Friday, January 30, 2015

Andhra Pradesh to add about 16,000MW capacity in five years

HYDERABAD: Andhra Pradesh government is planning to add 15,869 mega watt power generation capacity in the next five years.
The state energy department said that this capacity in addition would include thermal power (3,240 mw), central generating stations (1,949 mw), solar (3,150 mw), wind (7,030 mw) and other sources.
Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu, reviewing the power situation in the state, said that the government was confident of sustaining round the clock power supply and seven-hour supply for agriculture, the department said in a release.
Naidu emphasised the need to work out ways to expedite the construction of power projects to meet the increasing demand which is expected to be around 15 per cent, it added.

Welspun Renewables to invest Rs 8,300 crore in Gujarat

GANDHINAGAR: Welspun Renewables today announced an investment of Rs 8,300 crore to set up about 1,000 MW solar and wind capacities in Gujarat.

At the Vibrant Gujarat Summit here, Welspun Renewables committed to set up 500 MW wind and 600 MW solar capacities with Gujarat Urja Vikas Nigam (GUVNL).
"An investment of Rs 8,300 crore will be poured to develop over 1 GW capacities in Gujarat. The IPP (Independent Power Producer) made these commitments during the first day of the Vibrant Gujarat summit," the company said in a statement.
The IPP signed 500 MW wind and 600 MW solar MoUs on the first day of the Summit.
Vice Chairman of Welspun Renewables, Vineet Mittal said the company started its journey with Gujarat by commissioning its first clean energy project in Anjar.
"Gujarat has always been our natural choice in building projects not just for conducive climatic conditions but because of its investor-friendly environment," Mittal added.
Welspun Renewables has commissioned 308 MW solar capacities so far.
The organisation envisions developing power projects across the country with existing projects located in other high radiation zones like Gujarat, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Punjab, the statement added.

Source: India Times

Advantages of Solar Energy

Here Comes the Sun
Sunlight can be used to directly generate electricity by the use of photovoltaic technology. The use of solar cells or photovoltaic arrays is getting more and more acceptable as an alternative and cost efficient means of generating power.
Sunlight concentration is also another way of using solar energy. Heat is also more readily usable than the energy in sunshine. You can use it for heating a building or for cooking or even for generating electricity.
Advantages of Solar Energy / Learn 6 Real-World Ways
There are plenty of excellent reasons that equate to advantages in using solar energy. Here are some advantages in using solar energy.
1. The abundance of Solar Energy
Even in the middle of winter each square meter of land still receives a fair amount of solar radiation. Sunlight is everywhere and the resource is practically inexhaustible. Even during cloudy days we still receive some sunlight and it is this that can be used as a renewable resource.

2. You don’t pay for sunlight.
Sunlight is totally free. There is of course the initial investment for the equipment. After the initial capital outlay you won’t be receiving a bill every month for the rest of your life from the electric utility.

3. Solar energy is getting more cost effective.
The technology for solar energy is evolving at an increasing rate. At present photovoltaic technology is still relatively expensive but the technology is improving and production is increasing. The result of this is to drive costs down. Payback times for the equipment are getting shorter and in some areas where the cost of electricity is high payback may be as short as five years.

4. Solar energy is non-polluting.
Solar energy is an excellent alternative for fossil fuels like coal and petroleum because solar energy is practically emission free while generating electricity. With solar energy the danger of further damage to the environment is minimized. The generation of electricity through solar power produces no noise. So noise pollution is also reduced.

Solar Energy

What is solar energy?

Solar energy is, simply, energy provided by the sun. This energy is in the form of solar radiation, which makes the production of solar electricity possible.

Electricity can be produced directly from photovoltaic, PV, cells. (Photovoltaic literally means “light” and “electric.”) These cells are made from materials which exhibit the “photovoltaic effect” i.e. when sunshine hits the PV cell, the photons of light excite the electrons in the cell and cause them to flow, generating electricity.
Solar energy produces electricity when it is in demand – during the day particularly hot days when air-conditioners drive up electricity demand.
In use, solar energy produces no emissions. One megawatt hour of solar electricity offsets about 0.75 to 1 tonne of CO2.
PV panels are being used increasingly, both in the city and in remote locations, to produce electricity for households, schools and communities, and to supply power for equipment such as telecommunication and water pumps. 
India is one of the sunniest countries in the world and there is huge potential for solar PV to make a significant contribution to electricity generation.

