Photovoltaics/Business/Energetic 01

 (June,2003)Photovoltaics (PV)
 An Energetic Market Working Toward  Sunnier Days
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The US Navy Region Southwest deploys largest federal photovoltaic (PV)  system in the nation

The Naval Base Coronado in San Diego, California has a unique solar electric carport with a PV surface area of 81,470 sq. feet.  The installation is comprised of two contiguous solar arrays (3,078 photovoltaic panels), covering a half mile long parking structure that serves U.S. Navy personnel.  Each panel (module) has a maximum rated output of 300 Watts.  In addition to providing shade for 400  parked cars, the system generates the equivalent energy during the day to power over 935 homes.  

The DC output from the  PV array is converted to AC electricity by inverters located at the site, and then stepped up to 12kV, three-phase AC for connection to the Navy utility distribution system.

The 750 kW ac solar electrical system, with a peak capacity of 924kW, was developed by Noresco of Westborough, MA.  The photovoltaic system was designed, manufactured and installed by PowerLight Corporation of Berkeley, CA.  This photovoltaic system will produce approximately 1,244,000 kWh per year and is expected to save over $228,000 in annual operating  costs by avoiding purchase of expensive peak electricity.   

The environmental benefits of this PV system are significant.  It is estimated that over the 25-year lifetime of the photovoltaic system, the solar generated electricity will reduce emissions of nitrogen oxides by 11,660 lbs., sulfur dioxide by 10,480 lbs., and carbon dioxide by 7,430 tons.  These emission reductions are equivalent to not driving 18,583,000 miles or removing 1,480 cars from California’s roadways.

And, if one considers oil independence as a plus, this 750 kW PV system generates the electrical energy equivalent to 2,488 barrels of crude oil annually.  (Photo is courtesy of PowerLight..)
An Uphill Road

From a purely financial point of view, solar has a difficult and steep climb to become an energy  player in our industrialized society.  Although renewables (i.e. solar) were mentioned frequently during the Iraq war,  once again, oil prices have fallen and gasoline here in the Midwest can be purchased for as low as $1.33/gal.  In the meantime, energy sectors such as coal are getting large grants from the government to become a cleaner fuel  while  providing a cheap source of energy.  Although rhetoric abounds about the government  funding renewables, Matt Biven in The Nation last October stated,  “In sum, we’re talking about gift-wrapping $50 billion to $60 billion over the next ten years and handing it over to the oil gas, coal and nuclear power industries.”3  In reference to capitalizing renewables, i.e. solar, via the stock  markets, a  recent article in USA Today on 4/23/03 states that in spite of the spike of oil prices during the Iraq war,  “alternative energy stocks have gone nowhere....Alternative energy may someday become more than a novelty....But, it could be a long time.”1  Could these happenings cause a cloud over the sun for solar, or is the industry resilient and holding their ground?

Those in the solar business have come a long way in the last 25 years and view the contrarians with “ye of little faith” while continuing with new installations, striving to lower manufacturing costs and looking for a gains in solar efficiency and new materials. Since World War II (60 years ago) , all federal subsidies to solar power have only amounted to a paltry $4.4 billion,3  but the PV industry has felt it has used its money well.  

Today, the average retail price index as reported by Solarbuzz shows solar in the U.S. to be at $5.95 per Watt2 in May 2003,, and although not cost competitive, new  installations  continue to take place, usually with some federal, state or local  subsidy.  However, gains have been made in the last year with May 2002 prices per Watt at $6.14. Note that the approximate $6.00 per Watt tends to be an average in a broadly based index, there are thin films  as low as $3.42 per Watt and crystalline as low as $3.42. Prices in the index are based on the purchase of a single module and reflect prices across all solar module power bands.   

Solar Celebrations

To keep momentum for PV positive, it is important to celebrate successes, both large and small.  So, BD would like to highlight some of the newest installations in the U.S.  

BP (Beyond Petroleum) celebrates its day in the sun on the East Coast .  On April 22, at Earth Day, a new “solar field” was opened in Paulsboro, N.J.  The site is a 130-acre former petroleum and specialty chemical storage and distribution facility located east of Philadelphia.   The new solar power field produces an estimated 350,000 kiloWatt-hours of electricity, enough to power about 50 typical homes in the Northeast.  The solar is power is generated by an array of 5,800 panels and provides up to 30 percent of the energy needed for environmental remediation equipment at the former terminal.   

BP did not take this project on as a sole entity.  Two government programs with environmental initiatives provided  assistance with  the project.  They were the New Jersey Clean Energy Program and the Virginia Alliance for Solar Energy. The important point is that the synergistic effort  accomplished a goal - a goal which can probably best be described by its estimated environmental effects, that of reducing CO2 by 571,000 lbs./yr. and nitrogen oxide emissions by 1,100 lbs./year.
Shell Solar supplies one of the largest commercial photovoltaic installations on the West Coast. Toyota Motor Sales’ new  “green building” headquarters in Torrence, California has an array of  3,675 Shell Solar panels, which has a peak capacity of 536 kiloWatts.  

