, comprised of a wing and a turbine, which is secured to the seabed with a tether and moves with high speed in an 8-shaped path in the tidal or ocean current. Deep Green produces 100% renewable tidal energy.

Obama calls for carbon cuts at power plants

Outlining a new climate change plan on a warm day in Washington, President Obama said Tuesday his State Department should not sign off on the Keystone XL oil pipeline if it increases greenhouse gas emissions.

"The national interest will be served only if the project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution," Obama said in a speech at Georgetown University.

Keystone is not part of the climate change plan that Obama said includes new rules to restrict "the relentless dumping" of carbon pollution from power plants, as well as the promotion of renewable energy sources and new energy-efficiency standards.

Warning that climate change threatens future generations, Obama told his college audience that "the question is not whether we need to act" because "the overwhelming judgement of science ... has put all that to rest."

The question is whether the nation has "the courage to act before it is too late," the president said.

Almost all of the president's plan involves executive actions that do not require congressional approval. Obama would have a difficult time getting climate change legislation through Congress, given a U.S. House run by Republicans and a Senate in which the GOP has enough members to mount effective filibusters.

Republicans and members of the energy industry criticized Obama's climate change plan, saying it will lead to higher utility bills and less development of reliable energy.

Solar Energy Spurs a Power Struggle

Disputes over the use of small-scale solar power are flaring across the nation, with utilities squaring off against solar-energy marketers over rules for the growing technology.

Until now, the fights have been mainly before state regulators. In California, Louisiana and Virginia, utilities have sought to cut what they claim are unfairly high payments they are required to make to owners of homes or larger buildings with solar systems.

At issue in an Iowa lawsuit is whether solar-system marketers can sell electricity in territories where local utilities have exclusive rights to customers. Such an arrangement isn't allowed or is under dispute in many states, limiting solar firms to sales of panels to homeowners and businesses.

But if they win in Iowa, it could pave the way for fledgling solar industries to expand in other states. The case is being watched closely elsewhere in the Midwest, where policies granting utilities a monopoly on electricity service are one reason a solar-construction boom hasn't occurred, unlike in states such as California and New Jersey.

Utilities "are proponents of renewable energy," said Barry Shear, president of Iowa's Eagle Point Solar LLC, but only "if they own the energy assets and the electrons flow through their grid and they can bill you."

In March, an Iowa District Court judge said Mr. Shear's 18-employee company could sign power-purchase contracts in the Dubuque territory of Alliant Energy Corp., one of the state's largest utilities. Under the disputed deal, Eagle Point would own solar panels on the roof of a Dubuque municipal building and sell power to the city at a rate similar to Alliant's.

Small Wind Power Systems Will Surpass $700 Million in Annual Revenue by 2018

Although the market for small wind power systems has been in existence for 30 years, there are many signs that the industry is reaching a critical juncture. The past 18 months have seen a number of bankruptcies and acquisitions among small wind turbine manufacturers. Nevertheless, the overall opportunity for small wind power remains strong across a variety of applications in both developed and developing countries. According to a recent report from Navigant Research, the worldwide market for small wind systems will reach $723 million by 2018, with $3.3 billion in cumulative sales from 2013 through 2018.

"Small wind is growing primarily as a result of state and national incentives, including a burgeoning market in the United Kingdom," says Dexter Gauntlett, research analyst with Navigant Research. "The question is: Can the small wind turbine industry grow to more than just a niche market, and attract the investment required to drive down costs? Given the precipitous price declines for solar photovoltaic modules, distributed solar PV is increasingly competitive with small wind."

Alternative Energy ETFs Battle For Inflows: PBW vs. TAN

Alternative energy has been a hot button issue for the last 50 year's and investors have always found a way to play this heated market. In the last decade, there has been the launch of a number of ETFs that offer a specialized basket of products for alternative energy exposure, with 12 of these funds still in operation today. Below we outline two green energy ETFs that have been battling for investor attention since inception: Powershares WilderHill Clean Energy Portfolio (PBW, A) and Guggenheim Solar ETF  (TAN, C+).

Holding between $172 million and $107 million in total assets under management each, these funds are easily the largest green energy funds currently on the market. PBW holds a mix of companies that are focused on greener and generally renewable sources of energy, as well as technologies that facilitate cleaner energy. TAN, on the other hand, is aimed specifically at the solar power industry, investing in companies that produce equipment, fabricate solar panels, or provide a direct service to this market. Newer to the market, TAN started trading in spring 2008, while PBW was already three years into the market.

Both funds were hammered in the years following the financial crash, with record outflows in PBW while TAN saw its first few years since inception with negative returns. A number of funds closed during this three-year window, but it is a testament to these funds that they were able to remain in operation.

While alternative energy ETFs have had a difficult few years, with the markets coming out of their long-term lull, these ETFs have seen a massive influx of funding and returns. Alternative energy is moving back into the spotlight as economies around the world stabilize, and investors should see this strong trend continue as long as the market remains on track.

Siemens pulls plug on last solar energy business

German industrial conglomerate Siemens (SIEGn.DE) is shutting down the last of its solar energy businesses after it failed to find a buyer, the company said on Monday.

Confirming a report in German newspaper Handelsblatt, a spokesman for Siemens said the group would close Solel by early next year. The Israeli business has accumulated losses of around 1 billion euros ($1.33 billion) since Siemens bought it in 2009, including a write-off of the entire purchase price.

Siemens has spent seven months trying to sell Solel, which makes components used in solar-thermal power stations. Some 280 employees will be affected by the closure, most of them in Israel.

The cost will run into the mid-double digit millions of euros, according to Siemens.

Once a promising new field with strong growth rates, the solar energy industry is in sharp decline in Germany as Chinese manufacturers flood the global market with cheaper panels and components.

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