SunPower Announces World-Record Efficiency Solar Cell Now in Commercial Production

Third Generation Maxeon Solar Cell Delivers Efficiency Rating of up to 24 Percent

SAN JOSE, Calif., March 27, 2012 /PRNewswire/ — SunPower Corp. (NASDAQ: SPWR), a Silicon Valley-based manufacturer of high efficiency solar cells, solar panels and solar systems today announced that its third generation SunPower® Maxeon™ solar cell (Maxeon) is now in commercial production.  This world-record efficiency solar cell delivers sunlight to electricity conversion efficiency of up to 24 percent.

SunPower’s new Maxeon all-back contact solar cell measures 160 mm in size and produces more energy per square meter when compared to conventional crystalline solar cells.  The new cell has low reverse-bias breakdown voltage to deliver better performance in shady and dusty conditions, and better temperature coefficient for increased energy harvest in hot environments.  The new Maxeon solar cell offers improved aesthetics with a consistent, homogenous, sleek black look.

"We’re pleased to move our world-record breaking efficiency solar cell from the lab into commercial production," said Tom Werner, SunPower president and CEO.  "With the new Maxeon solar cells, offering efficiencies of up to 24 percent, SunPower continues to lead the industry in technology innovation, delivering to its customers the highest efficiency, most reliable solar panels for guaranteed performance."

The new Maxeon solar cells are currently being integrated into select SunPower solar panels that deliver efficiencies exceeding 20 percent.  These panels contain up to 128 solar cells per panel and will be availability in limited quantities in 2012.

About SunPower Corp.
SunPower Corp. (NASDAQ: SPWR) designs, manufactures and delivers the highest efficiency, highest reliability solar panels and systems available today. Residential, business, government and utility customers rely on the company’s quarter century of experience and guaranteed performance to provide maximum return on investment throughout the life of the solar system.  Headquartered in San Jose, Calif., SunPower has offices in North America, Europe, Australia and Asia.  For more information, visit

SOURCE SunPower Corp.

Solar Power Giant Suntech Gooses Cell Efficiency

By altering some production-line techniques, Suntech has wrung 20.3 percent efficiency from standard p-silicon wafers.

The global leader in solar panel manufacturing, China’s Suntech said that its industry-leading Pluto cell technology set a world record for efficiency in its production lab, using standard commercial-grade p-type silicon wafers, by making some alterations in the processing techniques.


image via Suntech

Suntech’s Australian research and development team, working with the University of New South Wales, implemented processing changes in its simulated production line to minimize the use of high temperatures needed to apply the high-efficiency processes to the most commonly used commercial wafers.

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#Solar-Powered Car Visits Florida

Solar-Powered Car, SolarWorld GT, Visits Florida Solar Energy Center on Driving Tour around Globe

Public can view vehicle, and win chance to ride, at on-campus exhibition March 19

CAMARILLO, Calif., Mar 15, 2012 (BUSINESS WIRE) — A solar-powered car sponsored by SolarWorld, the largest U.S. solar manufacturer for more than 35 years, will visit the Florida Solar Energy Center (FSEC), a research institute of the University of Central Florida (UCF) in Cocoa, Fla., on March 19.

The visit is the final U.S. stop on the vehicle’s 21,000-mile quest to circle the globe, propelled only by the sun’s rays. The SolarWorld Gran Turismo (GT), a collaboration between SolarWorld and Bochum University of Applied Sciences in Germany, is a two-seat sports car powered by roof-integrated solar panels. The GT’s circumnavigation of the planet, a first for an automobile directly powered by renewable energy, is expected to set a “Guinness Book of World Records” record for the longest distance covered by a solar car.

At 2 p.m. March 19, SolarWorld and the vehicle’s drivers and crew — the college students who developed and designed the SolarWorld GT — will host a reception showcasing the vehicle and awarding one audience member the chance to ride in the SolarWorld GT. The one-hour event is open to the public and will take place at the FSEC office at 1679 Clearlake Road in Cocoa.