RWE Schott Solar deploys largest alternative renewable energy resources for  Department of Defense (DOD) at the Pentagon. The DOD’s  Pentagon Reservation Solar and Hydro Energy Farm has three PV systems.  The latest and largest system is located at the Pentagon Heating and Refrigeration plant. The 70 kW photovoltaic system has 276 modules installed in 23 rows of 12 modules per row; this system  has 315 W, high power versions of RWE SCHOTT Solar’s ASE 300 modules.  This is the largest solar module commercially available globally.  Tilt-angles were use to minimize row-to-row separation and thus allow greater achievement in power density.    

Will federal legislation provide more government $$$ for PV  systems?
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To have more PV in the U.S.  (i.e. as the solar array shown above on the General Services Administration Metcalfe Federal Building) government will need to play a role. Both the Senate and House of  Representatives are considering legislation that could include solar/PV.

Some highlights of the House bill are as follows:

offer, as an amendment,  to authorize a five-year US$262 million/year Photovoltaic Energy Commercialization Program to deploy solar electric systems on federal buildings.
provide homeowners with a 15 percent tax credit for the purchase of residential solar electric and solar hot water systems,  maximum of $2,000/system.  (Similar legislation is in the Senate and in the Bush budget.)
authorize a four-year US$30 million/year program to cost-share deployment of solar and other renewable systems on state and local public buildings.
model (simplify) net metering and interconnection language  for solar and other clean technologies to connect to the utility grid to sell excess generation to local utilities.

Some highlights of the Senates proposals  are as follows:

sets goal for federal agencies to purchase 7.5 percent of their power from renewable energy sources (i.e. solar) by 2011.
provides a new personal tax credit for purchase of qualified photovoltaic and solar water heating property, excluding swimming pools and hot tubs.  
adds solar as a qualifying resource for tax credit. The credit is 1.8 cents/kiloWatt hour with no inflation adjustment for facilities placed in service after the date of enactment.  (Photo is  courtesy of  DOE/NREL..)

PowerLight will install largest solar electric system of any University in the World at Cal State Hayward. The 10.05 megaWatt solar electric system will deliver approximately 30 percent of the campus’s peak electricity demand during the summer months.   The system, covering 110,000 sq. feet, will have three rooftop arrays and one on the ground.  The ground-mounted solar tracking system, which captures up to 30 percent more energy than the fixed system, follows the sun and will be installed on an unused field.  The project will generate roughly 1,450,000 kiloWatt hours annually, producing enough electricity in the daytime to power more than 1,000 homes.  Construction is expected to begin in July.  

The environmental impact is worth noting.  Over the next 25 years, the solar-generated electricity will reduce emissions of carbon dioxide by nearly 8,700 tons.  These emissions’ reductions are equivalent to planting 2,450 acres of trees or removing 1,700 cars from the California’s highways.  

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL)
     provides photovoltaic roadmap.

Under the umbrella of NREL (an agency of the Department of Energy) , the National Center for Photovoltaics provides long term vision, goals, and targets for photovoltaics.  Their vision is “to provide the electricity consumer with competitive and environmentally friendly energy products and services from a thriving United States-based solar-electric power industry.” Their strategies, in addition to maintaining  the U.S. industry’s worldwide technological leadership, are:
- achieving economic competitiveness with conventional technologies Their roadmap charts a course that will provide competitive power (i.e. costs of under $3 to $4 per peak Watt) in a time frame that will ensure a competitive position.
- maintaining a sustained PV market with accompanying production growth.   Hopefully, by 2030, PV will strongly impact AC distributed generation and DC value applications and approach 10% U.S. peak generation.
-making  the PV industry profitable and attractive to investors. Grow domestic business with annual revenue from $10 to $15 billion; the industry must be profitable to attract investors and their financial support.

Goals for U.S. Manufactured PV models

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Shown are the goals for U.S. manufactured PV modules installed in US. domestic applications, for a U.S. market that increasesexponentially from 2000 to 2020.  The inset shows the evolution of the impact of various markets and technologies. (Graph is courtesy of NREL/NCPV

The “endpoint” is 2020, and by  that time, the  National Center for Photovoltaics says, “The domestic photovoltaic industry will provide up to 15% (about 3,200MWp or 3.2 GWp) of new U.S. peak electricity generating capacity expected to be required in 2020.  Cumulative PV shipments will be about 36 GWp  at this time.”  The focus of this endpoint is to replace a fraction of the U.S. electricity generation and displace the right 15%.  Having PV shave peak-load demand when energy is most constrained and expensive will alleviate the need to build new intracity power plants and transmission lines.  

Of course, price goals are a major figure of the bottom line for success.  The system price paid by the end-user (including operating and maintenance costs) are projected to be $3 to $4 per Watt by 2010.  Total manufacturing costs (or the cost to produce the components in the system) are projected to be 50% to 60% of the price of the installed system.  

For PV/solar to win in the U.S. (and ultimately the world)  as a completive electricity generation source,  industry and government need to work together with the support of the people of the United States.  What happens to photovoltaics  in the next two decades will make a dramatic difference in the level of environmental cleanliness  in the U.S. and abroad.  Accomplishing the goals of  the National Center for Photovoltaics can be a positive answer for our energy needs.  However, the big question is: Will there be enough support among government at all levels, industry and the U.S. consumer to make it happen?          
1 “-Alternatives to costly oil fall flat” by John Waggoner, USA Today, Money Section, 04/23/03
2, “Solar Module Price Highlights,” 05/03
3 “the failsafe point” by Matt Biven, The Nation, 10/28/02