Saudi Arabia Delays $109 Billion Solar Program Eight Years

 Saudi Arabia is delaying by eight years its target to complete clean-energy program including $109 billion in solar power, saying it needs more time to assess what technologies it will use.

India Clean Energy Investments Rose 13 Percent to $7.9 Billion in 2014

 Clean energy investments in India increased to $7.9 billion last year and are expected to surpass $10 billion in 2015.

US To Support India's $160 Billion Solar Energy Push

 India’s audacious plan to create a solar industry on the scale of China’s almost from scratch gained credibility with President Barack Obama’s pledge to lend U.S. financial support for the program.

India’s Azure Power To Set Up 1 GW Solar Power In Rajasthan

One of India’s leading solar power project developers has signed yet another landmark agreement to expand solar photovoltaic power infrastructure in the state of Rajasthan.
Azure Power to install 1 GW solar power capacity in Rajasthan, India
40 MW solar PV project by Azure Power located in Rajasthan, India
Azure Power recently announced that it has signed a memorandum of understanding with the government of Rajasthan to set up 1 GW of solar power capacity. While the details of this agreement remain sketchy, it is the second such agreement signed by the state government. Earlier this year, SunEdison agreed to set up 5 GW solar power capacity over a period of five years.
Large-scale expansion into Rajasthan seems natural for Azure Power, which already has a number of projects operational and under construction in the state secured through auctions in the National Solar Mission. The company recently initiated construction on 100 MW of solar PV projects it had secured under the latest auction of the National Solar Mission, which accounted for a total of 750 MW capacity.
With the total number of allocations under the first two phases of auctions, the company now has a cumulative capacity of 142 MW from the National Solar Mission — the highest by a single project developer.
Rajasthan was among the first Indian states to take up utility-scale solar power projects through a state policy. It, however, ceded ground to neighboring Gujarat as the central government absorbed the projects commissioned under the Rajasthan state solar power policy in 2009–10.
Efforts to regain the status of a leader in solar power are on now in Rajasthan, as it launched a new solar power policy and conducted its own auctions, which received highly positive response from project developers. The central government also initiated plans to set up a 4 GW ultra mega solar power project in the state. Those plans, however, seem to have been quashed by the state government — reportedly due to political reasons.
The state government has, instead, chosen to engage reputed project developers directly through the (MoU) mode. To attract developers, the state government recently made amendments to renewable energy policies and land laws.

SJVN inks MoU for dev of Ultra Mega Solar, Wind Park in Gujarat

Under the Expansion, Growth and Diversification business strategy of the company, SJVN has signed a MoU with Hindustan Salt Limited to Conceptualise, Structure, Implement, Operate and Maintain the Ultra Mega Hybrid Renewable Energy (Solar & Wind) Park at Salt Pan Land in Kharaghoda, Gujarat.

This proposed park will be developed on the surplus salt pan land of Hindustan Salt Limited which has the generation capacity of 4000 MW to 5000 MW (Solar Power between 3500 - 4200 MW and Wind Power between 600-800 MW) when fully commissioned.

At the initial stage, SJVN will develop all the infrastructure facilities like roads, drainage system, power supply, water supply system, evacuation arrangement from the plot to evacuation sub-station.

The MoU was signed by SJVN CMD R P Singh and HSL CMD A K Jain at SJVN's Coordination Office, Delhi today.

On this occasion, Executive Director (BD&MS) R K Agarwal and other senior officials were also present.

Mr R P Singh informed that SJVN is already in the process of setting up a 5 MW Solar PV project in the prestigious Charnka Solar Park at Gujarat.

The project shall be established in an area of 1,00,033 sq. mtr. allotted by M/s. Gujarat Power Development Corporation Limited for this project.

On commissioning the project will generate 8.10 million units of clean and green solar energy.

