The Australian solar market had its second-largest month on record for PV registration in May, according to the latest data from SunWiz Market Intelligence. The solar industry consultancy’s June Solar Market Synopsis says that last month saw 95MW of PV registered across Australia. The SunWiz report also says that, according to its interactive solar hotspot finder, the Victorian suburb of Ascot Vale was one of the nation’s most stable PV hot spots in Q1 – once again putting paid to the myth that rooftop solar is an upper-middle class indulgence. The outer Melbourne suburb, located 7km north-west of the city centre, has now installed over 2.8MW, 11 per cent of which was installed in Q1.
The nation’s commercial-scale performance, however, has remained “more talk than action,” the report said, with only 0.5 per cent of systems exceeding 10kW for Australia’s top 50 installers. On small-scale technology certificates (STCs), SunWiz said that over 1,000,000 were registered last week, maintaining a level that has held steady for consecutive weeks. The synopsis said that the National Solar Group (True Value, etc) had overtaken Origin to become Australia’s largest STC creator.
Germany plugs in to solar
Last month was also a big one for German solar, with distributed solar PV systems producing 10 per cent of the nation’s total electricity consumption for May – a 40 per cent increase over May of 2011. Data released by a German water and energy trade association, also shows that for two days in May – the 25th and 26th – Germany was able to meet one third of its peak demand with solar alone. Climate Progress reports that a sunny month and a continued boom in installations has contributed to the increase in generation in Germany; the deployment of solar PV systems in Q1 of 2012 more than three times higher than the first quarter of 2011. In the rush to install systems before steep cuts to feed-in tariffs were introduced, 1,800MW of PV went online in the first three months of the year – roughly what the entire US industry installed in 2011, says CP. The country now has over one million solar systems installed, with solar power accounting for 3 per cent of total electricity generation in 2011 — a 60 percent increase over 2010. In 2011, Germany got roughly 20 per cent of its electricity from all renewable energy technologies.
CBD in Italy
Meanwhile, in Italy the ASX-listed CBD Energy has begun construction of a 5MW solar PV plant after securing a $25 million construction financing facility. The $16 million ground-mounted project is expected to be completed over the next month. The first project will be sold, but CBD Energy expects to retain some future projects because they have 20-year tariffs and deliver returns of more than 15 per cent. The company expects to complete around 5MW a month.
The shares of troubled EV battery maker A123 Systems jumped 52 per cent on Tuesday – its largest increase, to date – after the Massachusetts-based company claimed to have developed an improved lithium-ion cell that would cut costs of rechargeable and hybrid vehicles. Bloomberg reports that A123 shares soared to $1.58 at the close in New York – the increase almost wiping out a year- to-date decline – on the news that it would beging producing its “nanophosphate EXT” li-ion cells next year – technology the company says will eliminate weight, cost, technical complexity.
A123, which until now, says Climate Progress, may be best known for a costly recall of a product earlier this year and its subsequent stock-market decline, is calling the Nanophosphate EXT a “game-changing breakthrough” for energy storage. “By delivering high power, energy and cycle life capabilities over a wider temperature range, we believe Nanophosphate EXT can reduce or even eliminate the need for costly thermal management systems,” said David Vieau, CEO of A123 Systems, in a statement on Tuesday.
If the company’s claims are true, and the Nanophosphate EXT technology solves the EV temperature problem, this could have a huge practical impact, says Climate Progress. “In addition to increasing the efficiency and range of electric vehicles – and therefore their practicality and commercial appeal – the new battery could make electric cars viable in a broader range of markets.” It could also be a huge turning point for A123 Systems, which has reported loses every year since 2005, including $125 million in losses for the first quarter of this year in the wake of the recall. It has also missed out on half a $US249 million government grant – after failing to reach production targets.
Daimler goes electric
In other EV-related news, German auto giant Daimler on Monday started sales and production of an all-electric Smart Fortwo, its first mass-market zero-emissions vehicle, which will be rolled out to 30 markets across the world later this year. Production of the two-seater mini-car commenced at the company’s Hambach plant in France. It has a 55kW motor that can accelerate from 0 to 60km/h in 4.8 seconds, a maximum speed of 125km/h, and can travel 145km before it needs to be recharged. In Germany, the EV will be sold from €18,910 with the battery rented separately for €65 a month, or can be bought including the battery from €23,680. BusinessGreen reports that Daimler’s move into producing electric smart cars, which was first flagged back in 2009, means Daimler has beaten its rivals Volkswagen, which will start selling its E-Golf in 2013, and BMW, whose newly designed electric i3 brand will also go on sale next year.
China taps Australian algae tech…
Australian-owned biotech company Advanced Algal Technologies has signed a joint venture agreement with China’s Fuzhou Xiangli Enterprise Management Consulting to use Advanced Algal’s Algae Farming Conveyor Modular system. The company’s patented algae cultivation process will be used to help reduce carbon dioxide emissions in manufacturing plants in China. The Sydney-based company says its conveyor system creates ideal conditions, allwoing algae to double in mass every twenty-four hours – a growth rate it says surpasses all other current commercial processes in the market. As well as transforming carbon dioxide into oxygen through photosynthesis, the harvested algae can then be used as biofuel, animal feed, high-protein food products for human consumption, as well as non-petroleum-based pharmaceuticals.
Kevin Murphy, one of the principals behind the technology says the new technology is being developed and tested to provide a “state of the art” method of low-cost, high algal production. Joseph Takacs, chief engineer at Advanced Algal, describes the Algae Farming Conveyor Modular system as “a massive leap forward,” because “it gives us the ability to have complete control over the cultivation stage and its environment for a maximum algae yield. Carbon dioxide emissions can now be put into good use and every by-product of the conveyor system offers real, tangible benefits.” The agreement is worth US$100 million and covers a license for 20 years to build 500 conveyor modular units per year.