Solar Brazil

Solar market hitting new heights, as costs keep dropping

The solar market is growing at an unprecedented rate, with a possibility that there could be 700 GW of installed PV across the world by 2020, according to a new report from SolarPower Europe.

There is great reason to be excited within the solar industry, after experiencing a record breaking year in 2015, which saw the total global capacity of solar PV reach 229 GW. More than 50 GW was installed in 2015 alone, and SolarPower Europe’s new report Global Market Outlook for Solar Power 2016-2020 predicts that another record-breaking year is in store, during which more than 60 GW will be installed, although demand in Europe is wavering.

The report predicts that 62 GW of capacity is likely to be installed across the world in 2016, but that most of this will be in Asian markets. China is the biggest driver of these capacity increases, where 7 GW of solar was installed in Q1 of 2016 alone.

Unfortunately, similar trends cannot be found in Europe. In fact, although the region became the first in the world to pass 100 GW of installed PV in 2015, amid 8.2 GW of PV being installed on the continent, SolarPower Europe expects demand to decrease in 2016.

“While this is the first upward trend since 2011, it is likely that demand in the European continent will slow down, primarily due to the termination of support for utility-scale solar in the U.K.,” commented SolarPower Europe CEO, James Watson. “What European solar needs now is the right electricity market design.”

Despite the poor outlook for 2016, the report did anticipate that Europe will return to “a growth path,” by 2017.

Costs keep falling

One of the great takeaways from 2015 was the falling price of electricity generated from solar. That trend has continued into 2016, with a solar bid as low as 2.99 cents per KWh in a recent bid in Dubai. This has seen solar become one of the most cost-effective power generation technologies, and looks set to continue into the future.

“Solar power is increasingly cost-competitive with fossil fuels and distributed solar is cheaper than retail electricity in many countries,” said Michael Schmela, executive advisor of SolarPower Europe and lead author of the report. “In 2016, solar also became cheaper than on-shore wind power in parts of the globe.”

These trends have seen SolarPower Europe up its estimates for future PV installations from the forecasts it presented last year. The estimate in the Global Market Outlook 2015-2019 was that there would be 450 GW of installed PV by 2019, but the current report forecasts that 516 GW of installed PV will be the most likely scenario for 2019.

“Solar is booming and continues to break records in many parts of the world, which gives us reasons to believe 700 GW globally installed solar power is possible by 2020,” said President of SolarPower Europe Oliver Schafer. However, for this to be the case, a stable regulatory environment that understands renewable energy is needed.

Picture: Brazil Solar Park 254 MW
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solar assets acquisition

Sunrock Investments reaches milestone: over €50 million of solar assets

Amsterdam based Sunrock Investments has realised the acquisition of a 3.0MW portfolio of operational solar rooftop projects in Flanders, Belgium. This acquisition follows shortly on the acquisition of a 6.2MW portfolio in February this year. The projects in the 3.0MW portfolio have an aggregated asset value of EUR 8M and were sold by the Belgian solar developer Ecorus. The projects are operational since 2011. The portfolio will directly add value to the existing portfolio of sustainable energy projects.

Sunrock Investments has an extensive track record in solar investments, project management and project development. This acquisition is the next step to ramp up the solar portfolio to EUR 100 million in asset value in 2016. Sunrock Investments currently holds a solar portfolio of EUR 53 million assets under management in Italy, Belgium and The Netherlands.

Ecorus is a well-known solar developer active in Belgium and the Netherlands. The company develops projects for companies, municipalities and housing cooperatives from scratch to exploitation.

Investment manager of Sunrock Investments Floris Leuftink commented: “This portfolio had been on our radar screen for some time and we are delighted to announce the successful acquisition. Thanks to our outstanding relationship with Ecorus and the proven quality of these projects the deal was closed after a smooth process. We expect this acquisition to be the start of a further cooperation between Ecorus as project developer and Sunrock Investments as investor for the long term. Sunrock Investments aims to further grow this year by EUR 50 million of solar assets in our target markets.”

Sunrock Investments is currently structuring a solar investment vehicle which will acquire operational solar assets within Europe with proven track record. With the fund Sunrock Investments will broaden its investor base and accelerate its portfolio growth.

Picture: One of the acquired rooftop projects, located in Flanders, Belgium.