In line with National Solar Mission, SJVN Limited has signed a MoU to develop and operate 4000 MW Ultra Mega Solar Project in Sambhar area of Rajasthan.

SJVN is one of the six joint venture partners having 16 per cent equity participation in the proposed mega project.

Research pinpoints new technique for producing cheaper solar energy

Pioneering new research could pave the way for solar energy to be converted into household electricity more cheaply than ever before. A team of experts from the University of Exeter has examined new techniques for generating photovoltaic (PV) energy - or ways in which to convert light into power - more cost efficiently.

The global PV market has experienced rapid growth in recent years due to renewable energy targets and CO2 emission controls.

Perovskite could hold the key to cheaper PV energy generation.

However, current, widely-used commercial methods employed to generate PV energy, such as using silicon or thin film based technologies, are still expensive as they are processed through vacuum-based techniques. The development of technologies and the invention of new materials could lead to the reduction of PV energy generation costs.

Now, the team of scientists from Exeter has found that one such material, a mineral called perovskite, could hold the key to cheaper PV energy generation.

Crucially, the team conducted studies with perovskite in Alta Floresta (Brazil), Frenchman Flat, (USA) , Granada (Spain), Beijing (China), Edinburgh (UK) and Solar Village (Saudi Arabia), and confirmed its efficiency in converting light to power in a range of atmospheric conditions, rather than just under direct sunlight.

The research by the team from the Environment and Sustainability Institute (ESI), based at the University of Exeter's Penryn Campus in Cornwall, is published in the journal Solar Energy Materials and Solar Cells.

Professor Tapas Mallick, who was involved in the research said: "This research offers the potential for significant progress to be made in finding cheaper ways to generate PV energy. The results, which show how perovskite devices work under real operating conditions, will lead to our understanding them better, which will benefit industrial-scale production processes.

Imec Demonstrates n-PERT Solar Cell with a Record 22 Percent Efficiency

Nano-electronics research center imec has announced that it has improved its large area n-type PERT (passivated emitter, rear totally diffused) crystalline silicon (Si) solar cell on 6" commercially available n-type Cz-Si wafers, now reaching a top conversion efficiency of 22.02 percent (calibrated at ISE CalLab). This is the highest efficiency achieved for this type of 2-side-contacted solar cell on an industrial large area wafer size.

Compared to p-type silicon solar cells, n-type cells do not suffer from light induced degradation and feature a higher tolerance to common metal impurities. As a result, n-type silicon solar cells are considered as promising alternatives to p-type solar cells for next generation highly efficient solar cells.

Looking into increasing the conversion efficiency of its large-area n-PERT silicon cells using advanced industrial processes, imec has further improved the conversion efficiency of its n-PERT solar cell, reaching a record 22 percent, featuring an open-circuit voltage (Voc) of 684mV, a short-circuit current (Jsc) of 39.9 mA/cm2, and 80.7 percent fill factor (FF).

Efficiency improvements were obtained by the introduction of a selective front surface field through laser doping, giving a boost in open circuit voltage and short circuit current.

"Our new developments, resulting in additional improvement of the conversion efficiency, further confirm the potential of n-type PERT cells for next-generation highly efficient silicon solar cells" said Filip Duerinckx, manager of imec's n-PERT technology platform.

"This new efficiency record has been achieved while simultaneously simplifying the process, relying only on simplified cleans and without any expensive Forming Gas Anneal (FGA). We are committed to further increasing the efficiency of this cell concept and adding to the industrial value of the technology. This will enable bringing this technology to the market in short term."

Imec's n-PERT silicon solar cells feature Ni/Cu/Ag front contacts, applied using an industrial plating tool from Meco, and rear local contacts obtained by laser ablation of the rear passivation stack and subsequent metallization.

ADB backs India's solar power ambitions

The Asian Development Bank said Wednesday it was extending loans of up to $100 million to help India develop a solar power sector.

The bank said it would extend the loan to solar power developer ACME group, which is working with French renewable energy leaders to develop more than 350 megawatts of low-carbon energy options.

