How Solar Thermal Panels Help Schools Save Money

Renewable sources of energy are essential for ensuring a sustainable future. But that’s just one of many upsides to installing solar thermal panels.

The savings to be had by switching to solar are immense and large institutions stand to save the most. Here are a few ways solar thermal panels can help schools and colleges save money.

School Layouts Mean a More Cost-Effective Installation

Unsuitable roofs are one of the biggest arguments against solar panels. Angled installations don’t get consistent sun and residential areas are more shaded. This means a solar system installation is less cost-effective than it could be.

Schools don’t have this problem. The typical layout of a school is perfect for solar installation. School buildings often have flat roofs and plenty of unshaded space. This means greater solar panel output and greater savings for the school.

Reduced Operating Costs

The cost of energy consumption is calculated by determining the cost per unit of energy. These units are called megawatt-hours or kilowatt-hours. For context, the rate of energy consumption is measured in kilowatts or megawatts.

As of 2016, solar is the cheapest energy resource in the world. In other words, it’s the energy resource with the lowest cost per kilowatt-hour.

What’s more, large-scale installations save the most money. In 2016 Dubai set the world record for the lowest-cost solar energy. Their massive solar array bid at under 3 cents per kilowatt-hour.

Schools and colleges often have sprawling campuses. This means they stand to benefit more than most from going solar.

Solar Energy Is Consistent

Energy costs are notoriously inconsistent.

Grid energy prices are trending upwards at a gradual but steady rate. And with natural gas prices only likely to increase, this trend is here to stay.

Electricity prices also fluctuate depending on the time of month, season, or year.

Solar energy is consistent – the only cost being the installation and upkeep of the system. Installing solar thermal panels helps insulate schools against energy rate fluctuations and increases. The more consistent the school’s energy costs, the easier it is for the school to plan and budget for the future.

Going Solar Will Improve the School’s Brand and Drive Enrollment

Young people are the most environmentally conscious in the world. Studies have found that youth aren’t shy about demanding a sustainable future and believe that investment in renewable energy is critical to achieving it.

Committing your school to sustainable practices improves its image. This, in turn, makes it more attractive to socially-conscious students.

Additionally, people associate schools and colleges with innovation and forward-thinking. Using the newest and most efficient form of energy will flag your school as a progressive establishment.

Solar Thermal Panels Are a No-Brainer

Switching to solar isn’t just great for the environment. Installing solar thermal panels will save your school money and improve your brand. And with schools like Yale and Princeton running solar on-site, you’d be in good company.

CSun unit secures panel supply deal with SPIC

State Power Investment Corp. (SPIC) — one of China’s top five state-owned electricity producers — has named China Sunergy (Nanjing) as one of its qualified multicrystalline PV module suppliers.

CSun did not disclose the terms of the arrangement, which chairman Tingxiu Lu hailed as a “milestone” in its efforts to expand its share of the Chinese solar market. The agreement could prove to be beneficial for the group, which has struggled in recent years, culminating most notably with the de-listing of its shares from the Nasdaq exchange in March 2016.

SPIC was operating about 7.1 GW of solar capacity by the end of December, in addition to nuclear, thermal, hydroelectric and wind assets, according to a statement on its website. Its biggest PV projects in China include a 500 MW installation in Golmud, Qinghai province. It has also integrated a 66 MW solar array with an aquaculture business spanning a lake and intertidal area in Jianhu county, Jiangsu province.

In addition, the Beijing-based power group claims its production facilities in Xining, Qinghai province, are capable of producing 2,500 tons of polysilicon per year. It also owns factories in Xi’an, Shaanxi province, that can annually produce 200 MW of PV cells and 200 MW of solar panels. Its registered capital stood at CNY 45 billion ($6.5 billion) at the end of 2016, with CNY 866.1 billion of assets in China and foreign markets such as Japan, Australia, Turkey, Brazil and Pakistan.

Despite its recent struggles, CSun announced plans in February to open a fully automated 400 MW solar module factory on the site of a former air force base near Sacramento, California. It is set to launch production at the facility this month. The new plant will join CSun’s fleet of overseas production bases in Turkey, Vietnam and South Korea.