Sunrock Investments

Sunrock Investments acquires a 6.2 MW operational solar rooftop portfolio

The Amsterdam based Sunrock Investments completed an acquisition of a 6.2 MW portfolio of operational solar rooftop projects. The projects, with an aggregated asset value of EUR 15M are located in Flanders, Belgium.

Sunrock has an extensive track record in pan-European solar investments, project development, asset finance and project management. The recent acquisition of an operational 6.2 MW portfolio is the next step to ramp up the portfolio to EUR 100m in asset value in 2016. Sunrock currently holds a solar portfolio of EUR 45 million assets under management in Italy, Belgium and The Netherlands.

Managing director of Sunrock Investments Willem le Conge Kleyn commented: “The newly acquired assets are a welcome addition to our portfolio and perfectly fit our ambitious expansion plans. We aim to further grow by a minimum of EUR 55 million of solar assets in 2016 in our target markets.”

Sunrock Investments targets operational solar assets between 1 and 15 MW in Europe and is currently also developing several ground mounted and rooftop solar systems in its home country, the Netherlands.

Solar Investment 2015

Solar investment tops US$160 billion in 2015 despite oil price plunge, says BNEF

Global investment in solar energy in 2015 reached a record US$161.5 billion off the back of 57GW of PV installations, according to the latest data from Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF).

Total renewable investment for the year hit US$329 billion, up US$13 billion on the previous year. The US and China combined to provide more than half of that overall figure.

More startling than the growth figures is that this commitment to renewables has continued to ratchet up while fossil fuel prices have plummeted. Oil prices have more than halved in two year.

“These figures are a stunning riposte to all those who expected clean energy investment to stall on falling oil and gas prices,” said Michael Liebreich, chairman of the advisory board at BNEF. “They highlight the improving cost competitiveness of solar and wind power, driven in part by the move by many countries to reverse-auction new capacity rather than providing advantageous tariffs, a shift that has put producers under continuing price pressure.

“Wind and solar power are now being adopted in many developing countries as a natural and substantial part of the generation mix: they can be produced more cheaply than often high wholesale power prices; they reduce a country’s exposure to expected future fossil fuel prices; and above all they can be built very quickly to meet unfulfilled demand for electricity,” added Liebreich. “And it is very hard to see these trends going backwards, in the light of December’s Paris Climate Agreement.”

BNEF’s 2015 solar deployment of 57GW is its preliminary figure for the year.

Non-OECD countries continued to make gains, with China the driving force behind much of the growth. It registered US$110.52 billion of renewable energy investment in its own right, compared to US$56 billion in the US.


Solar price

Solar Energy Price At All-Time Low: Average Price of Solar In U.S. Falls To 5¢/kWh

According to a new report from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), solar energy prices are at an all-time low, with the average price of solar energy in the United States having dropped down to 5¢/kWh, representing a 70% decline in power purchase agreement (PPA) prices since 2009.

The falling prices for this clean renewable energy resource are being driven by lower overall installed solar costs, improved performance, and the presence of a virtual landrush to get utility-scale solar projects online before the reduction of the federal investment tax credit next year, and as a result, PPA agreements are being signed with an average price of 5¢/kWh or less.

he new report, Utility-Scale Solar 2014: An Empirical Analysis of Project Cost, Performance, and Pricing Trends in the United States, is the third edition of LBNL’s annual publication focused on identifying key trends in utility-scale solar. The report offers insights into the state of the industry, some surprising, such as the drop in the price of solar to a nickel per kilowatt-hour, and others, such as the fact that utility-scale solar projects are dominated by conventional photovoltaic (PV) generation, not concentrated solar (CSP), which has not dropped significantly in price.

The average costs of installed solar projects have fallen quite a bit, from 2009′s $6.3/W (AC) cost to 2014′s $3.1/W cost, reflecting a drop of more than 50%. In contrast, installed costs for three large CSP projects referenced in the report ranged from $5.1/W (AC) to $6.2/W.

The drop to an average price of 5¢/kWh for solar PPAs indicates that solar power plants are an effective cost-competitive source of energy for utilities, and thanks to the relatively fast construction process, could be an essential component of quickly adding grid capacity, especially in regions with high insolation levels.

The new report found that there appears to be a “deep market” at the low PPA prices, especially in the solar stronghold of the US Southwest, but also in other areas of the country, most notably the Southeast, where recent solar contracts have been announced in previously untapped markets. According to LBNL, the average wholesale price for electricity across the U.S. in 2014 ranged from 3 cents/kWh to 6 cents/kWh, putting the new lower prices of utility-scale solar right inline with most of the utility market.

