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GSR 2015

63 02 RENEWABLES 2015 GLOBAL STATUS REPORT market.120 For example, US-based module manufacturer Sunpower began selling and financing solar systems in 2014.121 Internet-service company Google launched new funds in 2014 and early 2015 to help finance residential solar projects.122 Practices such as solar leasing are spreading beyond the United States to Europe, India, the Pacific, and elsewhere.123 In China, Canadian Solar partnered with investment management firm Sichuan Development to launch a fund for financing development, construction, and ownership of solar power projects in China, and Trina Solar acquired a stake in Shuntai Leasing.124 (p See the Distributed Renewable Energy section for financing innovations in the off-grid sector of the developing world.) Innovations also focused on making solar products more efficient, as well as more durable and resistant to a broader range of conditions (e.g., high temperatures, humidity, dust and sand deposition) as their use spreads to new environments.125 Solar cell efficiencies increased, with new records announced during 2014.126 Perovskites i continued to break records for efficiencies in laboratories, but hurdles remain before they can be brought to market.127 For the near term, Passivated Emitter Rear Cell (PERC) coating technology shows promise for increasing cell efficiency in standard production processes.128 The European Gigawatt Fab (xGWp) project, which aims to maintain competitiveness of the region’s manufacturing industry, continued its work to develop a new generation of technologies and to exploit the potential of gigawatt-scale production.129 And a new generation of solar cooling systems based on solar PV-driven reversible heat pumps is emerging, although still in the R&D phase.130 Even as technologies have advanced, concerns about the quality of some installations and components have arisen over the past few years.131 In 2014, a significant share of panels made for use only in China was found to have significant defects; the result is that some Chinese solar farms are producing far less power than expected.132 The revelation in China feeds into concerns that cost cuts in response to falling prices in recent years might have led to quality problems.133 In some developing and emerging countries, uncertainty about energy yield has contributed to reluctance to provide financing, which is holding back development.134 On the positive side, solar inverters are becoming more sophisticated to actively support grid management.135 As a result,theyareincreasinglyimportantforaddingvaluetosolarPV system architecture—enhancing communications, control, and interaction with the grid.136 Originally considered a niche product for shaded rooftops, microinverters in particular comprise one of the fastest growing sectors in the solar industry.137 New inverter products provide more functions, such as safety and storage management, to appeal to a broader customer base.138 Rising competitiveness in the inverter industry has reduced prices (as well as global net revenue), which continued to fall in 2014.139 One result has been consolidation, with a host of mergers and acquisitions, some downsizing (including German inverter giant SMA Solar), and at least one major bankruptcy during the year.140 Also in 2014, several companies expanded manufacturing capabilities or broadened their services, and solar panel makers moved into the inverter business.141 The CPV industry had another challenging year in 2014. Companies continued to go bankrupt, close down, or leave the industry.142 Despite record module and cell efficiencies of CPV technologies, CPV has not achieved economies of scale and has been unable to compete with falling prices of conventional solar PV.143 Leading company Soitec (France) reached full production capacity at its new factory in California in 2013 and, in 2014, launched a new off-grid CPV product, completed its 44 MW plant in South Africa, and achieved efficiency milestones.144 However, in early 2015, following years of delay, modification, and ultimately cancellation of utility contracts for large-scale projects in southern California, Soitec announced plans to exit the solar industry.145 Other leading companies were acquired by new owners in 2014.146 Those remaining in the industry are working to improve products and expand their focus, including actively marketing in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region and China, and forming partnerships to expand project pipelines.147 i - Perovskite solar cells include perovskite (crystal) structured compounds that are simple to manufacture and are expected to be relatively inexpensive to produce. They have experienced a steep rate of efficiency improvement in laboratories over the past few years.

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