A new report shows that the U.S. is central to the global solar supply chain. In 2010, U.S. solar firms achieved a positive trade flow of $1.9 billion globally according to SEIA® and GTM Research's U.S. Solar Energy Trade Assessment 2011. Photovoltaic (PV) components accounted for more than 99 percent of the year's exports, with solar heating and cooling (SHC) claiming the remainder of the positive balance. For the U.S. PV manufacturing industry, 2010 was a record year. Exports totaled more than $5.6 billion, with PV polysilicon feedstock and capital equipment leading all components at $2.5 billion and $1.4 billion respectively. The leading destinations for U.S.-sourced PV components were China and Germany. Meanwhile, U.S. imports of PV products totaled $3.7 billion, the majority of which ($2.4 billion) came from procurement of modules assembled overseas. China and Mexico were the top two sources of PV goods headed to the U.S. in 2010. Furthermore, the U.S. was a net exporter of solar products to China last year by more than $240 million. The U.S. primarily sold capital equipment and PV polysilicon to China, while China primarily sold PV modules to the U.S.
Despite a struggling domestic economy, the US solar photovoltaic (PV) market will double in 2011, according to the latest Solarbuzz® United States PV Market Report. 2011 growth rates vary significantly by market segment, an outcome of the vast movements in incentives and policies at the federal, state and local government level over the past 12 months. “With rapid declines in factory gate prices over the past eight weeks as manufacturers and distributors focus on depleting module inventories, demand has picked up across residential, corporate and government segments,” noted Craig Stevens, President of Solarbuzz. “This acceleration is being supplemented by explosive utility demand and the rush to install before federal cash grants are scheduled to expire at the end of the year.” The US is forecast to become the third-largest solar photovoltaic market, behind Germany and Italy in 2011. While the US currently comprises 5% of the world PV market, Solarbuzz projects an increase to 12% by 2015.
The U.S. government is growing into one of the most important cleantech customers. It’s been investing and proselytizing the value of clean power, biofuels and energy efficiency products and services for job creation, energy security and (insert your favorite cliché here). And it’s a natural extension that it also should set an example as a major consumer of these technologies. The U.S. Defense Department, which uses 80 percent of the energy consumed by the federal government, is increasing its efforts to fund and use cleantech. A lot of these efforts are centered on drafting purchase plans and testing technologies in the field and one thing to consider is that larger companies might have an easier time convincing the military to buy than startups. Click here for a list of some of the military’s plans and projects.
Evergreen Solar shares are down more than 60% Monday after the company filed a Chapter 11 bankruptcy in federal court in Delaware. The stock seems likely to expire worthless. In connection with the filing, the struggling solar company said it reached a deal with holders of more than 70% of its outstanding 13% convertible senior secured notes to start a restructuring process that will include the sales of the company’s String Ribbon silicon wafer technology business. A company created by the noteholders called ES Purchaser will serve as a stalking horse bidder for the company’s assets. Evergreen said day-to-day operations will go on, and that it will continue to pay suppliers and vendors. As part of the reorganization, the company will cut 65 jobs in the U.S. and Europe, including suspension of operations at its Midland, Michigan plant. Here’s the nut of the story for investors: Evergreen said that “based upon the estimated value of the company’s assets, the assets are expected to be insufficient to satisfy all its obligations to its creditors. Accordingly, it is expected that no distributions will be made to holders of common stock and the common stock will be extinguished upon consummation of the Chapter 11 plan.”
The best use of the sun's energy is to make hydrogen, according to a Duke University researcher. Engineer Nico Hotz earlier this week detailed results from his research around a rooftop solar panel that generates hydrogen from the sun's heat. The hydrogen gas--which is made by breaking off hydrogen atoms from a water solution--can be stored and used to make electricity in a fuel cell. In his experiment, Hotz determined that his system creates more usable energy than solar photovoltaic panels which convert sunlight directly into electricity. He calculated the cost could be lower, too. There have been research efforts--and a commercial product from a company called Nanoptek--to make hydrogen from sunlight. Hotz's system, though, uses a new technique that relies on methanol, also known as wood alcohol, and a nano-engineered catalyst. Under the glass of Hotz's solar collector are copper tubes, coated with aluminum and aluminum oxide, which carry water and methanol. Once the liquid is heated to a sufficient temperature, a catalyst is added to cause hydrogen atoms to break off. That hydrogen gas is then piped and pressured for storage in a tank, where it can be drawn on to make electricity in a fuel cell.
They can look benign from a distance - solar panels glistening in the sun or turbines gently churning with the breeze to produce electricity for hundreds of thousands of homes. But building and maintaining them can be hazardous. Accidents involving wind turbines alone have tripled in the past decade, and watchdog groups fear incidents could skyrocket further - placing more workers and even bystanders in harm's way - because a surge in projects requires hiring hordes of new and often inexperienced workers. Last year, the solar industry grew 67 percent and doubled its employment in the U.S. to 100,000 workers, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. The wind industry supports more than 75,000 jobs. "We're hearing about more and more incidents," said Lisa Linowes, executive director of watchdog organization Industrial Wind Action Group. "One of these days, a turbine's going to fall on someone." Many wind turbine technicians work in a bathroom-size space 20 stories above ground surrounded by high-voltage electrical equipment. Some inspect turbine blades while suspended alongside them, on sites whipped by strong winds. Components can weigh more than 90 tons.
According to a report out on Wednesday morning from Dow Jones VentureSource, with analysis by Ernst & Young, cleantech venture capital investing dropped 44 percent to $1.1 billion, compared to the same quarter a year ago. The number of cleantech VC deals were also down by 12 percent to 68 for the quarter. Similar numbers were reported by the Cleantech Group last month, which found that cleantech VC investing had dropped by a third in the second quarter compared to the same quarter last year. The second quarter fall follows some mixed signals for cleantech VC investing from the first quarter of the year, but also some solid signs that cleantech investors have been pulling back on new investments. While the first quarter of the year produced an almost record amount of cleantech VC funding according to numbers from the Cleantech group, a deeper dive into those numbers revealed that the bulk of those fundings were follow-on rounds for capital-intensive companies like Miasole, BrightSource, Fisker Automotive, and Bloom Energy. However, Dow Jones VentureSource reported first quarter numbers more conservatively than the Cleantech Group, at actually 8 percent lower than today’s second-quarter numbers.
The worldwide renewable energy boom continues. Now, the euphoria has also arrived in the American solar market. This is what DEGERenergie reports from the Intersolar North America. What surprises recently is the diversity of the demand in the United States. Not only potential investors and solar park operators were interested in information about the most efficient technology DEGERenergie offers for medium and large-scale solar projects – more than ever, specific inquiries also came from individuals wanting to benefit from the advantages of MLD tracking. Michael Heck, Vice President Marketing & Sales at DEGERenergie, puts it like this: "The issue of self-supply is rapidly gaining importance – not only in Germany."
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