"The SolarWorld GT is an ambassador for sustainable personal transportation, reminding us that the power to shift our driving habits away from dirty fossil fuels is within our grasp," said Kevin Kilkelly, president of SolarWorld Americas, the company’s commercial unit based in Camarillo, Calif. "The vehicle’s visit to FSEC, an esteemed research institute that has been promoting America’s energy independence for more than 35 years, is especially fitting. Our organizations have a history of collaboration on solar projects across the Sunshine State."

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U.S. Military Housing Communities Get Funding For #Solar

U.S. Bancorp and SolarCity to Fund Solar Power Installations in U.S. Military Housing Communities


U.S. Bancorp (NYSE: USB) and SolarCity, a national leader in clean energy services, announced the creation of a renewable energy tax equity fund that will help to initiate the first phase of project SolarStrong, SolarCity’s ambitious five-year, nationwide initiative to provide existing privatized military housing with access to affordable solar power. U.S. Bancorp’s most recent investment represents an expansion of an ongoing partnership with SolarCity, which first began in 2009 to finance solar projects for U.S. homeowners and businesses.

“The continued support of U.S. Bancorp means more renewable energy for those defending our nation and job creation for those vets who are transitioning back into U.S. society,” said Lyndon Rive, CEO of SolarCity. “U.S. Bancorp’s contributions help us make solar power cost less than utility power for military housing communities in multiple states.”

SolarStrong is ultimately expected to create up to 300 megawatts of solar generation capacity that could provide power to up to 120,000 privatized military family homes. If completed as anticipated, SolarStrong is expected to be the largest residential solar photovoltaic project in American history. SolarCity is partnering with several veterans organizations to recruit qualified candidates for the projects.

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How a #Solar #Photovoltaic Cell is Created

The Future Living house is a testament to the will of design. It took twenty six designers (a feat in itself) to create it. Every technologic leap was analyzed to make sure anything proposed was possible by 2050. It’s a paradigm shift in home resource creation and location. Water uses gravity to generate pressure. Energy is harvested from solar and wind apparatuses. Air, water and waste are cleaned using a living bio wall and everything is recycled when possible.

Design Team: Cornelia Bailey, Tanushree Bhat, Marilee Bowles Carey, Anthony Caspary, Eric Diamond, Xiaonan Huang, Reenu John, Na Rae Kim, Paolo Korre, Eugene Limb, Hsin-Cheng Lin, Miguel Angel Martinez, Nikhil Mathew, Elise Metzger, Mahdieh Salimi, Kshitij V. Sawant, Owen Schoppe, Jessica Striebich, Hannah Swart, Traci Thomas, Helen Tong, Sally Wong, Yixiu Wu, HyeKyung Yoo and Gene Young of IIT Institute of Design

A ray of hope - #solar

Today the solar industry is just how IT was in the early 1980s
It is peak hour traffic in Mumbai and your car stops at a signal. A bunch of kids run to your window. Guess what they are selling? Not selling newspapers or toys. They are selling solar panels.

This picture, envisioned by a solar company head, is a hyperbole, but it underlines the fact that today the solar industry is just how IT was in the early 1980s or telecom in the early 1990s.

In less than a decade, solar panels on your rooftop will be powering your television, refrigerator and lights in your house. Your rooftop will be producing more electricity than what you need, you will be putting in the surplus power into the grid and when you do that, your meters will be spinning backwards, reducing your current bill. Why, even the glass panes that make up the exterior of the upcoming office complex in the neighbourhood could be generating current.

Want #photovoltaic? Costly study may be required | KHON2 Hawaii's News Leader

HONOLULU-  Hawaiian Electric Company says the average price of an electric bill on Oahu reached a new record high of $215.81 in November.  The cost of a kilowatt-hour rose to 34.6 cents, breaking the previous record high in October of 33.1 cents.

Homeowners hoping to lower the cost of their electricity bills through a photovoltaic system may be surprised that Hawaiian Electric Company could require what’s known as an ‘interconnection study.’  Such studies can be extremely expensive, reaching into the thousands of dollars.

“The purpose of that is to make sure you can add a new PV or renewable energy system to that area without effecting the safety or reliability of the grid,” explained HECO spokesman Darren Pai.

