Solar Deals & Company News

Deals and company news from the global solar sector this week

Japanese EPC specialist JFE Engineering has finished installing 26.2MW of solar on a former golf course in Sukagawa, Fukushima prefecture. It first announced plans to build the array — which Nagano-based health-food provider Sunny Health will operate — in February 2014. Hanwha Q Cells supplied the PV modules for the project, which will annually generate enough electricity to cater to the needs of roughly 8,000 homes. JFE will sell the electricity to regional utility TohokuElectricPower. The company has developed solar projects at roughly 100 locations throughout Japan, totalling approximately 370MW.

JA Solar has agreed to provide 35.1 MW of PV panels for the second phase of an undisclosed project in Guatemala. Last year, the Chinese manufacturer supplied 59.7MW of solar modules to the site, which it says is the biggest PV project in Central America.

Xcel Energy, the US utility with the largest amount of wind power on its system, agreed to buy 140MW of PV output from two utility-scale arrays under development in New Mexico by NextEra Energy Resources. The projects are expected to be on-line by the end of next year, making them eligible for the 30% Investment Tax Credit. Xcel did not reveal the PPA prices. But David Hudson, president of Southwestern Public Service Company, a Texas-based Xcel subsidiary, said the PPAs make “good sense economically”, and added that such plants “displace megawatts generated from some of our older, less-efficient natural gas-fueled plants”.

Construction work was halted at Tenaska’s 150MW Imperial Solar Energy Center West PV project after California regulators accepted a petition to qualify the flat-tailed horned lizard as an endangered species. In California, species under consideration for protected status must be treated as if they have already been qualified. As a result, Tenaska, a large US IPP, must get a special permit to continue construction, which it hopes it can obtain as early as next week. In the meantime, the delay is reportedly causing losses of more than $140,000 per week. California’s booming utility-scale sector finds itself increasingly in conflict with environmentalists keen to preserve desert wild lands. First Solar, builder of many of the largest US solar projects in the region, is handling EPC work at Imperial Solar Energy Center West, with commercial operation expected next year.

China’s Trina Solar has struck a deal to supply 48MW of modules to Indian developer ACME Cleantech Solutions. The manufacturer’s Honey modules will be used at two plants, with shipments due this quarter. Trina said it has now signed deals with ACME for 70MW this year.

German PV group SolarWorld will start manufacturing solar mono-crystals at its production facility in Arnstadt, Germany. SolarWorld took over the plant from Bosch a year ago and said production capacity of mono-crystals at Arnstadt will be gradually expanded to about 500MW. Mono-crystals are cut into ingots for processing into wafers. SolarWorld earlier this week announced it will expand the use of PERC technology in its cell production in Germany, with all Arnstadt’s output to be covered by the efficiency-improving coatings.

Kyocera and PV monitoring specialist Solare Datensysteme have revealed plans to provide residential-use energy storage products in Germany. The packaged offering will include Kyoto-based Kyocera’s battery storage systems, while Solare Datensysteme — based in Binsdorf, Germany — will supply energy monitoring software. German PV components supplier Energetik will start selling the systems — which will allow households to store PV-generated electricity — from May. Energetik — based in Gütersloh, Germany — will offer a choice of 4.8kWh and 7.2kWh batteries, paired with monitoring software and Kyocera’s PV modules.

Enphase Energy has agreed to supply PV microinverter systems in Australia through utility EnergyAustralia. Customers will have the option of buying its microinverter and monitoring platforms through an interest-free payment plan, according to an online statement. California-based Enphase described the strategic partnership with EnergyAustralia, which is owned by Hong Kong-based China Light & Power, as a “big win” for its Asia-Pacific business. It did not reveal the terms of the deal. In February, the microinverter manufacturer reported a 2014 net loss of $8.1m, from a $25.9m full-year deficit a year earlier.

SunEdison nailed down non-recourse project financing from Shinsei Bank covering 80% of the cost of a 9.6MW utility-scale PV project to be built in Japan. According to SunEdison, it is one of the first times that a US company has secured that type of financing from a Japanese bank for a solar project in Japan. The array, to be built on the southern island of Kyushu, is due for completion in September 2015. SunEdison says it is looking forward to “rapid growth in the Japanese market”.

sPower, the fast-growing US solar developer and generator, acquired a 63.1MW, 16-project portfolio of assets in North Carolina from FLS Energy. The projects, completed in 2013-14, have 15-year PPAs with subsidiaries of Duke Energy. CohnReznick Capital Markets advised on the transaction. sPower, which was merged last year with Silverado Power, plans to have 1GW of generation capacity on its books by the end of next year.

