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Solar Panel Prices Drop

Solar Panel Maker Doubles Output as Prices Drop: Corporate India

We discovered this article published on by By Sharang Limaye – Aug 27, 2012 7:31 PM GMT . We thought that you might be interested in the future prices of Solar Panels.

Surana Ventures Ltd. (SURA), an Indian maker of solar panels, is planning to double production after oversupply from Chinese manufacturers pushed prices down by almost 34 percent in the past year.

The company, based in the southern city of Hyderabad, plans to increase output of panels to 30 megawatts this year and invest 250 million rupees ($4.5 million) in a solar cell plant, Managing Director Narender Surana said in an interview. Rising demand for alternative energy driven by coal supply bottlenecks and blackouts may help reverse a slide in revenue, he said.

Surana is counting on one of the fastest-growing solar markets where larger local rivals including Moser Baer India Ltd. (MBI), the country’s biggest maker, and Indosolar Ltd. (ISLR) are struggling to cope with the crash in prices. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s government seeks to turn India into a global hub with rules to help almost triple manufacturing capacity to 5 gigawatts by 2020.

“The shortage in coal supply is a great opportunity for us as more and more people are looking at solar energy as a viable alternative,” Surana said. “As India’s energy needs rise, the shift towards solar power shall become more pronounced.”

Sales, which slid 29 percent in the year ended March 31 to 727 million rupees, may jump 38 percent in the current financial year to 1 billion rupees, Surana said.

Stock Slide

Shares of the company have slumped 71 percent since touching 65 rupees on its debut in Mumbai on Jan. 7, 2011, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The stock rose 0.3 percent to 19 rupees yesterday.

India is struggling to add electricity generation capacity to meet peak demand. Power cuts are common across the country, which battles an average 9 percent shortfall that the government says shaves about 1.2 percentage points off annual economic growth. The South Asian country has missed every annual capacity target since 1951, with 76,000 megawatts targeted for the five years ending March 2017.

A shortage of coal and gas used in conventional thermal plants has prompted the government to set a sun-power generation target of 20 gigawatts by 2022, a 20-fold increase. Welspun Energy Ltd., the country’s biggest developer of solar projects, said last month that the nation will surpass the target in the next decade by twofold.

Idle Capacity

The biggest panel suppliers including China’s Suntech Power Holdings Co. (STP) and Tempe, Arizona-based First Solar Inc. (FSLR) say India is about to become one of the fastest-growing solar markets, countering waning demand in Europe where governments are cutting back clean-energy subsidies.

Surana may be putting up the investment, anticipating such a surge in demand, even though solar-panel makers in India have almost 80 percent of their capacity lying idle now, said Bharat Bhushan, a New Delhi-based analyst for Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

India is soon set to release a 3 gigawatt capacity plan for the next four years and it will have a domestic content requirement, Bhushan said.

“The home market is the big hope for solar manufacturers in India,” Bhushan said. “The government has already been promoting the use of locally made cells and modules,” which will be extended in the next phase, he said.

First Solar, the only profitable panel maker among the 10 biggest in the world, plans to develop solar farms in India, with demand coming from industrial and commercial users without any government subsidies involved, Sujoy Ghosh, the India head of the world’s biggest thin-film panel maker, said last week.

Debt Revamp

A lot of investment planned for thermal projects will go to renewables, Welspun Energy’s Managing Director Vineet Mittal said last month. Indian power utilities have stalled plans to invest about $34 billion to build 42 gigawatts of capacity as coal output fails to meet demand.

The oversupply of solar panels has claimed at least 14 U.S., German and French makers, while prices have plunged 34 percent in the past year amid dwindling demand in Europe, the largest market for the equipment. Moser Baer said in May that it was revamping 35 billion rupees of secured debt and selling bonds to pay off dollar-convertible notes.

Surana faces the threat of competition from Chinese makers that are bigger in size and capacity, said Vishal Kothari, a power analyst at JHP Securities Pvt. in Mumbai, adding it will be difficult for a small company to succeed when bigger ones have failed.

Dim Outlook

“I don’t see any major growth in this sector as the cost of generation is too high and competition is too much,” said Kothari, who doesn’t have a rating for the stock. “Surana’s performance has been volatile historically.”