If a neighborhood is generating 15 percent of peak demand electricity through a combination of photovoltaic systems, homeowners wanting to install a PV system of their own are required to pay for the study.  However, even after an interconnection study is completed, HECO may still deny permission for a PV system to be built.

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Lee Bidgood Jr.: Embracing solar power |

Lee Bidgood Jr.: Embracing solar power Published: Thursday, November 10, 2011 at 10:03 a.m. Last Modified: Thursday, November 10, 2011 at 10:03 a.m. The Sun reported that Congressman Cliff Stearns endorses solar thermal power. After World War II, solar thermal flourished briefly in Florida. Over half of Miami homes had solar water heaters. Then Florida public utilities, guarding their legal monopolies, offered free electric water heaters to customers and killed the solar thermal boom. In 1979 following an oil embargo, President Carter revived the solar thermal industry with a 40 percent federal tax credit. Hundreds of new solar thermal manufacturers and thousands of distributor and contractor businesses were formed. The Reagan administration killed the tax credit as oil prices collapsed, ending the solar thermal revival. Now solar thermal is again recognized as an attractive quick-payback investment. I wish Congressman Stearns could view solar PV electricity as favorably as solar hot water. Lee Bidgood, Jr., Gainesville

#Solar Power Purchase Agreements | Green Power Partnership | US EPA

Solar Power Purchase Agreements

What Is a Solar Power Purchase Agreement (SPPA)?

A Solar Power Purchase Agreement (SPPA) is a financial arrangement in which a third-party developer owns, operates, and maintains the photovoltaic (PV) system, and a host customer agrees to site the system on its roof or elsewhere on its property and purchases the system’s electric output from the solar services provider for a predetermined period. This financial arrangement allows the host customer to receive stable, and sometimes lower cost electricity, while the solar services provider or another party acquires valuable financial benefits such as tax credits and income generated from the sale of electricity to the host customer.

With this business model, the host customer buys the services produced by the PV system rather than the PV system itself. This framework is referred to as the “solar services” model, and the developers who offer SPPAs are known as solar services providers. SPPA arrangements enable the host customer to avoid many of the traditional barriers to adoption for organizations looking to install solar systems: high up-front capital costs; system performance risk; and complex design and permitting processes. In addition, SPPA arrangements can be cash flow positive for the host customer from the day the system is commissioned.

How do SPPAs Work?

Figure 1 below illustrates the roles of all participants in an SPPA.

Roles of SPPA Participants
"	Flow chart

Adapted from Rahus Institute’s “The
Customer’s Guide to Solar Power
Purchase Agreements” (2008).

A host customer agrees to have solar panels installed on its property, typically its roof, and signs a long-term contract with the solar services provider to purchase the generated power. The host property can be either owned or leased (note that for leased properties, solar financing works best for customers that have a long-term lease). The purchase price of the generated electricity is typically at or slightly below the retail electric rate the host customer would pay its utility service provider. SPPA rates can be fixed, but they often contain an annual price escalator in the range of one to five percent to account for system efficiency decreases as the system ages and inflation-related costs increases for system operation, monitoring, maintenance, and anticipated increases in the price of grid-delivered electricity. An SPPA is a performance-based arrangement in which the host customer pays only for what the system produces. The term length of most SPPAs can range from six years (i.e., the time by which available tax benefits are fully realized) to as long as 25 years.

The solar services provider functions as the project coordinator, arranging the financing, design, permitting, and construction of the system. The solar services provider purchases the solar panels for the project from a PV manufacturer, who provides warranties for system equipment.

The installer will design the system, specify the appropriate system components, and may perform the follow-up maintenance over the life of the PV system. To install the system, the solar services provider might use an in-house team of installers or have a contractual relationship with an independent installer. Once the SPPA contract is signed, a typical installation can usually be completed in three to six months.

An investor provides equity financing and receives the federal and state tax benefits for which the system is eligible. Under certain circumstances, the investor and the solar services provider may together form a special purpose entity for the project to function as the legal entity that receives and distributes to the investor payments from the sale of the systems kWh output and tax benefits.

