As the European Union's 27 countries inch closer to their combined 2020 renewable energy mandate of getting 20 percent of their total energy from renewable sources, the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) has reported that the EU is well on its way to exceeding the goal. Individually, the EU 15 countries out the 27 states are expected to meet and surpass their own clean energy requirements by that same 2020 deadline.
It doesn't take a solar power expert to know that parts of North Africa, like Algeria, get a lot of sunshine. Nor does it take an energy analyst to know that, given its relatively large, dense population, the Europe Union needs a lot of electricity. So, why not make solar power in Africa and sell it in Europe?
Long regarded by analysts as the solar industry bellwether, Arizona-based manufacturer First Solar is solidifying its position as a solar power behemoth, a powerhouse with enormous coffers and global reach. As part of its efforts to grow its utility business, yesterday it opened the largest photovoltaic solar power station in California, a plant in the city of Blythe with a generating capacity of 21 megawatts (sufficient power for 17,000 homes) and a 20-year purchase agreement with Southern California Edison. The 21-megawatt plant is only the latest in a series of planned expansions for First Solar, which includes a 48-megawatt plant in Nevada to provide electricity to Pacific Gas & Electric subscribers in California, with the plant slated to begin construction in January 2010 and reach completion by the end of the year. With California’s utilities companies scrambling to reach the state’s ambitious mandates—one third of the state’s electricity has to come from renewable energy sources by 2020—the hope appears to be that the growth will benefit everybody.
The European Commission released on Wednesday its plan to reduce carbon dioxide levels by directing €50 billion to clean energy research and development over the next ten years, with €16 billion ($23.5 billion) of that money reserved for solar photovoltaic power. The Strategic Energy Technology (SET) Plan may be the latest step in the European Union’s PR crusade—it precedes the summit meeting in Copenhagen in December to discuss a global agreement addressing climate change—but it’s also, as this New York Times article notes, a signal of the region’s willingness to reorder its “industrial principles” and devote greater spending to clean energy “even as the world emerges from a deep financial crisis.”
In what may appear at first glance to be a self-defeating move, SolarWorld, Germany’s third-largest solar company in terms of revenue, has called for the German government to hasten its reduction of the lucrative solar subsidies that made solar so successful there in the first place. The announcement, which was made during the European Photovoltaic Solar Energy Conference on Monday, follows the company’s declaration of plans to triple solar module production at its plant in Freiberg, Germany, at a time when many of its peers are halting expansion or conducting massive layoffs.
Not content to sit idle as their Chinese rivals implement aggressive pricing strategies overseas, German solar manufacturers are fighting back by looking to a higher power. BSW (Bundesverband Solarwirtschaft, the German Solar Industry Association) has stated that it will decide whether or not to request regulatory action by the end of the year over what it considers dumping by Chinese solar manufacturers.
While Vatican City has been enjoying the advantages of 2,400 solar panels since last fall, the Catholic city-state is looking to move into the big leagues of solar with a 100-MW solar farm. Since Italy currently has about 440 installed megawatts of solar capacity, that represents a huge increase in the nation's solar capacity. The solar farm would, in fact, be hugely superfluous to the Vatican's needs, so a large portion of the electricity produced would be fed back into Italy's national grid. The solar farm is planned for a multi-hundred-acre site near the Vatican Radio transmission center.