The trend for utility-scale solar energy adoption looks to continue apace in the near future, as the report found a total of almost 45,000 MW in solar projects under development in 2014 (roughly five times the installed capacity during that time), and the authors presumed that most of these projects would be operational before 2017 in order to get the full 30% federal tax credit, leading to a prediction of “an unprecedented amount of new solar construction in 2015 and 2016.”

The full report can be found as a PDF here: Utility-Scale Solar 2014 and is also available as a PowerPoint briefing and an Excel workbook with much of the data from the report.


Solar Costs Drops

PV Solar costs to fall 50% by 2030, rivalling wholesale power prices

A further dramatic drop in the costs of Solar PV will make it competitive with wholesale power prices by 2030 in the EU, a study has claimed.

Analysis by the European Photovoltaic Technology Platform (EUPVTP) of the levelised cost (LCOE) of electricity of PV in the EU has forecast costs falling by 30-50%, bringing it on par with today’s wholesale electricity prices.

“Today, if the real cost of capital was around 5%, a 50MWp Solar PV system in Spain would produce electricity at around €45/MWh. Our analyses indicate that the same type of Solar PV system in the same location may generate power at as low as €25/MWh in 2030,” said Eero Vartiainen, leader of the LCOE working group of the EUPVTP, a body representing the European PV industry at an EU level.

Capex costs will drop by 45%

The study predicted that PV module prices will most likely halve from current levels by 2030 and balance of system prices fall by 35%, leading to an overall Solar PV system capital expenditure (capex) reduction of around 45%. Alongside this, Solar PV system operational expenditure (opex) will fall an estimated 30%. Significantly the report said such decreases would not require any significant technological advances to attain.

“Such results can be achieved without any technological breakthrough,” said Gaëtan Masson, co-author of the report. “We simply assume that Solar PV modules and other PV system components will become more efficient and less expensive and that operation and maintenance procedures will be optimised.”

A more significant influence on LCOE than either capex or opex will be the cost of capital, according to the report, which said that an increase of eight percentage points in the so-called ‘weighted average cost of capital’ could double PV LCOE.

Because of this the report said both the Solar PV industry and policy makers needed to ensure they both played their part in ensuring the right conditions for keeping capital costs down.

“What is striking, is that when we modified our assumptions for different Solar PV system cost components, it became evident that the cost of capital will play a much more important role in the competitiveness of this technology than other parameters,” said Christian Breyer, co-author of the report. “Cost of capital will be almost as important as the location of PV systems. This leads to the conclusion that, going forward, it will be of outmost important for the PV industry to further improve the bankability of its technology and for policy makers to create a stable environment for PV investments.”

The EUPVTP’s analysis can be read in full here and will be presented at an EU PVSEC parallel event titled “Competitiveness, Soft Costs and New Business Cases for PV” on 14 September in Hamburg.



SunEdison IPO TerraForm Global and a US$800 million ‘Green Bond’

SunEdison Inc. said it will reinforce its position as one of the “supermajors” of the solar industry with the $2.2 billion purchase of rooftop panel installer Vivint Solar Inc.

The two agreed to combine for cash, shares and debt that value Vivint at 52 percent more than Friday’s closing share price. SunEdison will finance the deal with credit lines from Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and by selling $922 million of assets to TerraForm Power Inc., the unit it formed last year to own and operate power plants.

SunEdison Chief Executive Office Ahmad Chatila has been on a shopping spree this year, snapping up wind, solar and hydroelectric assets around the globe. Vivint, the second-biggest U.S. residential and commercial developer, will provide SunEdison and TerraForm with a U.S. growth engine that’s taking advantage of declining costs of solar energy.

“They’re giving us huge bandwidth to expand in the U.S.,” Chatila said on a conference call Monday. “This gives us unabated growth for 20 years.”

Based in Maryland Heights, Missouri, SunEdison has built itself mostly with utility-scale and large industrial solar projects.

Vivint Solar is controlled by a Blackstone Group LP affiliate after its initial public offering last year and installs rooftop units for homeowners and businesses. That market is booming as the cost of panels plunges and has been dominated by SolarCity Corp., backed by Elon Musk.

