Power & Energy Solutions

The premier renewable energy publication

Grid parity for solar power - competitiveness with electricity prices - has for some years been known as the 'Holy Grail' of the PV industry, with many speculating on when and where it is likely to be achieved. PES investigates.Obviously, much depends on the amount of sunshine in the skies above. The west coast of the United States and parts of southern Europe are already very close to achieving grid parity (i.e. within five years or less) and emerging markets like India and China are investing heavily to obtain a firm foothold in the market. Northern European countries where the duration and strength of sunlight is much weaker have some way to go but the will seems to be there.A considerable advantage of solar electricity is that it is mainly produced around midday when conventional electricity is particularly expensive, so solar electricity largely replaces expensive peak-load electricity at preferential customer prices.Grid parity (competitiveness with retail electricity prices) will be reached progressively in several European markets. Countries with the highest solar irradiation and higher electricity prices, such as Italy and Spain have the potential to reach grid parity starting this year and 2012, respectively. Grid parity is expected to be reached

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PES is proud to welcome back Egbert Wenninger, Vice President, Sales Glass Technology of Grenzebach Maschinenbau GmbH (Grenzebach). We pressed him on recent business partnerships, product development and more.PES: We note that Grenzebach has formed a recent partnership with Algoscan. Can you explain a little about this business and what you intend to offer clients?Egbert Wenninger: Top quality of the finished product is a pre-requisite to the success of any company. Inspection systems that discover defaults or production faults at an early stage ensure optimum machine and material usage and help to avoid unnecessary waste of material and costs. Algoscan is a recognised expert in the field of optical surface inspection designed for optical quality measurement, and process inspection in the production of glass, solar modules and veneer products.As you will know, Grenzebach is one of the leading manufacturers of lines and equipment for the production of flat and float glass, PV Thin film modules and - through our affiliate in Bad Hersfeld - also for drying and slicing machinery for top quality veneer.So our new partner's technology perfectly complements our production programme of handling, processing and automation technology. The new member of the Grenzebach family will operate under the

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California-based Paula Mints is widely recognised as one of the foremost experts in the PV industry. For many years she has provided clients with objective, comprehensive industry analysis based on extensive primary research, including her forward-looking understanding of market and technology trends. Her strong background in primary research qualifies her to provide insight into the dynamic PV industry and its emerging trends. She has a decade of experience providing research products and insight about the PV industry. PES talks to her about the state of the industry.PES: Welcome to PES magazine, for the benefit of our readers who might not be familiar with your area of expertise, can you outline your role within the PV industry? Paula Mints: I am a market researcher focused entirely on PV - this is all I have done since 1998. My work is entirely based on primary research (contact with one or the other side of the market). I am very lucky to have inherited, so to speak, the practice from my former boss and mentor - lucky because this practice began in 1974, and my database dates back to this point.PES: Can you explain a little about double counting and how this skews

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As a comprehensive optoelectronics group, Jenoptik is well-known - and indeed, well respected - within the PV arena. With its group headquarters in Jena (Germany), the company is represented in nearly 70 countries and has major production sites abroad in the USA, France and Switzerland as well as shareholdings in India, China, Korea and Japan. Division Manager, Dr. Thomas Fehn, offers an illuminating insight into the firm's inner workings and aspirations.PES: Welcome to PES magazine, can you start off by introducing your company and the services it provides to the PV industry?Dr. Thomas Fehn: Jenoptik is a leading manufacturer of optoelectronic systems and components. The company has five divisions employing over 3,000 professionals in Europe, Asia and North America. Jenoptik's Lasers & Material Processing division provides an entire value added chain starting with laser components, leading into laser sources and finally the laser material processing automation equipment. With 400 employees, the Lasers & Material Processing division supplies highly efficient laser processing technology that optimises customers' cost of ownership. Our division is serving the markets with sales, service and application centres in Europe, North America and Asia.Both our Optical Systems and Lasers & Material Processing divisions support the PV industry. To

