The Sun Breaks Through Stormy Skies of China/EU Trade

China and the West broke a decades-old pattern of troubled trade relations over the weekend with a landmark deal to settle a trade dispute between China and the EU involving Chinese manufactured solar panels. Leaders in China and the West should use this breakthrough agreement as a template for resolving future trade disputes, turning to compromise rather than destructive accusations and punitive tariffs to end their disagreements.

Trade between China and the West has grown rapidly over the last two decades following China’s economic reforms to create a more market-oriented economy. The EU and the US are now China’s two biggest trading partners, with combined exports to both markets totaling more than $700 billion last year – greater than China’s entire exports a decade ago. Disputes are almost inevitable with such rapid growth, and many of those are related to China’s policies of State support for many big companies and key industries.

The solar panel dispute began two years ago when the sector suddenly plunged into a downward spiral after nearly a decade of explosive growth. A major cause of that downturn was a rapid buildup of capacity in China, as China rolled out favorable policies like tax incentives and cheap loans to promote development of a cutting-edge sector with big growth potential. As prices tumbled, a growing number of companies in the US and Europe went bankrupt, with many blaming cheap imports from China for their woes. Washington opened an investigation into the matter, which ended with the imposition of antidumping tariffs against Chinese manufacturers last year. The EU followed with its own investigation, and announced its own tariffs this spring.

Written by Doug Young. To read the full article, click here.

ABB helps harness solar energy in the land of the rising sun

In addition to the design and engineering, ABB was also responsible for the supply of key products and systems including the control and protection as well a range of medium- and low-voltage switchgear, inverters and distribution transformers. ABB’s ability to fulfill the requirements of the higher-voltage system (DC 1,000V), which complies with IEC standards, was also a key differentiator.

“We are delighted to contribute to Japan’s efforts to redress its energy mix,” said Massimo Danieli, head of ABB’s Power Generation business, part of the company’s Power Systems division. “ABB’s vast power and automation portfolio, combined with domain expertise and global experience in the photovoltaic solar plant sector, enables us to provide an integrated and optimized solution that helps harness the maximum amount of energy and lower environmental impact.”

In the wake of its recent nuclear experience, Japan is making a concerted effort to increase the share of renewable energy in its mix. One initiative is a feed-in-tariff policy to facilitate solar energy deployment, which could make the country one of the world’s fastest-growing users of solar energy.

Written by ABB Communications. To read the full article, click here.

No Free Sun for You! Why Arizona Wants to ‘Tax’ Solar Power

Arizona does not have enough sunshine. It needs to ration that precious resource.

There’s no other explanation for the latest proposal from Arizona Public Service, Arizona’s largest electric utility. On July 12, it announced a plan to drastically change net-metering, the way in which homeowners and businesses with solar rooftops sell excess power back to the grid. Net-metering is the foundation for all solar leasing; without it, solar companies can’t entice homeowners with the promise of “cut your electric bill, no money down” but instead would rely on sales of expensive systems.

The proposal would slap existing solar-paneled homeowners with a fee of up to $100 per month for the privilege of selling excess power back to APS. If you own a home and don’t already have solar panels, no sun for you! You can never share in net-metering as we know it.

Written by RL Miller. To read the full article, click here.

Sun Plus Nanotechnology: Can Solar Energy Get Bigger by Thinking Small?

Nearly 60 years after researchers first demonstrated a way to convert sunlight into energy, science is still grappling with a critical limitation of the solar photovoltaic cell.

It just isn’t that efficient at turning the tremendous power of the sun into electricity.

And even though commercial solar cells today have double to four times the 6 percent efficiency of the one first unveiled in 1954 by Bell Laboratories in New Jersey, that hasn’t been sufficient to push fossil fuel from its preeminent place in the world energy mix.

But now, alternative energy researchers think that something really small—nanotechnology, the engineering of structures a fraction of the width of a human hair—could give a gigantic boost to solar energy. (See related quiz: “What You Don’t Know About Solar Power.”)

“Advances in nanotechnology will lead to higher efficiencies and lower costs, and these can and likely will be significant,” explains Matt Beard, a senior scientist for the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). “In fact, nanotechnology is already having dramatic effects on the science of solar cells.”

Written by Patrick J. Kiger. To read the full article, click here