Surana Ventures was spun off from the solar business of Surana Telecom & Power Ltd. (SRTL) in November 2009 and started trading about a year later. Bhagyanagar India Ltd. (BHIL), the parent company, holds about 24 percent of the solar-panel maker, while the phone company owns about 18 percent.

Access to the group’s cash will allow Surana Ventures to buy raw materials from distressed European companies at half the cost, said Surana. Cash reserves and equivalent at Bhagyanagar rose sevenfold to 95 million rupees as of March 31 from 12 months earlier, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Surana Ventures had 252 million rupees of debt in the period.

“This gives us an edge when we bid for contracts,” Surana said. “It also helps in pricing our products competitively.”

The company is also exploring opportunities after the country’s phone regulator this year recommended that carriers shift to renewable energy from diesel to power their communication towers, he said.

“With the cost of equipment coming down drastically, the cost of generating solar power has also fallen,” he said. “Solar is more attractive than other forms of alternative energy and we expect state governments to encourage setting up of projects as well. That will provide a big boost to us.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Sharang Limaye in Hyderabad at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Arijit Ghosh at

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Nature provides answers to better solar energy systems

We found this article published by Energy Harvesting Jouinal on 20th August 2012. It just goes to show that “Nature knows best.” We can find the answers to our solar energy challenges if we study nature.

Sunflowers inspire more efficient solar power system

A field of young sunflowers will slowly rotate from east to west during the course of a sunny day, each leaf seeking out as much sunlight as possible as the sun moves across the sky through an adaptation called heliotropism.

It’s a clever bit of natural engineering that inspired imitation from a  University of Wisconson-Madison electrical and computer engineer, who has found a way to mimic the passive heliotropism seen in sunflowers for use in the next crop of solar power systems.
Unlike other “active” solar systems that track the sun’s position with GPS and reposition panels with motors, electrical and computer engineering professor Hongrui Jiang’s concept leverages the properties of unique materials in concert to create a passive method of re-orienting solar panels in the direction of the most direct sunlight.
His design, published in Advanced Functional Materials and recently highlighted in Nature, employs a combination of liquid crystalline elastomer (LCE), which goes through a phase change and contracts in the presence of heat, with carbon nanotubes, which can absorb a wide range of light wavelengths.
“Carbon nanotubes have a very wide range of absorption, visible light all the way to infrared,” says Jiang. “That is something we can take advantage of, since it is possible to use sunlight to drive it directly.”
Direct sunlight hits a mirror beneath the solar panel, focused onto one of multiple actuators composed of LCE laced with carbon nanotubes. The carbon nanotubes heat up as they absorb light, and the heat differential between the environment and inside the actuator causes the LCE to shrink.
This causes the entire assembly to bow in the direction of the strongest sunlight. As the sun moves across the sky, the actuators will cool and re-expand, and new ones will shrink, re-positioning the panel over the 180 degrees of sky that the sun covers in the course of the day. “The idea is that wherever the sun goes, it will follow,” says Jiang.
In Jiang’s tests, the system improved the efficiency of solar panels by 10 percent, an enormous increase considering material improvements in the solar panels themselves only net increases of a few percent on average. And a passive system means there are no motors and circuits to eat into increased energy harvest. “The whole point of solar tracking is to increase the electricity output of the system,” says Jiang.
The materials driving Jiang’s design have only been available in the past few years, so for now, he and his team are researching ways to refine them for use driving larger solar panels, where the net energy gain from his system will be the greatest.
But eventually, Jiang hopes to see huge industrial solar farms where fields of photovoltaic solar panels shift effortlessly along with the sunflowers that inspired him. “This is exactly what nature does,” says Jiang.
Source:  University of Wisconson-Madison


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Solar panels from cheap copper oxide

We found this interesting article by By on August 10, 2012 at 1:10 pm published on

Hopefully the price of solar panels will be coming down further.

So long, silicon: Researchers create solar panels from cheap copper oxide

Researchers from the University of California and Berkeley Lab have discovered a way of making photovoltaic cells out of any semiconducting material, not just beautiful, expensive crystals of silicon. In principle, this could open the doors to much cheaper solar power.

Almost every solar panel on the market is made by cutting off two thin (200 micron, 0.2mm) slices from a large crystal of silicon, and then doping them with impurities to enhance the photovoltaic effect — phosphorous to make n-type silicon, and boron to make p-type silicon. These slices are layered together, electrodes are added to the top and bottom, the whole thing is framed in protective glass — and voila, a standard photovoltaic cell.

