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Asia Report: As PV Demand Surges, Local Issues Drive Supplier Strategies

Solar PV demand in the Asia-Pacific region will increase 50 percent to 13.5 gigawatts (GW) in 2013, with China, Japan, India, and Australia continuing to dominate the solar spectrum in the region, accounting for 90 percent of demand for this year, according to analysis from NPD Solarbuzz. But each country is evolving with its own set of criteria and market drivers, selecting PV suppliers and technologies based on factors including domestic manufacturing, policies, import duties, and customer preferences.

Australia, for example, is eliminating its Solar Credit Multiplier and incentives in Victoria and Queensland. Japan's demand will peak ahead of tariff reductions in April. China, which has already hiked its solar demand expectations and will likely do so again, should see the bulk (75 percent) of its 7-GW demand in 2013 coming in the second half of the year -- but changing feed-in tariff rates should spur PV developers to finish projects earlier in the year to avoid the year-end crush. And India could see anywhere from a 3.7-GW to 9.0-GW increase in demand, with an emphasis on off-grid and rooftop sectors, as it mulls the final version of Phase II of its National Solar Mission.

China and India are also at the forefront of recent trade war talks over solar energy support, with domestic content requirements in the spotlight. And these nations are also being more selective about which solar PV technologies they use: in Japan it's high-efficiency modules for constrained-space locations, in China it's domestically manufactured multi c-Si modules, and India's surging rooftop market (and proposed rewrite of its domestic content rules) would presumably hamper the market for thin-film suppliers.

"Having a single go-to-market strategy to meet growing PV demand across the entire APAC region is no longer viable," stated Chris Sunsong, analyst at NPD Solarbuzz. "Leading APAC countries are now evolving into micro-climates that create customized supply channels." The upshot, he says, is that suppliers have to "pick and choose" which countries and application segments they will target.


Tata Power, Green Infra Ltd Mull Merger: Tata Power and Private Equity Fund-owned Green Infra Ltd. are in merger talks to create India's largest renewable power producer, according to local reports. Both the companies are expanding their renewable energy assets; a Tata exec earlier this month pegged annual growth of 150-200 MW of wind and 50 MW of solar power capacity, while Green Infra wants to produce 5 GW by 2015 from wind, solar, hydro, and biomass.

Companies Eye Biomass Projects in Fiji: Tropik Woods Industries and Korea's GIMCO Company will set up a joint-venture wood-waste biomass processing plant in Wairiki. Initially they will export the biomass to sell in the open market; ultimately they want to develop new independent power producer projects in Fiji, with biomass gasification in rural areas to replace high-cost diesel generators.

Southeast Asia’s Biggest Wind Energy Farm Unveiled: Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra officially inaugurated the West Huay Bong 2 and 3 wind farms in the northeast Nakhon Ratchasima Province. The Bt 13 billion (US $495 million) project has total production of 207 MW, and power purchase agreements with the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT) and other customers. Thailand has a goal of 9.2 GW of alternative energy and 1.2 GW of wind by 2021; project developer Wind Energy Holding Co. wants to expand its own portfolio to more than 1 GW.

Proposed Wind Energy Tariff Hike Upsets State Utility: Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Company Ltd. (MSEDCL) is challenging the Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission's (MERC) proposed increase in wind energy costs in its draft renewable energy tariff for 2013-14 challenging the "irrational" pricing on several grounds, from targeting areas with "saturated" potential, "safeguarding the interests of private investors, and cherry-picking."

Japan Plans Grid Upgrades for Wind Power: Japan intends to triple its wind power generation capacity to 7.5 GW by developing power transmission grids in the Hokkaido and the Tohoku regions, according to local reports. The country seeks to have 50GW of wind-generated clean electricity by 2050, accounting for more than 10 percent of the nation's demand.

Alstom to Supply Anti-Seismic Wind Turbines in Japan: French engineering company Alstom will supply 10 of its ECO 74 turbines for the 16.7 MW Kawazu wind farm on Japan's east coast. Japan wants to grow its wind capacity to more than 11 GW by 2020, and over 50 GW by 2050.

Solar PV Production Falling in China's Jiangsu Province: contributor Liu Yuanyuan highlights the struggles in China's Jiangsu province, the source of most of the nation's output value in the PV sector, where total output value of solar PV sunk nearly -30 percent in 2012. The province is home to many of China's leading PV manufacturers, who are struggling mightily and saddled with heavy debts, and over half have ceased production.

Coating Wind Turbines with "Stealth Paint": The Ministry of National Defense has halted development of major offshore wind power complexes — such as the 200-MW Saemangeum wind power cluster to be completed in 2014, and the first round of the 200-MW wind power project in Daejeong-ri, Jeju due by 2015 — due to worries that wind turbines can disturb radar signals, such as those for air defense artillery. Among the proposed fixes is a "stealth paint" to absorb the radar signals, but would add a lot of costs and alter the turbines' center of gravity.

They're Registered at Harvey Norman: A woman in Tamworth, New South Wales, protesting an astonishing 569 percent spike in her electricity bill, plus a lack of discounts or rebates and some "heartless and rude" treatment from the power company, has taken matters into her own hands — she's married a solar panel. Behold the video of the ceremony, presided by TV presenter and former "Perfect Match" host Greg Evans. Send us your best punchline!


Pakistani Regulator NEPRA Deciding on Upfront Solar Project Tariffs: The National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (NEPRA) will determine the upfront tariff for solar power projects on the basis of proposed 23.2934 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh), as laid down by the Alternative Energy Development Board (AEDB). The upfront tariff will be based on the cost of generation and is net of any duties, taxes, or other levies payable by the generation company. Further talks will be held on February 27.

Japan's Showa Shell Seeks to Lead Solar Market: Showa Shell's five-year management plan includes production efficiency increases, cost competitiveness, and solar module development, according to execs. "Once we gain a foothold in Japan, we want to gain ground in the international market," stated Showa Shell President Jun Arai. Among the goals is to reduce costs of CIGS (copper/indium/gallium/[di]selenide) modules by half by 2017.


Big Business Pushing Into India's Renewable Energy Space: Several large conglomerates are making a concerted push into renewables, notes this report by the Economic Times. They're taking different routes, but share several commonalities: strong balance sheets, in-house technical expertise, and access to the latest technology.

China's Solar Dragon Year 2012: The lunar calendar "year of the dragon" just ended, a celestial event seen every 12 years and characterized by numerous significant events usually associated with profound fundamental changes for society, economy, and politics. All of those certainly came true for China's solar sector in 2012, reviews Frank Haugwitz from the Asia Europe Clean Energy Advisory.


Feb 6-Feb. 11, 2012 Asia Report: Solar Trade Battles Brewing Between India, US, China

Jan. 23-Feb. 5, 2012 Asia Report: India Scales Back Subsidies, What it Means for Solar

Jan. 11-21, 2012 Asia Report: Reacting to China's Goal of 49 GW of Renewables in 2013

Dec. 18-30, 2012 Asia Report: China Solar Shares Soar as Government Bails Out Sector

Dec. 11-17, 2012 Asia Report: India Hopes to Ramp Up Installed Solar Capacity to 9 GW by 2017

Dec. 4-10, 2012 Asia Report: India's Wind Power Capacity Expected to Balloon by 2020, Says GWEC

Lead image: Blue solar cells and mountain seascape in Thailand, via Shutterstock

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