Briefly Noted … Solar Energy

– The World Bank has approved a US$23 million loan to the government of Ecuador to modernize that country’s electricity services and extend power to remote areas. The total cost of the program is $43 million, and is accompanied by a $2.8 million grant from the Global Environment Facility to develop PV rural electrification and energy-saving programs. – Solar panels on some buildings in the Netherlands will not require a building permit, under an amendment to be considered by Parliament. If approved, structures such as greenhouses, carports and barns would be exempt from permits, but would still need to comply with technical requirements for PV systems and with the country’s neighbourhood law, which stipulates that permission must be obtained from neighbours. – The Brazilian state of Bahia will install solar-powered lighting systems in 45 cities, at a cost pf R$4.4 million. A total of 687 PV systems are planned, most in small agricultural schools, with 141 systems to be installed by next March and the balance by June. State governor Cesar Borges says extending the power grid would be too expensive for Coelba. The program is part of the Program of Energy Development of States & Cities, which has already assisted the installation of 429 PV systems on the northeast coast of Brazil. – Mitsubishi Electric is producing PV modules to install in special areas. It has a module for high siting that is 1.5 times stronger than standard modules and designed to withstand typhoons and other natural disasters. Most standard PV modules are designed for no more than 20-storey buildings, while this one can be installed on 85-storey structures. It has developed an aluminum frame to allow modules to be used in salty regions, and has developed a module with space between cells to allow natural lighting to pass. Mitsubishi predicts that its specialized modules will increase sales to 23 billion yen in 2003 from 10 billion yen last year. The company will also increase its production lines in the Nakatsugawa factory in Iida (Nagano) and increase production capacity to 25 MW from 15 MW. – The German government will announce funding for solar research, and reports indicate the budget will be reduced to DM 36 million from the previous 55 million. European studies predict the PV market will grow at 17.5% a year for the next decade, at which time the global production capacity will be 1,400 MW. – Japan will develop a satellite fitted with solar panels that would transmit energy back to the earth, according to the Nihon Keizai newspaper. The National Space Development Agency will launch an experimental version of the satellite within six years, and has asked two private companies to submit design proposals by the end of January. The satellite would generate 10 kW to 1 MW of power, which would be beamed back to earth as early as 2020. One of the teams involves Mitsubishi and NEC Toshiba, while the other has Mitsubishi and Kawasaki. – Evergreen Solar has entered into a distribution relationship with Krannich Solartechnik, a marketer and distributor of PV modules and systems in Germany. Krannich Solartechnik has been distributing solar products for six years, including both integrated and stand-alone systems in the residential and commercial markets of Germany. – Cambridge Display Technology will work with Sumitomo Chemical of Japan to advance the development of polymers for use in LEP technology for PV, displays and lighting applications. – William Blair & Company has initiated coverage of AstroPower with a Buy rating. The firm estimates that the Delaware-based AstroPower, which is the world’s fifth-largest producer of PV products, would earn US$0.43 per share this year and $0.79 in 2002. – Wind power will never replace the need for solar-generated electricity, says Don Osborne, superintendent for renewable generation in California’s Sacramento utility. He says plans for Australia’s largest windfarm near Elliston on South Australia’s Eyre Peninsula will not detract from a big future for solar power. Osborne was in Adelaide to deliver a keynote address to the Solar World Congress. – DuPont has developed an advanced thick-film metalization material that will reduce the cost and increase the efficiency of solar PV. Solamet(tm) features co-fireable frontside and backside silvers, silver-aluminums and aluminums. The product is expected on the market at the beginning of next year. – GT Equipment Technologies of New Hampshire, and its PV equipment division, GT Solar, have licensed a new feedstock production technology to SolarWorld AG in Germany. The technique is designed to reduce the shortage of silicon feedstock for PV cell production, by depositing silicon on hot walls of silicon tubes at lower cost than current methods. The initiative is part of a project initiated by Deutsche Solar, a subsidiary of SolarWorld. – An advisory board of officials from Xcel Energy and the environmental community has selected eight renewable energy proposals to be funded by Minnesota’s Renewable Development Fund, including two that will benefit solar PV. The Minnesota Department of Commerce will receive US$1.15 million for a rebate program for solar PV installations up to 4 kW that are wired into the grid. Rebates of up to $8,000 would be offered to help buy down the high initial costs of such systems and the Science Museum of Minnesota will receive $100,000 to install a solar roof on its new Environmental Experiment Center. – Ngari Prefecture in Tibet will end its lack of electricity by installing 60 small PV stations with a combined generating capacity of 250 kW, as well as distributing 3,000 solar energy cooking ranges. The prefecture has an elevation of 4,500 m and average annual sunshine of 3,370 hours. The region has 11,000 homes with 70,000 people lacking access to electricity. – The National Center for Photovoltaics in the U.S. has received three awards under the 2000 R&D Awards Program from the Office of Power Technologies of the Department of Energy. NCPV staff Yanfa Yan and Tihu Wang received two of the five Young Investigator Awards, while the Thin Film Partnerships Project received a Research Partnerships Award.
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