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As CEO of Meyer Burger, Peter Pauli has helmed the company through a period of impressive - and perhaps unprecedented - growth. Their all-share acquisition of 3S Industries has created a company with a workforce comprising more than 1,000 employees, making it the world's third-largest PV equipment supplier. Here, he tells PES about the past, present and his strategic plans for an even-more buoyant future.PES: Welcome back to PES magazine, for the benefit of our readers who might not be familiar with your business, can you outline how you serve the photovoltaic industry? Peter Pauli: We are an equipment supplier to the solar industry and we focus on the wafer side, producing wafers and producing equipment for use in modules. Our main business is wafer lines and module lines and we have three technologies in the cell lines, such as coating and automation and handling systems.The company was founded 50 years ago and at the time we produced machines for drilling and machines for watch bearings. Along the way we achieved leadership in cutting wafers for the semiconductor industry and market leadership in a product to cut semiconductor wafers. The market then contracted because the company was too focused on

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With cost cutting in mind, the photovoltaics industry increasingly relies on automation, expecting it to bring about sustained high product quality and increased productivity. PES explains all.Industrial robots feed and discharge solar cell production lines and sort the finished components by pick-and-place processes. They handle glass panes, cut films and foils and assemble frames around solar modules and have recently even started installing junction boxes. Be it at Q-Cells in Bitterfeld, at Conergy in Frankfurt/Oder or Bosch Solar Energy in Erfurt - most production lines in the solar sector are highly automated these days. And with good reason: "Here in Europe we have to increase capacities to remain competitive," says Carsten Busch, Head of the Solar Unit at ABB Automation in Friedberg, who adds that price pressure is enormous. If we are to keep manufacturing modules in Germany then robots will have to be used for even more tasks in future. "The automotive industry has proven that successful manufacturing is possible here in this country."The solar sector is increasingly interested in manufacturing concepts that have "empowered" the likes of Mercedes, Porsche or BMW. Many manufacturers of automation technology boast precisely this know-how.ABB, for example, offers robots for nearly all segments

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One of the most forward-looking operators within the PV industry, Multi-Contact is nevertheless built upon decades of innovation and experience across a broad sweep of industries. PES caught up with CEO, Rainer Isenrich, who is currently steering the company into previously-untapped global markets.PES: Welcome back to PES. For the benefit of any new readers who perhaps might not be acquainted with Multi-Contact, would you be able to outline how your company benefits the solar industry? Rainer Isenrich: MC has been among the leaders in the PV industry for more than 10 years. We supply global top module companies, system integrators, inverter manufacturers and installers with our MC3 and MC4 connector lines and other products out of our PV portfolio.Founded in Basle, Switzerland, in 1962, Multi-Contact develops and manufactures connector systems for various industries such as power distribution, automation, photovoltaic, medical and test & measurement. In addition to our broad standard product range, we are specialised in designing customised solutions, based on our unique MC Multilam Technology.PES: As a company with many areas of focus, how has your business adapted to demand from the solar industry? RI: PV business has strongly increased over the last years and it now represents an

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PES takes a look at three state-of the-art modes of transport which could help facilitate an energy-efficient future and help conserve the increasingly limited natural resources of the planet.SkiesSome 110 years after the much-celebrated Wright Brothers designed and flew their first aircraft, the age of solar fight has finally arrived.The ghosts of Wilbur and Orville could have looked on in sheer amazement as the Solar Impulse HB-SIA - the first aircraft designed to fly without fuel - left the ground for the first time at Dübendorf Airfield in Germany.The final ground tests, in December 2009, had proved encouraging, showing excellent results for controllability, acceleration, braking paths and, engine power and the team behind the ambitious project gave the thumbs up to test pilot Markus Scherdel, to take the prototype up to take-off speed.As the aircraft gathered speed, project promoters Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg watched on admiringly. After some 350 metres of flight at an altitude of one metre, the prototype landed on the centre of the runway as the team behind the project applauded enthusiastically.Bertrand Piccard, initiator and President of Solar Impulse, said: "For over 10 years I have dreamt of a solar aircraft capable of flying day and

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