Now, in theory, you can dope any semiconductor — but cheaper, more-readily-available semiconductors, such as copper oxide, don’t retain dopants very well, eventually leading to the breakdown of the p-n junctions. Silicon holds dopants very well, but it isn’t cheap.

To get around this problem, the Californian researchers have developed a new type of solar cell called screening-engineered field-effect photovoltaics, or SFPV for short. Instead of physical doping, SFPVs use a minute electric field to achieve the same doping effect. While this electric field is present, the p-n junction remains and the photovoltaic cell continues to produce a lot of electricity. The energy required to produce this electric field is apparently a lot less than the energy produced by the photovoltaic effect.

The electric field effect isn’t new (you may have heard of field-effect transistors?), but its application in photovoltaic cells is novel. The main problem that the UoC and Berkeley Lab researchers came across is that you need a contact above the semiconductor to deliver the electric field — but of course that obscures the semiconductor from sunlight. The solution devised by the researchers is simple: You either use a very thin contact, like graphene (which is transparent), or you use a series of narrow, fin-like contacts (pictured above).

What’s next? “This research opens up scores of new semiconductors (many metal oxides, sulfides, and phosphides) for practical photovoltaic applications, so we are currently identifying the ones with the greatest potential for low-cost, high-efficiency solar cells,” says Will Regan the lead author, to Ars Technica.

Once the best material has been found, it still won’t be an easy ride: there’s a huge industry (mainly in China) dedicated to producing standard photovoltaic cells, and they lack the equipment or expertise to produce SFPVs. It isn’t quite as bad as the computer chip industry, where trillions of dollars are invested in silicon, but it will still take considerable effort to shift the industry towards SFPVs. The cost savings are there for the taking, though — and I dare say, the first company to produce solar power that’s significantly cheaper than fossil fuels is onto a winner.

Read: Solar panel made with ion cannon is cheap enough to challenge fossil fuels

Research paper: DOI: 10.1021/nl3020022

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Breakthrough to make Solar Panels Super Cheap

We thought you might be interested in this post by By Klint Finley from

Nano Breakthrough Paves Way for Super Cheap Solar Panels

Two things hold back the mass adoption of solar energy as a source of sustainable energy. One is the need to store and transmit excess power, a problem people like Danielle Fong are working on solving by developing innovative new ways to store power. The other is the high cost of solar panels. One of the reasons solar panels are so expensive is that it’s tricky to extract electric currents from semiconductors, the materials used to convert solar radiation into electrical energy.

Up til now, this could only be done with a few materials — usually silicon. But a new breakthrough will enable manufacturers to make efficient photovoltaics using almost any semiconductor, including cheap and abundant materials like metal oxides, sulfides, and phosphides.

A typical photovoltaic cell is built with silicon and treated with chemicals. This treatment is called “doping,” and it creates the driving force needed to extract power from the cell. Photovoltaics can also be built with cheaper materials but many of these can’t be doped chemically. But a method developed by Professor Alex Zettl’s research group at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and University of California at Berkeley makes it possible to dope nearly any semiconductor by applying an electric field instead of chemicals. The method is described in a paper published in the journal Nano Letters.

According to Will Regan, lead author of the paper, it’s long been known in the transistor industry that applying an electric field could be used for doping, but existing electrode designs were incompatible with photovoltaic cells. What the researchers discovered is a new way of designing electrodes to allow an electric field to pass through and dope the semiconductor.

“Graphene was the inspiration,” Regan explains. Graphene is a highly conductive, one-atom-thick sheet of carbon. The team at the Zettl Research Group began experimenting with graphene as a transparent electrode for silicon photovoltaics and realized they could directly influence the semiconductor with an applied electric field. Once they’d realized that a very thin conductor could be used, they realized a very narrow one would be suitable as well. The paper describes two ways of building the electrodes: one with graphene, the other with extremely narrow nanowires.

While there’s a fair amount of inertia in the solar manufacturing industry, Regan is optimistic that this new method will be adopted, noting that these cells could be made using simple and cost-effective tweaks to existing fabrication processes.

Photo courtesy of Paul Takizawa, the Zettl Research Group, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and University of California at Berkeley.

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