"Solar and other renewable power sources are essential for India's energy diversification and security, and for underpinning the country's long term growth," Isabelle Chauche, an investment specialist at the ADB, said in a statement. "ADB's support for ACME will help break down barriers for more private sector investment, including foreign direct investment, in clean energy infrastructure."

India rolled out a series of renewable energy plans during a weekend investment conference attended for foreign dignitaries, including U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

Indian conglomerate Adani Enterprises on the sidelines of the meeting signed a $4 billion solar agreement with a U.S. solar energy services company SunEdison to produce enough solar panels to develop a sustainable green power sector in India.

Adnan Chief Executive Officer Vneet S. Jaain said India aims to become the world leader in power generation from renewable energy technologies.

The ADB said it was backing developing of solar projects in the country with a capacity to avoid more than 250,000 tons of carbon dioxide that would otherwise have been emitted from fossil fuels.

As of September, the bank said India had a total installed solar power capacity of 2,766 megawatts. The country has a target of increasing that to 22,000 MW by 2022.

Source: Solar Daily

New technique helps probe performance of organic solar cell materials

A research team led by North Carolina State University has developed a new technique for determining the role that a material's structure has on the efficiency of organic solar cells, which are candidates for low-cost, next generation solar power.

The researchers have used the technique to determine that materials with a highly organized structure at the nano scale are not more efficient at creating free electrons than poorly organized structures - a finding which will help guide future research and development efforts.

"There have been a lot of studies looking at the efficiency of organic solar cells, but the energy conversion process involves multiple steps - and it's difficult to isolate the efficiency of each step," says Dr. Brendan O'Connor, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at NC State and senior author of a paper on the work. "The technique we discuss in our new paper allows us to untangle those variables and focus on one specific step - exciton dissociation efficiency."

Broadly speaking, organic solar cells convert light into electric current in four steps.

First, the cell absorbs sunlight, which excites electrons in the active layer of the cell. Each excited electron leaves behind a hole in the active layer. The electron and hole is collectively called an exciton.

In the second step, called diffusion, the exciton hops around until it encounters an interface with another organic material in the active layer. When the exciton meets this interface, you get step three: dissociation. During dissociation, the exciton breaks apart, freeing the electron and respective hole. In step four, called charge collection, the free electron makes its way through the active layer to a point where it can be harvested.

In previous organic solar cell research, there was ambiguity about whether differences in efficiency were due to dissociation or charge collection - because there was no clear method for distinguishing between the two. Was a material inefficient at dissociating excitons into free electrons? Or was the material just making it hard for free electrons to find their way out?

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Why the US backs India's great solar bet

It presently supplies less than 1% of national electricity demand, but power from the sun is at the centre of an ambitious, multi-billion-dollar bet for a cleaner, brighter India.

With the US committing $4 billion (Rs 24,400 crore) to India’s renewable energy sector at a time when energy-starved India is under pressure to cut carbon emissions, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s motto of “energy to all” could not have had a better boost.

The $4 billion deal will mainly comprise loans from US banks and financial institutions. In addition, a memorandum of understanding was signed earlier this month between US-based Sun-Edison Inc and Adani Enterprises to invest roughly the same amount, $4 billion, in building the largest solar photovoltaic (PV) manufacturing unit in India.

With a population of more than 1.2 billion and nearly 300 million unconnected to the electricity grid, India is an energy-starved nation. The average per capita consumption of energy in India is about 900 units, compared with 15,000 units a year for developed countries across the world.

India’s energy demand is expected to nearly double to 1,500 million TOE (tonnes of oil equivalent, ie. the amount of energy released by burning one tonne of crude oil) in 2030 from 770 million TOE at the end of 2012.

The Indo-US renewable energy deal was preceded by a statement from US ambassador Richard Verma that both countries would focus on deals that tried to minimise India’s carbon-dioxide emissions.

India’s total carbon emissions are now second to China and the US, according to the Centre for Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis, an organisation that provides information to United Nations.

Source: CDIAC; Figures for 2011 and 2012 are estimates.

The world’s carbon emissions increased 5.4% between 2010 and 2012. India’s carbon emissions increased 11.5% and China’s 16%, while US emissions declined 5.7%.

