Asia Report: Will Region Maintain Its Edge?

Since the beginning of the month, the world solar market has focused intently on China. The collapse of big-name American companies like Evergreen and Solyndra and the continued troubles for many European makers pointed to the same question: Can anybody compete with Chinese solar manufacturers? The question has reverberated across both sides of the Pacific. On the Asian side, companies like Suntech are preparing for the emergence of the Chinese market, while makers like Solar Frontier in Japan are focusing on that nation’s government-led surge toward renewables. Meanwhile in the U.S., one Democratic senator says he has a solution to China’s dominance: Increase taxes on solar panels coming into U.S.

IN THE NEWS

New Wind Prospects: China-based Taiwain firm Swancor Co. has pledged to invest between NT$10 billion and NT$20 billion to build up to 6 GW of offshore wind developments off the island’s coast by 2015.

Gamesa’s Push Into China: The Spanish turbinemaker plans to invest $128 million into China in 2012 to tap into the country’s plans to build 5 GW of offshore wind power by 2015.

PetroChina to Boost Biofuel Production: The oil firm plans to add more than 1 million tons of biofuel production by 2015. About half will be imported and a large share of the total will be ethanol.

Big Gains in India: First Solar has said that India will become the world’s leading solar market, and with that in mind it struck its largest deal yet within the country when it promised to deliver 100 MW of panels to Reliance Power in 2012.

Probe of Wind Mishap: Gamesa said it is investigating an incident in which a blade fell off an 850 kW wind turbine in India.

The Biggest … So Far: It pales in comparison to installations in many other areas, but Japan has opened its largest PV project — a 10-MW installation in Osaka Prefecture. Japan, with a new national feed-in-tariff is anticipating a boom for many renewable projects in 2012.

SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

More Solar, More Lead Poisoning?: A study published in a scientific journal found that because of lead-acid batteries used to store energy in off-grid installations in China and India, both countries could see a harmful fallout.

Not Your Father’s Wind Turbine: Researchers in Japan have unveiled a turbine design they say triples capacity while maintaining current dimensions. It does this, they say, by attaching a lens around the circumference of the blades, which concentrates the air flow.

GROWING GAINS & PAINS

In China, Here Comes the Sun: While the U.S. is slashing incentives, China is prepping for a massive expansion of solar as reflected in its five-year plan that was released by the Chinese government in early 2011 and is currently being revised. The short: The country is planning to increase its cumulative solar capacity from 700 MW of installed by the end of 2010 to 10 GW by 2015.

Growing Market Born Out of Disaster: In Japan, a shift has already taken place as the nation’s parliament approved a national feed-in-tariff that is expected to boost all renewables, but especially solar and wind. Solar Frontier recently opened a thin-film facility with a capacity nearing 1 GW, and they see the potential for that market.

Lots of Need, Lots of Potential: While China is in the news for its dominance in manufacturing, companies across the globe are looking at the economic giant as a potential new market. An executive at one China-based company, Suntech, sees the emergence of a high-growth domestic market coming soon. 

Waiting for the Wind: In 2010, China installed 17 GW of wind power. In 2011, that number may not even reach 10 GW. That could have some severe downstream affects.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

The Great Wall of Solar: “Unless the U.S. takes aggressive action to combat the import surge of Chinese solar panels and the unfair trade practices that China employs, our efforts to facilitate the creation of the new jobs our economy needs will be substantially undermined.”

— U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, a Democrat from Oregon in a letter that implored President Obama to implement new tariffs on solar panels made in China. 

BY THE NUMBERS

20: The number of people moving to India’s cities every minute 

0: Percent of Japan’s planned energy production from nuclear power in 2050. A few months ago, nuclear accounted for 30 percent of power.

23.47 million: Potential number of kilowatts of geothermal capacity lurking just below Japan’s earthquake scarred land. It’s second only to U.S. and Indonesia in potential capacity

15: Percent share of the world’s solar and wind power markets sought by South Korea by 2015. 

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Compiled by Steve Leone, Associate Editor, RenewableEnergyworld.com

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