"01 May 2013
History lesson and PV update from Edinburgh, Soitec goes public to finance South African project, Hawaii increases solar footprint
What do Scotland, South Africa, and Hawaii have in common? Certainly not the weather—at least in Caledonia’s case—but the answer is, of course, the increasing implementation of solar power in the respective regions. But a recently posted story from up Edinburgh way not only shares information about new projects coming online but also tells a historical tale, of a time way back in 2005 when a decent-sized (for then) PV system on a university campus was on the bleeding edge of photovoltaic science.
In an entertaining read at the UK-focused SolarPowerPortal site (and also at the NPD Solarbuzz blog), Finlay Colville spends several paragraphs describing the pioneering installation at Napier College’s Merchiston campus as well as some fascinating BP Solar backstory. “It was not simply notable that this installation was one of the largest in the UK at the time (and definitely Scotland’s largest by far),” he writes, “it was also the home of 156 high-efficiency selective-emitter mono c-Si modules; the Saturn laser-grooved buried contact (LGBC) technology that was the forerunner to Suntech’s Pluto cell technology and was based upon BP Solar’s licencing and technology-transfer agreement with the University of New South Wales.”
On the opposite end of the longitudinal grid from Scotland, South Africa is beginning to see some of its multigigawatt PV and CSP pipeline turn into actual active projects. In what could be considered a milestone in the bankability of the still-nascent (in terms of deployment anyway) concentrator photovoltaics sector, Soitec has secured a $100 million-plus “publicly listed project bond” to “finance the construction of a 44MWp utility-scale CPV solar power plant in Touwsrivier, South Africa.” The company says this is the first such bond to be issued to underwrite a CPV farm, as well as the first transaction of its kind in South Africa and the third worldwide. The investors came from a “diverse pool of South African institutional investors, pension funds and asset managers.” Soitec’s EPC partner Group Five has begun construction on the project, which will consist of a veritable forest of more than 1500 sizeable CPV tracking systems; completion is expected in a little over a year in June 2014.
The Hawaiian solar PV market may be relatively small in the global scheme of things, but it is mighty, especially in terms of its recent growth. In new statistics provided by the Hawaiian Electric Co. (HECO) utility and curated via Photon’s daily newsletter, the 50th U.S. state had 208MW across 27,226 systems of grid-connected, mostly residential-scale PV installed at the end of March 2013. (Off-grid systems were not included in the count.) A closer look at the numbers reveals that recent growth has been off the hook, with 36MW across 4676 systems (average size of 7.7KW) built out in the first quarter of this year alone—which represents more than 17% of the total installed capacity. The islands, with a population of about 1.392 million, can claim about 149W of grid-tied PV per inhabitant on a per-capita basis. When you compare the Aloha State’s PV footprint (ninth among the 50 states, according to GTM/SEIA data) to that of the entire United States (population of 315.78 million, around 8GW of installed PV), the national per-capita solar capacity comes in at a paltry 25W per person. Just another reason to say “mahalo, Hawai’i.”"