India’s dilemma: growing emissions but low energy use

In per capita terms, India’s emissions are low, indicating it is a low-income country with low energy needs.

India ranks 136th with 0.45 metric tonnes of emissions per person, way below China (ranked 63rd with 1.68 metric tonnes) and the US (ranked 12th with 4.71 metric tonnes). Qatar with per capita emissions of 10.94 metric tonnes ranks first, followed by Trinidad and Tobago (10.30 metric tonnes) and Kuwait (9.34 metric tonnes).

India does not have any legally binding commitment towards the reduction of greenhouse gases (GHG) under the Kyoto Protocol, but the Indian government has agreed to a 20% cut in emissions intensity—a measure of emissions per dollar of Gross Domestic Product (GDP)—by 2020 from 2005 levels.

The National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC) has been under implementation since June 30, 2008. The National Solar Mission and National Emission on Enhanced Energy Efficiency under NAPCC also deal with the mitigation of emissions, generating solar power and energy conservation.

Currently, India’s power generation is heavily dependent on non-renewable sources of energy.  Let us look at India’s energy mix in terms of installed power capacity:


Indian solar power market sees global fund flow

As Indian policy makers announce big-ticket projects and set huge targets for solar power capacity addition, global investors smell a huge opportunity.

US-based Morgan Stanley is likely to make a big investment in the solar space soon, likely in a +100-Mw project. So are other institutional investors such as IFC and Standard Chartered. Besides, Goldman Sachs, which invested about $375 million in Sumant Sinha-promoted ReNew Power, is looking to make more such investments in noted or upcoming companies in the clean energy space.

US Exim Bank, during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent visit to the US, extended a funding of $1 billion for solar power programmes in India. “Similarly, ADB and German state-owned KfW are also on board for providing funding to the solar programmes to be announced by the government,” said a senior government official in the ministry of new and renewable energy (MNRE).

Solar power in India is about to see a massive scale-up of 100,000 Mw. MNRE has got the mandate from the prime minister to achieve this goal by 2019.

If the plan of adding 100,000 Mw of solar power hits the ground, India would need investment to the tune of around $110 billion, including transmission capacity, according to government calculations.

“All of this could not come from domestic investors alone. More than half of this amount, or even more, will come from outside India. The big-ticket announcements by the Indian government has made serious investors sit up and take notice,” said Vinay Rustogi, managing director, Bridge to India, a leading consultancy firm monitoring foreign investment in India’s renewable energy space. Of the $15-20 billion that the country will need annually, around $6 billion is likely to come from foreign investors.

On the manufacturing and power production side, at least 10 big Chinese solar companies are looking to set up joint ventures in India. Senior officials in the Madhya Pradesh government said talks with a Chinese solar cell manufacturer to set up a facility in the state were in the last stage.

Make in US, sell in India deal for renewable energy

As the euphoria around US President Barack Obama's visit ebbs, the fine print of the investment announcements reveal a financial boost for American solar energy companies to increase their exports to India.

Of the investments announced by the US federal agencies in the clean energy space, most are institutional loan for US solar companies, aimed at increasing their export to the growing renewable energy (RE) market India, especially solar power. The $1-billion loan agreement that the US Exim banksigned with Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency (Ireda), would be extended to US solar cell manufacturing companies that will export to India, said Indian government officials.

"The push has been given to US solar companies already selling or planning to sell in India to expand their presence through either exports or manufacturing," said a senior official.

Currently, only Sun Edison and First Solar are the two major American companies with operations in India.

The cost of solar cells globally has been on a decline owing to over-capacity in the developed markets and demand from Asian countries including India. US solar cell prices have come down to $0.6 a watt in 2014 from $0.75 a watt a year before. Even the Chinese module price has come down sharply to $0.5 per watt. For those expecting a concessional rate of interest from the US, there isn't any.

A loan offered by the US Exim, along with Ireda, would fall in the same bracket of 10-12 per cent as offered by other domestic lending institutions.