Blackstone Exits

Vivint Chairman Peter Wallace, who’s also a senior managing director at Blackstone, said “this transaction positions the company’s asset portfolio for accelerated future growth.” Blackstone’s affiliate, 313 Acquisitions LLC, owns 77 percent of the shares of Vivint Solar and agreed to vote in favor of the deal. Blackstone still owns Vivint Inc., an energy automation and security company that sells systems to help homeowners manage their power consumption.

SunEdison’s plan is to expand its business installing solar power plants, taking on Vivint’s management to help oversee the process. It will sell units that are already operating to TerraForm.

Together, the transactions give SunEdison capacity to grow and executives skilled in doing deals. It also shifts more assets into TerraForm, an entity known as a “yieldco” designed to pay investors a dependable flow of income generated from the power plants it operates. It sold shares in an initial public offering in July 2014.

‘Renewables Supermajors SunEdison’

“We want to accelerate how fast we penetrate that market,” Julie Blunden, SunEdison’s chief strategy officer, said in a phone interview. “We’re just seeing the first of the renewables supermajors and SunEdison will be at the top.”

Goldman Sachs is lending $1.46 billion to TerraForm and SunEdison to complete the acquisition.

Vivint Solar holders will receive $16.50 a share, consisting of $9.89 in cash, $3.31 in SunEdison stock and $3.30 in convertible notes, according to a statement Monday. That’s a 52 percent premium over Vivint’s closing price Friday of $10.88 a share.

TerraForm will acquire Vivint Solar’s rooftop portfolio, consisting of 523 megawatts to be installed by year-end, according to the statement. Vivint will continue to expand and fold assets into TerraForm.

TerraForm Global Inc., which was formed to own and operate SunEdison’s power plants outside the U.S., on Sunday said it plans to raise $800 million through the sale of bonds. It’s seeking to raise as much as $1.19 billion in an initial public offering, selling 56.6 million shares for as much as $21 each, according to a regulatory filing Monday.

Vivint’s View

“This transaction with SunEdison delivers to Vivint Solar’s stockholders excellent value for the business we have built over the last four years,” said Greg Butterfield, Vivint Solar’s chief executive officer. “SunEdison and TerraForm Power have built a unique model that recognizes the value of long-term, predictable, contracted cash flows from our residential solar portfolio while providing access to a broad pool of financing at an attractive cost of capital.”

2016 Installations

SunEdison said the transaction will help boost its 2016 installations by about 50 percent to a range of 4,200 megawatts to 4,500 megawatts. It raised its guidance for installations this year and said TerraForm may pay a dividend of as much as $1.75 a share in 2016, a 30 percent increase on its previous outlook.

“Guidance for 2016 is higher than our initial expectations,” Jeffrey Osborne, an analyst at Cowen & Co. in New York, said in a note to clients. “SunEdison continues to be our top idea in the solar complex.”

Vivint rose 45 percent to $15.75 at the close in New York, the biggest gain for the Provo, Utah-based company since trading began in October.

Bank of America Corp. and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. advised SunEdison on the deal. Barclays Plc and Citigroup Inc. were joint advisers for TerraForm Power and Morgan Stanley provided guidance to Vivint. Lazard Ltd. was financial adviser to TerraForm.


Buffet electricity price solar

Buffett strikes cheapest solar electricity price in Nevada US

Berkshire Hathaway’s NV Energy strikes PPA price of 3.87 cents per kWh for electricity generated by First Solar’s 100 MW Playa Solar 2 project, according to Bloomberg.

A Nevada utility owned by U.S. tycoon Warren Buffett has agreed upon a purchase price for solar power from a First Solar plant that might well be the cheapest electricity available anywhere in the U.S., reports Bloomberg.
NV Energy, a Nevada-based utility owned by Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, has agreed to pay just $0.3.87/kWh for solar electricity from the 100 MW Playa Solar 2 project being developed by U.S. thin film company First Solar.
The PPA undercuts a previous price agreed with NV Energy last year – $0.46/kWh from SunEdison’s 100 MW Boulder Solar Project – and could quite possibly be the cheapest electricity in the U.S.

“That’s probably the cheapest PPA I’ve ever seen in the U.S.,” Bloomberg Intelligence utility analyst Kit Konolige said. “It helps a lot that they’re in the Southwest where there’s good sun.”

