Thin-Film Solar Panel Maker Konarka Files for Bankruptcy

Konarka Technologies Inc., the thin-film solar panel manufacturer backed by Chevron Corp. (CVX) (CVX) , Draper Fisher Jurvetson and New Enterprise Associates Inc., filed for bankruptcy in Massachusetts. “Konarka has been unable to obtain additional financing, and given its current financial condition, it is unable to continue operations,” Howard Berke, chief executive officer of the Lowell, Massachusetts-based company, said yesterday in a statement. Konarka listed $100,000 to $500,000 in assets and $10 million to $50 million in debt in its Chapter 7 filing yesterday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Worcester, Massachusetts. Konarka NB Holdings LLC, in a separate filing, listed $1 million to $10 million in assets and as much as $50,000 in debt.

Sharp Hits Concentrator Solar Cell Efficiency Record, 43.5%

Sharp has developed solar cells that match the concentrator solar cell efficiency world record set by Solar Junction last year. The technology’s staggering 43.5% efficiency from a triple-junction compound solar cell is 1.2% higher than the efficiency of the cells holding the record before March of 2011 (when Solar Junction busted that record). The conversion efficiency was actually confirmed by the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy in April 2012 (for some reason, these companies and researchers don’t let us know about the new records for months sometimes). “Compound solar cells utilize photo-absorption layers made from compounds consisting of two or more elements, such as indium and gallium,” Sharp writes. “The basic structure of this latest triple-junction compound solar cell uses Sharp’s proprietary technology that enables efficient stacking of the three photo-absorption layers, with InGaAs (indium gallium arsenide) as the bottom layer.”  

German solar energy industry reaches new milestone over the weekend

Germany’s Renewable Energy Industry (IWR) announced that over the weekend the country’s solar energy infrastructure met approximately 50% of the country’s energy demand. The IWR notes that more than 22 gigawatts of solar energy per hour was generated by the country’s various alternative energy systems and fed into the energy grid. This is comparable to the energy generated by 20 nuclear power plants operating at full capacity. This marks a new record for Germany and sets the bar higher for the global solar energy industry   Government officials claim that this milestone is proof of the viability of solar energy. The fact that the country was able to meet half of its energy needs through the use of solar power during the weekend is being considered a major accomplishment. The German solar energy industry continues to break records and show that alternative energy should be taken more seriously by developed countries.

Obama urges Congress to extend clean-energy tax credits

From a wind-power factory in this battleground state, President Obama urged Congress to extend tax credits he said would save jobs in the field of clean-energy production. Obama said continuing the production tax credit would save 37,000 jobs that would otherwise be at risk, an estimate his aides based on reports from industry officials. "If Congress doesn't act, companies like this one will take a hit. Jobs will be lost. That's not a guess. That's a fact," Obama said Thursday as he visited TPI Composites, a wind turbine blade manufacturer based in a town that's home to a closed Maytag factory. "We can't let that happen. We can't walk away from these jobs." The production tax credit, created in 1992 and extended nearly continuously since then, gives wind farms a credit of 2.2 cents per kilowatt-hour of energy produced. Industry advocates said it spurred $15.5 billion a year in private investment in the U.S. in the last five years. The credit is scheduled to expire at the end of the year.

New inexpensive, environmentally friendly solar cell shines with potential

The limitations of conventional and current solar cells include high production cost, low operating efficiency and durability, and many cells rely on toxic and scarce materials. Northwestern University researchers have developed a new solar cell that, in principle, will minimize all of these solar energy technology limitations. In particular, the device is the first to solve the problem of the Grätzel cell, a promising low-cost and environmentally friendly solar cell with a significant disadvantage: it leaks. The dye-sensitized cell's electrolyte is made of an organic liquid, which can leak and corrode the solar cell itself. The Northwestern cell exhibits the highest conversion efficiency (approximately 10.2 percent) so far reported for a solid-state solar cell equipped with a dye sensitizer. This value is close to the highest reported performance for a Grätzel cell, approximately 11 to 12 percent. (Conventional solar cells made from highly purified silicon can convert roughly 20 percent of incoming sunlight.)

Next-gen solar makers still finding funding

Despite the fact that solar panels are quickly becoming a commodity — cheap and uniform — it looks like investors are still willing to put a small amount of funding into the next-generation of solar equipment. Three startup solar makers have raised funds over the past week or so — two that make concentrating solar technology and one that makes crystalline silicon solar cells. Last week Solexel, which uses silicon gas to make solar wafers, closed on $25 million in funding, according to a filing. Bloomberg reported on the deal and said that the funds would be used to build a pilot plant in California, which would be a testing ground for a larger commercial plant in Malaysia. Solar panel maker SunPower participated in the round, as did venture investors Kleiner Perkins, Technology Partners and DAG Ventures, reported Bloomberg.

Commerce Preliminarily Finds Dumping of Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaic Cells, Whether or Not Assembled into Modules from the People's Republic of China

On May 17, 2012, the Department of Commerce (Commerce) announced its affirmative preliminary determination in the antidumping duty (AD) investigation of imports of crystalline silicon photovoltaic cells, whether or not assembled into modules (solar cells) from the People’s Republic of China (China). For the purpose of AD investigations, dumping occurs when a foreign company sells a product in the United States at less than fair value. Commerce preliminarily determined that Chinese producers/exporters sold solar cells in the United States at dumping margins ranging from 31.14 percent to 249.96 percent. Check out our Newspage for statements and reaction coming in from across the industry.