"US Exim offers a loan at four per cent but the hedging cost is as high as eight per cent. Ireda would charge an additional two per cent. It's at par with Indian agencies funding to RE projects. Unlike German state bank KfW or Asian Development Bank and World Bank, the US agencies do not fund projects. In short, this is an impetus to US solar business in India," said a senior executive tracking the US-India energy deals. While the country aims to add around 4,500 Mw of solar power capacity during the current financial year, the manufacturing capacity is only 1,500 Mw. The central government has recently revised targets for solar and wind energy capacity addition. While solar power capacity addition has been revised to 1,00,000 Mw and wind power generation target is 60,000 Mw, both by 2022.

Mahindra to expand renewables business amid India's clean energy push

(Reuters) - Indian conglomerate Mahindra Group plans to expand its renewable energy business and invest 45 billion rupees ($732.5 million) over the next three to four years, its chairman said, amid a government-led push to increase the use of clean energy.
The investment will mainly be financed by taking on 33 billion rupees in debt, with the rest funded through cash, Chairman and Managing Director Anand Mahindra told Reuters.
Anand Mahindra, chairman and managing director of Mahindra & Mahindra, attends the India Economic Summit 2014 at the World Economic Forum in New Delhi November 5, 2014. REUTERS/Anindito Mukherjee/Files
Anand Mahindra, chairman and managing director of Mahindra & Mahindra, attends the India Economic Summit 2014 at the World Economic Forum in New Delhi November 5, 2014.
The group also plans to commission 500 megawatts (MW) of solar power projects by the end of March 2016 from 180 MW it expects to complete by end-March this year, he added.
"The (renewable energy) business is going to boom this year. It is a very attractive investment right now," Mahindra said on Sunday.
The renewable energy unit, which builds solar power projects and offers off-grid power solutions, was formed in 2011 and is currently one of the smaller businesses of the $17 billion autos-to-technology conglomerate.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has ramped up his target for solar energy by 33 times to 100,000 megawatts (MW) by 2022 as he bets on renewables to help meet rising power demand and overcome the frequent outages that plague Asia's third largest economy.
Modi says India needs $200 billion - half of it from foreign companies - to meet its target and U.S. President Barack Obama pledged on Sunday during a visit to India to support this ambitious goal through additional funding.

New-generation solar panels far cheaper, more efficient - scientists

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A new generation of solar panels made from a mineral called perovskite has the potential to convert solar energy into household electricity more cheaply than ever before, according to a study from Briain's Exeter University.
Super-thin, custom-coloured panels attached to a building's windows may become a "holy grail" for India and African countries, Senthilarasu Sundaram, one of the authors of the study, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
"In those countries these types of material will be like a holy grail: they can both shade windows ... and at the same time produce electricity," he said.
With a thickness measured in billionths of a metre, solar panels made of perovskite will be more than 40 percent cheaper and 50 percent more efficient than those commercially produced today, Sundaram said.
Unlike other solar panels, those made of perovskite can absorb most of the solar spectrum and work in various atmospheric conditions, rather than only in direct sunlight.
"This type of material for solar cells works in diffused conditions much, much better than the other types of solar cells," said Sundaram. "It won't be 100 percent, but it will be much more than what we have now."
Researchers have already tested the material in the Americas, Asia, Europe and the Middle East.
Current commercial products used to generate solar power, such as silicon or thin-film based technologies, are expensive because they are processed using vacuum-based techniques, the Exeter study said.
The production process for perovskite panels is very straightforward, but researchers still have to test the material under different conditions to better understand its properties, before companies embark on industrial-scale production, it said.

