Mixed Greens: India’s 1GW solar punch

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India mulls fast-tracking 1GW of solar auctions; China’s solar pain, renewables attractiveness gain; a geothermal deeps win; and Hanwha’s Q-Cells approval.

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India is considering auctioning a third of the 3GW of solar projects it has planned for deployment by 2017 in the current financial year, in an effort to double the nation’s solar power capacity and boost clean energy investment as it battles to address the nation’s worsening power shortages. Bloomberg reports that contracts for “1,000 megawatts or a little less” of the 3,000MW of solar plants proposed to be built starting in 2013 may be tendered in the first batch, according to Tarun Kapoor, joint secretary at India’s Ministry of New and Renewable Energy.

“Predictable demand is probably the most important factor for us in the creation of additional manufacturing capacity,” Sujoy Ghosh, country head of First Solar told Bloomberg earlier this month, and that appears to be the main motivation behind the plan – to provide some guidance to solar utilities and manufacturers, who have said India must demonstrate a reliable pipeline of projects to draw the investment needed to meet its targets. India aims to have installed 20GW of solar power by 2022, with most of the country’s existing 1,040MW built in the past year.

As Bloomberg notes, India has chosen to go down the path of solar auctions to avoid the pitfalls of renewables subsidies that have blighted European governments. Project developers are awarded capacity based on the discount at which they’re willing to sell power. Under that system, the price of solar power in India fell 38 per cent between 2010 and 2011.

In other news…

In China, two of the nation’s top four solar-cell makers – Yingli Green Energy Holding and JA Solar Holdings – have cut forecasts for shipments after their losses widened and product prices plunged. “Clearly, there’s a sustained trend here where overall demand for the second half of the year is shaping up weaker than many companies had hoped,” Pavel Molchanov, an analyst at Raymond James & Associates in Houston, told Bloomberg in an interview. “Whether it gets worse is debatable because it’s truly about as bad as it can get. It’s more about how long it’s going to stay this way.”

Despite some solar pain, China has widened its renewables lead over the US, according to Ernst & Young’s latest quarterly renewables “attractiveness index” – which gauges the appeal to investors of wind and solar power projects in various countries. Bloomberg reports that “uncertainty over …(its) long-term renewable energy strategy” has seen the US drop 1.5 points to 66 in the index, pushing it into a tie for second with Germany, and trailing China’s score of 70.2.

Plans to build the first fully operational deep geothermal well in South America have taken a major step forward, after US-based GeoGlobal Energy successfully completed a test drilling program in Chile. BusinessGreen reports that GGE subsidiary, GGE Chile, confirmed this week it has successfully demonstrated that its production and injection wells in southern Chile are capable of supporting commercial power production and that one of the wells, Tolhuaca No. 4, is “the most productive geothermal well ever drilled in South America.” The company hopes to have the plant up and running by 2014.

South Korean industrial Hanwha Group has won backing from Q-Cells’ creditors to buy what was once the world’s biggest maker of solar cells. Hanwha will take over most of the insolvent German solar giant under an agreement signed August 26 that won backing at a creditor meeting on Wednesday, beating out Spanish power plant developer Isofoton, which offered to invest €300 million with the Rocket Venture Fund.

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