The utility serving the host customer provides an interconnection from the PV system to the grid, and continues its electric service with the host customer to cover the periods during which the system is producing less than the site’s electric demand. Certain states have net metering requirements in place that provide a method of crediting customers who produce electricity on-site for generation in excess of their own electricity consumption. In most states, the utility will credit excess electricity produced from the PV system, although the compensation varies significantly depending on state polices.

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Also check out: Solar Steam Helps Pump Oil, Hickory Ridge Landfill, and kW and kWh Explained

Feed-in tariffs: Entire area of Nottingham gets solar panels fitted to roofs | Mail Online

So what happens when it rains? Entire village gets solar roof panels fitted before Government slashes household subsidies

By Daily Mail Reporter

An entire village has had solar panels fitted to its roofs as the Government prepares to slash subsidies for sunlight-powered electricity.

A great swathe of homes in Aspley and Broxtowe, Nottingham, have had the eco-friendly system put in ahead of the payments potentially being slashed by half for new customers.

Ministers have warned that feed-in tariffs (FITs), which pay people for the electricity they generate from small-scale renewables, must be cut for solar to reflect cost reductions in the technology and the current economic situation.

Lightning quick: A huge swathe of homes in Nottingham have had solar panel installed, just ahead of cuts to Government subsidies

Lightning quick: A huge swathe of homes in Nottingham have had solar panel installed, just ahead of cuts to Government subsidies

Installations of solar ‘photovoltaic’ panels have outstripped expectations and the Government claims reductions in the subsidies, which are funded from consumer bills, are needed to ensure the scheme is sustainable.

But the industry is warning large-scale cuts could seriously damage the sector and the thousands of jobs it now provides.

A leaked document has suggested the subsidy could be reduced by more than 50 per cent for all installations registered after early December, which would bring down average domestic payments from almost £1,200 to under £650.

The likelihood of widespread redundancies being made across the industry in the run-up to Christmas is extremely high and many companies may struggle to keep redundancies below half their workforce.

However, the Department of Energy and Climate Change says the document from the Energy Saving Trust was ‘neither final nor accurate’.

One company, HomeSun, warned the provision of free solar panels to low-income and social housing families - in schemes where the household sees a reduction in their bills due to the solar electricity generated and the company claims the subsidy - will become commercially unviable if the rumoured cuts materialise.

Daniel Green, the company’s chief executive, said: ‘The current FITs programme has been a success - social inclusion for solar PV, job creation, and excitement about solutions to lower energy bills.

'And it has the potential to deliver the vision of solar on homes across the UK


'But it looks like the Government is preparing to turn its back on jobs, enterprise and community, and give a big fat “tick”' to the lobby from big energy companies - all at a time when energy bills are rocketing.'

Alex Lockton, managing director of Wiltshire-based Freesource Energy warned that a December cut-off to register new installations for the old, bigger tariffs would lead to short-term chaos in the industry.

The industry has seen a major boost in installations in September as people scramble to get their solar panels up in time to qualify for the feed-in tariffs ahead of the Government announcement, and swirling rumours have added to the rush.

Eco efforts: Slashing funding would be a major U-turn for 'green' Cameron

Eco efforts: Slashing funding would be a major U-turn for ‘green’ Cameron

He said: ‘We are really nervous that customer demand could fall off a cliff once the deadline has passed.

'The likelihood of widespread redundancies being made across the industry in the run-up to Christmas is extremely high and many companies may struggle to keep redundancies below half their workforce.'

This week’s announcement comes after Energy Minister Greg Barker told a solar power conference he did not want to ‘kill off’ solar tariffs but warned it needed to be reformed, and said households would have to meet energy efficiency standards to qualify for subsidies.

Andrew Lee, international sales manager at Sharp Solar, said: ‘We recognise the need to make this subsidy scheme more intelligent and effective but the benefits of the tariff are clear - around 25,000 people are now employed in this sector.

'By cutting the rates and alluding to vague suggestions around minimum energy efficiency requirements for homeowners looking to invest in solar PV, the Government risks doing irreparable damage to the sector.'