India builds solar plants atop canals to save land, water

VADODARA (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - As India moves to ramp up investment in solar power, it is exploring innovative places to install solar plants, including across the top of canals.
Last weekend, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon inaugurated a new "canal-top" solar energy plant in Vadodara district in India's western state of Gujarat.
"I saw more than glittering panels – I saw the future of India and the future of our world," said Ban. "I saw India's bright creativity, ingenuity and cutting-edge technology."
Experts identify two major advantages in building solar plants atop canals: efficient and cheap land use, and reduced water evaporation from the channels underneath.
Earlier this month, India showed it is serious about expanding energy production from renewable sources. Prime Minister Narendra Modi upped the country's investment target for solar alone to $100 billion, saying India would scale up solar power to over 10 percent of its total energy mix by 2022.  
As part of that effort, the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy plans to create 100 megawatts (MW) of capacity from grid-connected solar photovoltaic (PV) power plants built on top of canals and on their banks by the end of the government's latest Five Year Plan in 2017.
The ministry will subsidise 30 percent of estimated expenditure of $154 million to construct facilities to meet the canal-top goal.
The 10 MW plant on the outskirts of Vadodara city, which began generating power in November, is built across 3.6 km of irrigation canal, and has 33,800 solar panels mounted on steel scaffolding.

There's a sunny future ahead for rooftop solar power: here's why

Over the past five years the world has seen a dramatic fall in the cost of solar energy, particularly rooftop solar panels or solar photovoltaic power. It is now a real alternative and considerable player in the power markets.
In Australia more than 4 gigawatts (peak generation capacity) of solar panels are mounted on more than a million Australian roofs to date, adding up to about 7% of Australia’s electricity generation capacity.
As solar panels do not always produce all the electricity they possibly can, rooftop solar today contributes around 2% of Australia’s total electricity generation. But in some states during the day, solar’s contribution already reaches double digits. You can watch solar generation live here.
But what’s next for rooftop solar? It’s likely that costs will continue to fall, eventually making solar the dominant source of electricity in many parts of the world including Australia. Here’s the evidence.
Falling costs
The following 2014 graph from investment bank Bernstein Research shows just how fast the cost of solar has fallen compared to other energy sources.
Bernstein Research comparing the cost for a million British thermal unit (mmbtu) of various liquid fossil fuels and solar EIA, CIA, World Bank, Author provided
The graph plots the price for one million British thermal units of various fossil fuels and solar power. It shows that the price for solar energy came down dramatically in comparison to fossil fuels and has just started to undercut the price for some of these such as petroleum and liquefied natural gas (LNG).
Currently, solar panels in Australia produce energy at a cost of A10c per kilowatt hour or less, and it is likely that by 2020 this will fall to A6-7c per kilowatt hour or less. This puts solar power into a very competitive spot within the next five years.

Germany to launch first auction of land for solar power

FRANKFURT Jan 28 (Reuters) - Germany is to open a first auction of land for solar power installations from next month as it seeks to bring renewable energy into the wholesale power market, away from a costly era of subsidies.
The cabinet on Wednesday agreed rules for a pilot project to auction open spaces for the deployment of 1.2 gigawatts (GW) of installed photovoltaic capacity over the next three years.
"We are creating the basis for a competitive promotion of renewable energies," Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel said in a statement.
The number is small given that total solar capacity already totals well over 35 GW but if the move is successful, from 2017 onwards, other renewables such as wind power could be brought into similar schemes.
The system agreed on Wednesday entails the energy regulator, the Bundesnetzagentur, collecting offers up to April 15 to award permits to build 500 MW of solar in 2015, 400 MW in 2016 and 300 MW in 2017.
The bidders with the lowest possible price proposals for the power to be produced on the land will win. The power would have to marketed at that price, which would replace the current system of 20-year guaranteed state hand-outs.
As free land is scarce, the government also plans to provide some 1,000 hectares of federal land in 2016 and 2017 for the purpose and also include some land that has been defined as unsuitable for farming.
The government is partly acting under the watchful eye of Brussels which last year stepped up pressure on Berlin over the generous subsidies that have turned Germany into a champion of wind and solar, but cost taxpayers dearly and undermined trading in the wholesale market for thermal power.
The government in a law last August pledged that renewable operators will be increasingly asked to face commercial risks, such as dealing with trading and infrastructure costs, supply shortages and lack of storage for electricity.
It curbed direct incentives and set caps on the expansion of green power.

The BSW solar industry lobby said the latest move was "bureaucratic and its success uncertain". The capacity to be auctioned was too small, given that an annual expansion of solar power of 7.5 GW is allowed. (Reporting by Vera Eckert and Markus Wacket; Editing by Michael Urquhart)