A unit of JinkoSolar has secured a 320m yuan ($51.1m) credit line from China Development Bank (CDB). The subsidiary, JinkoSolar Power, will use the 15-year loan to build a 50MW PV project in Henfeng county, in southeast China’s Jiangxi province. Last month, the company connected the first 50MW phase of a 100MW project to the grid in the village of Yangjia, Jiangxi. The financing agreement is JinkoSolar’s second such deal this month; last week, it signed a 3bn yuan, five-year agreement with China Minsheng Banking Corp. (CMBC) to expand its production operations and downstream project-development business.

The European Commission proposed ejecting three Chinese PV manufacturers – Canadian Solar, ReneSola and ET Solar – from the minimum price framework it struck in 2013 to defuse the EU/China solar row. The three companies are accused of violating the agreement in different ways, including offering customers additional “benefits” to entice them to buy modules (Canadian Solar); using cells made by companies not covered by the agreement, thereby making monitoring them impractical (ReneSola); and selling finished PV arrays without counting the modules used within as part of the company's specific sales allotment (ET Solar). Being excluded from the framework would expose the companies to punitive duties, effectively pricing them out of the European market. Canadian Solar promptly dismissed the allegations. No final determination has been made in the cases.

SolarCity, the leading US installer of rooftop PV systems, announced a partnership with Chicago-based bond brokerage InCapital, as it looks to bring its “solar bonds” into the financial mainstream. Last October, SolarCity began offering solar bonds to retail investors through its website, offering interest rates ranging from 2% on bonds with one-year tenors up to 5.75% on those with 15-year maturities. But the InCapital deal means investors will be able to buy the corporate bonds through their financial advisors and include them in their tax-advantaged retirement accounts, potentially making them more attractive to a larger slice of the investing public. Over the past few years, SolarCity has proved itself an innovator when it comes to raising money for its capital-intensive business model, including recycling capital through the sale of securitised solar assets.

SolarWorld handed an order to Swiss toolmaker Meyer Burger to upgrade and expand its cell production lines in Freiberg, Germany. Meyer Burger will upgrade the Freiberg lines to include PERC technology – already in use at SolarWorld’s two smaller factories, in Arnstadt, Germany, and Hillsboro, Oregon. Such Passivated Emitter and Rear Cell technology boosts the efficiency and the low-light performance of PV cells, and is rapidly gaining traction among global makers of crystalline-silicon PV cells. In addition to upgrading the lines, Meyer Burger will also expand the Freiberg plant’s annual capacity to 400MW, up from 330MW at present. The Freiberg plant also has 750MW of wafer capacity and 660MW of module capacity.

Costa Rica's public services regulator ARESEP is finalising rules over net-metering for small-scale renewable generation. The measure is expected to further boost already-increasing demand for rooftop solar. According to state-controlled power group ICE, Costa Rica's distributed power generation capacity stands at 2.4MW, or 0.1% of total installed capacity. Solar accounts for 1% of the nation’s total capacity, with wind at around 5%. Large-hydro with 63% dominates Costa Rica’s power mix.

Korea-based PV equipment group Hanwha Q Cells has signed a 75MW module supply deal with the US arm of German developer Juwi. The developer said the “diversified manufacturing footprint” of the supplier had “helped put our trade case concerns at ease”. Hanwha Q Cells was formed by the recent merger of Hanwha’s Q Cells and SolarOne units.

Infratech Industries is about to start building Australia’s first floating solar project. The 4MW array will be built on three ponds at a wastewater treatment facility in Jamestown, South Australia. The company, based just outside of Adelaide, hopes to finish building the project by early April. Developers throughout the world are increasingly exploring the possibilities of floating PV, particularly in Japan. In September, Kyocera and property firm Century Tokyo Leasing led the way by starting construction on a 2.9MW plant in Kato, Hyogo prefecture. And in November, Tokyo-based renewables developer Smart Energy revealed plans to build the world’s largest floating solar project — a 7.5MW array — on a reservoir north of Tokyo.