Dr Doug Parr, chief scientific advisor at Greenpeace, said: ‘Tomorrow the Government will announce the future pricing structure of the feed in tariffs for solar energy.

'This is a critical moment for the UK's growing clean energy sector. Slash support and David Cameron will be going back on the commitments he gave, with great fanfare, four years ago in the Greenpeace warehouse when he launched his energy policy paper Power to the People.

'He should stick to his own policies and keep the feed-in tariff at a rate which supports the growth of a sustainable solar power industry.'

Friends of the Earth’s energy campaigner Donna Hume, added: ‘Clean energy is more popular than ever with households, businesses and community groups around the country cutting their bills by joining the solar energy revolution.

'The Government's plans to axe solar incentives could kill a thriving industry and put tens of thousands of people out of work.

'Instead of making the solar subsidy more fair, the Government is ending support for anyone other than very rich people.

'Twelve thousand people have already urged David Cameron not to kill clean energy through Friends of the Earth's Final Demand campaign - he must step in and sort out this mess.'

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According to the study, covering 4% of the Himalaya’s high potential region with solar panels, which is approximately 12,000 square kilometers (7,460 square miles) could generate all of China’s electricity. China consumes the most energy worldwide. It consumed 4,190 Terawatt-hours (TWh) of electricity in 2010. The United States consumed 3,741 TWh that year.

Source: Clean Technica (

#Solar power showing greater mainstream potential - Chicago Sun-Times

NEW YORK — Solar energy may finally get its day in the sun.

The high costs that for years made it impractical as a mainstream source of energy are plummeting. Real estate companies are racing to install solar panels on office buildings. Utilities are erecting large solar panel “farms” near big cities and in desolate deserts. And creative financing plans are making solar more realistic than ever for homes.

Solar power installations doubled in the United States last year and are expected to double again this year. More solar energy is being planned than any other power source, including nuclear, coal, natural gas and wind.

“We are at the beginning of a turning point,” says Andrew Beebe, who runs global sales for Suntech Power, a manufacturer of solar panels.

Solar’s share of the power business remains tiny. But its promise is great. The sun splashes more clean energy on the planet in one hour than humans use in a year, and daytime is when power is needed most. And solar panels can be installed near where people use power, reducing or eliminating the costs of moving power through a grid.

Solar power has been held back by costs. It’s still about three times more expensive than electricity produced by natural gas, according to estimates by the Energy Information Administration.

But the financial barriers are falling fast. Solar panel prices have plunged by two-thirds since 2008, making it easier for installers to market solar’s financial benefits, and not simply its environmental ones. Homeowners who want to go solar can do so for free and pay the same or less for their power.

Last month two of the nation’s biggest utilities, Exelon and NextEra Energy, each acquired a large California solar power farm in the early stages of development. Another utility, NRG Energy, has announced a plan with Bank of America and the real estate firm Prologis to spend $1.4 billion to install solar systems on 750 commercial rooftops.

Nationwide, solar power installations grew by 102 percent from 2009 to 2010, by far the fastest rate in the past five years.

“Every manufacturer globally is looking around for the next major growth market, and the U.S. is the first one everyone points to,” says Shayle Kann, managing director for solar research at GTM Research.

Making solar affordable still requires large tax breaks and other subsidies from federal and state governments. The main federal subsidy pays for 30 percent of the cost of a residential system. When state and other subsidies are added, as much as 75 percent of the cost can be covered.

But prices of solar panels, the squares of crystalline silicon or thin layers of metal films that turn the sun’s rays into electricity, are falling so fast that its advocates now credibly claim that solar will be able to compete with fossil fuels even when the federal solar subsidy shrinks by two-thirds in 2016.

“Over the past 10 years the industry has made the case that we needed to increase scale so we could reduce prices,” says Arno Harris, CEO of solar developer Recurrent Energy, a subsidiary of Sharp Corp. “We’re seeing it happen.”

The falling prices have made it easier for solar installers to raise the money needed to grow. And they’ve made solar power systems so affordable they can appeal to homeowners who want to save on their electric bill, not just reduce their environmental impact.