Scientists to harness solar energy in space

Solar power from space could be a valuable source of renewable energy, thanks to an innovative research. Researchers at the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, have already tested equipment that would provide a platform for solar panels to collect the energy and allow it to be transferred back to earth through microwaves or lasers. This unique development would provide a reliable source of power and allow valuable energy to be sent to remote areas in the world, providing power to disaster zones or outlying areas that are difficult to reach by traditional means. "Space provides a fantastic source for collecting solar power and we have the advantage of being able to gather it regardless of the time of the day or indeed the weather conditions," said Massimiliano Vasile, mechanical and aerospace engineer at Strathclyde, who is leading the research, according to a university statement.

Asia Report: Solar Dumping Announcement Set for May 17

Seven months after a trade investigation was launched, American solar companies and Chinese solar manufacturers will finally get a clear picture of the challenges ahead. SolarWorld’s American operation led the filing of the complaint in October, making the case that Chinese manufacturers were getting an unfair level of subsidies from their government and they were then illegally dumping those products into the American market. The first phase of the ruling came down in March, and in that the Department of Commerce found an illegal level of subsidies. However, it preliminarily set the tariffs at between 2.9 and 4.73 percent. A determination on the second of the two tariffs is set to be made on May 16 and announced on May 17. The history of international trade disputes suggests that the anti-dumping tariff, if one is set, is generally higher than the countervailing duty that measures the level of subsidies.

U.S., India glimpse a bright future together in solar power

There are few places in the world where the opportunity for solar power is more blindingly obvious than India. There are also few industries where the possibility of collaboration between India and the United States is more tantalizing. But while India’s solar industry is finally taking off, massive hurdles must be overcome before it can make a meaningful contribution to the country’s rapidly growing power needs, experts and business leaders say. “India is a very important market for the solar industry, one of the top three markets worldwide,” said Jayesh Goyal of California-based concentrated solar power technology provider Areva Solar. “The general view is that India will reach the 3 percent target before 2022.” The logic for the Indian solar sector appears almost irrefutable.

Solar-Powered Catamaran completes record-setting circumnavigation

Turanor PlanetSolar, a futuristic-looking 100-foot catamaran, on Friday became the first vessel to have circumnavigated the planet exclusively on power generated by the sun. The voyage, which began and ended in Monaco, lasted 19-plus months and included layovers in 28 countries, which were designed to promote the importance of solar energy.   Traveling on an equatorial route to take advantage of abundant sunshine, Turanor PlanetSolar covered more than 37,000 miles and set multiple Guinness World Records. The five-man crew enjoyed stops in such destinations as Tangier, Miami, Cancun, the Galapagos Islands, French Polynesia, Brisbane, Hong Kong, Singapore, Bombay, Abu Dhabi and Doha.  

New Study Shows US Solar Energy Could Employ Hundreds of Thousands of Americans by 2020

A new independent research report released today by the Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, found that solar energy is following the same path to commercialization as other traditional energy sources spurred by federal incentives. The study, titled "Assessment of Incentives and Employment Impacts of Solar Industry Deployment," also estimates that the U.S. solar industry could employ hundreds of thousands of Americans by the end of the decade. Like oil, coal, natural gas, nuclear, and all other traditional energy sources, the Baker Center finds, solar has received support from the federal government to promote its usage in order to drive our economy. In fact, according to the report, diffusion of solar energy technology in the energy markets is very similar to the paths that many American industries have traveled to become mainstream. Unlike more mature technologies, however, that continue to receive subsidies, solar energy is currently in a very early phase of its growth trajectory.

SolarCity to file for an IPO

Despite the series of withdrawals of greentech IPOs this month, solar rooftop installer SolarCity announced on Monday that it is planning for an IPO. The company says it filed its IPO registration on April 26, and is waiting for the documents to be reviewed and approved by the SEC. A SolarCity IPO has been an open secret for the past few months and a report in Bloomberg in February said that an IPO could value SolarCity at more than $1.5 billion. Back in February SolarCity also raised $85 million from investors like Silver Lake Kraftwerk to expand its rapidly growing solar rooftop empire. Overall, SolarCity has raised just over $200 million in venture capital, company spokesman Jonathan Bass told us back in February.

Donald Trump to Scotland: Abandon 'monstrous' wind farm plans

Donald Trump swept into Scotland's parliament on Wednesday to demand the country end plans for an offshore wind farm he fears will spoil the view at his exclusive new $1.2-billion golf resort. In a typically blunt display, the property tycoon told an inquiry into renewable energy to stop the wind power efforts in the country's north. "Scotland, if you pursue this policy of these monstrous turbines, Scotland will go broke," he said. "They are ugly, they are noisy and they are dangerous. If Scotland does this, Scotland will be in serious trouble and will lose tourism to places like Ireland, and they are laughing at us." When challenged to produce hard evidence about his claims on the negative impact of turbines, Trump said: "I am the evidence, I am a world-class expert in tourism." The public gallery burst into laughter.

World's first canal-based solar power project in Gujarat

This project has been developed by Gujarat State Electricity Corporation Limited (GSECL), with full support from Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Limited (SSNNL) which is the nodal agency behind construction of the Naramda canal that brought agricultural prosperity to the State. The engineering, procurement and construction contract for the project has been awarded to Sun Edison, a subsidiary of US-based global solar energy player, MEMC. The 750 metre stretch of the canal will generate 1.6 million units of clean electricity per year, as well as prevent evaporation of 900,000 litres of water per year from the canal. Today, Gujarat has about 458 kilometres of open main canal, while the total canal length including sub-branches is about 19,000 kilometres; the final aim of SSNNL is to construct a total of 85,000 kilometres of canal network. Assuming a utilization of only 10% of the existing canal network of 19,000 kilometres, it is estimated that 2,200 megawatts of solar power generating capacity can be installed. This implies that 11,000 acres of land which would otherwise be needed to site solar panels as well as 20 billion litres of water per year can be potentially conserved.

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