What Changed In The Solar Market In November?


What was new in the world of solar energy in November? That is, what significant changes occurred in the industry? For the second month in a row, summarizing a list of those changes is the humble goal I’m trying to accomplish.

To further clarify, this article doesn’t include interesting op-eds about solar and it doesn’t include news that we thought was worth covering but wasn’t really a change in the industry (like specific projects or reports — well, for the most part). It covers significant shifts, trends, and new opportunities in the solar market.

Read on for the November summary.

One of the top rooftop solar installation companies in the US, Vivint Solar, moved into Delaware. That’s the 21st state Vivint Solar has entered. Top Vivint Solar competitor Sunrun is already in Delaware as well. It is in 22 states in total. SolarCity has been the other super large residential solar installer in the US, but it’s unclear exactly where Tesla is headed with this arm of its business. Presumably, Tesla would sell solar in every state where it has a store — which is nearly every state. However, at the moment, SolarCity still indicates that it is operating more or less in the way it was before the acquisition, which means it has a presence in 23 states, including Delaware.

Speaking of expansions, UK-based solar developer Lightsource expanded into India. The India solar market is super hot — one of the hottest globally — and this is yet another sign that it’s the place to be.

In terms of large solar projects, India is planning an insane 20 gigawatt (GW) solar tender, which will be the largest solar tender in the history of the world. It wasn’t that long ago when fewer than 20 GW of solar were added across the world each year, so a single solar tender of 20 GW in one market is a bit hard to believe. India, one of the leading solar countries in terms of installed capacity, currently has 14.7 GW of solar installed (after installing 2.2 GW in the third quarter). Will such tenders become fairly common? When will the 20 GW tender be surpassed by an even larger one? Or is this a one-time thing? (In total, India plans to auction 77 GW of solar by March 2020.)

Another item from India is that there are two new green finance instruments available to the solar industry there — Solar Investment Trusts (SEITs) and Sustainable Energy Bonds (SEBs). “The launch is a partnership with the India Lab’s public and private Lab Members, which includes a long list of big names, including: the Indian Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, the Ministry of Finance, the Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency (IREDA), the Asian Development Bank, ReNew Power, Cyril Armachand Mangladas, HSBC India, KfW Bank, YES Bank, the World Bank, and the development agencies of the French, UK, and US governments, among others.”

In the Middle East, another type of solar — concentrated solar power (CSP) — is hitting its stride like it hasn’t in any region before. CSP plant prices have reportedly dropped off a cliff, getting down to 7 cents/kWh, and they are reportedly on the verge of going even lower.

Speaking of CSP, “Researchers at Sandia National Labs have figured out how to downsize CSP facilities so that they are economically viable without taking up as much space as traditional solar panel arrays.” That’s the one-liner of an interesting story Steve Hanley covered. True, it’s not an industry change yet … but it could lead to a super interesting shift in the market if it becomes commercially competitive.

JA Solar Holdings, one of the largest solar cell and solar panel manufacturers in the world, just went private. This followed nearly one year after Trina Solar, the largest solar panel manufacturer in the world, went private. Who’s next?

The International Solar Alliance has announced a pilot program to guarantee up to $1 billion for solar power project development across the world. In other words, the program is providing financial guarantees to developers to encourage them to build projects. The expectation is that this pilot program “will attract investments worth $15 billion to set up 20 gigawatts of solar power capacity.”

Zachary Shahan