Having paid $0.13.77/kWh for renewable energy in 2014, this new, lower price is an encouraging reflection of the rapid decline in solar costs over the past 12 months. Nevada’s Public Utilities Commission, which oversaw the submission of the 20-year, fixed-rate PPA, called the price point “very reasonable” when compared to both existing solar contracts and other fossil-driven generation sources.
Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) analyst Jenny Chase remarked to Bloomberg that NV Energy’s power price is “one of the lowest, definitely,” adding: “That’s quite aggressive bidding by First Solar”.

First Solar’s Steven Krum said that the contracts demonstrate how utility-scale solar power plants in the U.S. are becoming cheaper to build and operate, while SunPower CEO Tom Werner wrote in an emailed statement to Bloomberg: “Power generated from solar plants is cost-competitive with power from traditional fossil fuel burning plants, and becoming more cost-competitive every day.”

The agreed purchase price bests the $0.5.85/kWh agreed by Dubai’s state-backed DEWA utility in January, and lower further the barriers for greater renewable integration.


Energy Subsidies

Act Local, Solve Global: The $5.3 Trillion Energy Subsidy Problem

US$5.3 trillion; 6½ percent of global GDP—that is our latest reckoning of the cost of energy subsidies in 2015. These estimates are shocking. The figure likely exceeds government health spending across the world, estimated by the World Health Organization at 6 percent of global GDP, but for the different year of 2013. They correspond to one of the largest negative externality ever estimated. They have global relevance. And that’s not all: earlier work by the IMF also shows that these subsidies have adverse effects on economic efficiency, growth, and inequality.

What are energy subsidie

We define energy subsidies as the difference between what consumers pay for energy and its “true costs,” plus a country’s normal value added or sales  tax rate. These “true costs” of energy consumption include its supply costs and the damage that energy consumption inflicts on people and the environment. These damages, in turn, come from carbon emissions and hence global warming; the health effects of air pollution; and the effects on traffic congestion, traffic accidents, and road damage. Most of these externalities are borne by local populations, with the global warming component of energy subsidies  only a fourth of the total.

Energy subsidies are both large and widespread. They are pervasive across advanced and developing countries. Emerging Asia accounts for about half of the total, while advanced economies account for about a quarter (Chart 2). The largest subsidies, in absolute terms, are in China (US$2.3 trillion), the United States (US$699 billion), Russia (US$335 billion), India (US$277 billion), and Japan (US$157 billion). For the European Union, subsidies are also substantial (US$330 billion).

The fiscal implications are mammoth: at US$5.3 trillion, energy subsidies exceed the estimated public health spending for the entire globe. It also exceeds the world’s total public investment spending. The resources freed from subsidy reform could be used to meet critical public spending needs or reduce taxes that are choking economic growth.

By acting local, and in their own best interest, policy authorities can contribute significantly to the solution of a global challenge. The path forward is thus clear: act local, solve global.


china solar

China Adds Solar Power the Size of France in First Quarter

China’s solar installations in the first quarter were almost equal to France’s entire supply of power from the sun.
China connected 5.04 gigawatts of solar capacity to grids in the three months ended March 31, the National Energy Administration said in a statement on Monday. The Asian nation now has a total 33 gigawatts of solar-power supply.
“Construction of most additions in the first quarter began last year after securing local approvals,” said Nick Duan, a Beijing-based analyst from Bloomberg New Energy Finance. In China, developers must start construction within a year after approvals are given and validated.
China is seeking to approve and install as much as 17.8 gigawatts of solar power this year, or nearly 2 1/2 times the capacity added by the U.S. in 2014. The push is part of the Asian nation’s plans to cap carbon emissions in the next decade and a half.
Utility-scale photovoltaic power plants accounted for 4.38 gigawatts of the new capacity in the first quarter, with distributed projects comprising the remainder, the NEA said. Distributed generation refers to electricity produced at or near where it’s used. In the case of solar, distributed projects typically include rooftops or ground-mounted panels near facilities such as sporting arenas or municipal buildings.The northwestern region of Xinjiang led the effort, with 1.1 gigawatts of photovoltaic power plants installed in the first three months. Xinjiang was followed by Inner Mongolia, Zhejiang, Gansu and Jiangsu.

The NEA on Monday also called for a nationwide quality check for solar power projects as installations burgeoned. Local governments are required to report inspection results by the end of July.