Tim Johnson, a high school math teacher in Philadelphia, had wanted to put solar panels on his roof for years. Like many people concerned about the environment, the thought of powering his home without burning fossil fuels had a strong appeal. But with two kids in college, he couldn’t justify spending $15,000, after subsidies, to do it.

But since March, he has generated 50 percent to 75 percent of his electricity with a set of solar panels on his roof, saving 20 percent on his electricity bills. His upfront cost for the system: $0.

Instead of buying and installing the panels himself, he signed up with SunRun, one of a handful of companies that build, own and maintain solar systems on homes. These companies earn money by charging customers for the power the panels produce.

Johnson pays SunRun $52 a month, and he pays his traditional utility for whatever extra power he needs from the grid. In all, he pays $60 to $100 a month for power; he used to pay $90 to $120.

SunRun can charge Johnson a competitive rate because federal and state subsidies pay for a portion of the installation. Also, the arrangement allows SunRun to take advantage of one of solar’s big advantages. Because it is generated near where it is needed, it doesn’t have to pass through hundreds of miles of wires, transformers and other equipment. The power price SunRun has to beat in order to entice customers like Johnson is an expensive retail rate, bloated with transmission and distribution charges that home solar doesn’t incur.

It would be cheaper over the long run for a homeowner to buy and install a solar system because he would not have to pay a company like SunRun for financing, service and maintenance. But these plans have growing appeal because they don’t require homeowners to lay out thousands of dollars up front.

In California, which leads the nation in solar power installations, 51 percent of the residential solar systems installed through the first three quarters of this year were sold with these plans, up from 12 percent in 2009.

SunRun and competitors such as SolarCity and Sungevity are expanding into more states, including Arizona, Colorado, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Last month, Google announced it would create a fund that local installers in every state can tap so they too can offer no-money-down plans.

Some installers are teaming up with big hardware chains Home Depot and Lowe’s in an effort to expose solar to customers who might not otherwise consider it.

“Awareness is still one of our biggest problems,” says Lynn Jurich, co-founder and president of SunRun, which has a partnership with Home Depot.

Solar panel prices have been declining for years because of lower costs for polycrystalline silicon, the main raw material for most solar panels, and larger-scale manufacturing, especially in Asia. In the last six months, demand has dropped sharply in Germany, the world’s biggest solar market, in response to shrinking subsidies. This has created a global glut of solar panels and accelerated the decline in prices.

Solar panels, which are priced based on the amount of power they can produce during full sunshine, sold for $1.34 per watt in mid-September, according to data from Bloomberg New Energy Finance. That’s down from $1.90 at the beginning of 2010. In 2008, they sold for $4 a watt.

The glut has been gut-wrenching for companies that make solar panels. Many of them remain profitable and are growing. But three U.S. panel makers have filed for bankruptcy in two months, including Solyndra, a solar panel maker that received a $528 million federal loan.

Falling profit margins are scaring investors. The stock price of First Solar Inc. has fallen from $170 in April to $53.77. Suntech Power Holdings Co. Ltd. has fallen from $11 to $2.07 over the same period.

The Solyndra bankruptcy has sparked a political uproar. Republicans have accused the Obama administration of pushing for Solyndra’s loan for political reasons and have used the bankruptcy to question Obama’s plan to help boost the economy by subsidizing clean energy projects.

The market will not get any easier for small solar panel makers. General Electric Co., Samsung and other big companies are entering the market. This should increase supply and bring down costs even further. GE announced this month that it would build the largest panel factory in the U.S., near Denver.

But what has been treacherous for solar panel makers has been a boon for companies that market and install solar systems, for companies that make electronics and other parts for solar systems, and for solar customers.

To be sure, solar is growing from a very small base. All of the panels now installed across the nation produce enough electricity to power 600,000 homes, or about as much electricity as one large coal-fired power plant.

There are 30,000 megawatts’ worth of solar projects awaiting approval in the U.S., according to the American Public Power Association. Not all of them will be built, either because of regulatory or financial hurdles. But even if only half that is ultimately built, it would be five times what is already installed.

“We’re going in the direction the planet and the industry needs to go,” says Harris.


Also check out: Solar Panels Endanger Firefighters and Solar Bottles