Oman to launch support scheme for small-sized PV

The Middle Eastern country is planning to support the installation of rooftop PV systems ranging in size from 2 kW to 4 kW. The support scheme will not be based on FITs or net metering, but on an “accelerated subsidy adjustment” mechanism.

Oman’s Authority for Electricity Regulation Oman (AER) has submitted a proposal to support residential PV systems through an “accelerated subsidy adjustment” scheme.

The new mechanism, which will be open to residential PV projects with a capacity between 2 kW and 4 kW, will not be designed as FIT scheme, as the regulator said that most of the PV power generation is expected to be self-consumed, and that a FIT may be appropriate for larger PV systems “provided the terms of FIT contracts can be competitively tendered”. Furthermore, the ARE said the scheme will not be a net metering or net billing program, given the expected magnitude of the initiative, and given the disparity between the economic cost of supply and the residential electricity tariff, which in Oman is quite high.

The scheme will be based, the AER said, on “accelerated subsidy adjustment”, an “arrangement where, in anticipation of future subsidy reductions, an agreed amount of future subsidy is provided to the Authority to fund an initial stage of the initiative.” Homeowners will initially be asked to contribute to the cost of installing a PV system, and will then receive the full benefit of ongoing bill reductions in the future.

“Once an initial tranche of residential PV systems is installed,” the regulator specified, “and demonstrating satisfactory performance, the PV systems would be offered as an investment opportunity to funds who would recover their investment and an agreed competitive rate of return from payments aligned to PV system output, reflecting the economic benefits described above. The Authority will utilize funds from the sale of the initial tranche of PV systems to finance a further tranche of Residential PV, and so on until the initiative target is met.”

The authority said that the scheme, if implemented on a “sufficient” scale, could help Oman reduce its dependence on gas. The country, in fact, currently covers 96% of its power demand with natural gas, while the remaining 4% is covered by diesel power generators.

The authority believes that, if 10% of Oman’s households will install a PV system under the scheme, solar could see its share reach 1%. The AER hopes the scheme will help the deployment of residential PV solutions on up 30% of Oman’s residential premises.

The regulator also hopes that the scheme can change the profile of the country’s power demand, and may reduce peak system demand. “Any sustained reduction in peak demand could in turn lead to lower investment in network and generating production capacity”, the AER stressed in its document.

The analysis conducted by the authority suggests the new scheme may enable gas savings over 25 years of between 2 billion Sm3 and 6 billion Sm3.

A study published by Oman’s Public Authority for Electricity and Water (PAEW) in 2015, estimated that rooftop PV systems installed across the country could potentially generate 1.4 GW of renewable energy. In the Oman capital Muscat alone, the generated power capacity could reach 450 MW, the study showed.

Kong Sun’s PV generation soars in January-April period

The Chinese solar investment group said that in aggregate, its PV plants generated roughly 374.7 GWh of electricity in the first four months of 2017, up approximately 87.5% year on year.

Kong Sun’s solar portfolio — which includes 40 projects in 13 provinces and regions throughout China — generated about 199.8 GWh of electricity throughout the same period a year earlier, it said in a statement to the Hong Kong stock exchange. Throughout all of 2016, its PV installations in the country generated about  838.9 GWh of electricity.

Kong Sun posted its biggest generation gains in the northwestern province of Shaanxi, where it operates five solar projects. Generation from those arrays spiked 72.2% year on year to 89.7 GWh. In the remote Xinjiang region — where Kong Sun operates 240 MW of capacity at 11 locations — electricity generation jumped 62.9% on the year to 61.2 GWh. In eastern China’s Zhejiang province, power generation from its two projects soared to 45.5 GWh, from just 16.8 GWh during the first four months of 2016.

The company’s total installed PV capacity throughout China stood at roughly 1.23 GW by the end of April, according to preliminary operating statistics. The figures suggest that the company has already added approximately 80 MW of operational PV capacity to its portfolio this year, as it reported that its cumulative installed capacity in China had reached 1.15 GW at the end of December. It passed the 1 GW mark at some point in the second half of 2016, on about 200 MW of new capacity additions.

In late March, Kong Sun recorded a $7.9 million profit for the 12 months to the end of December, up from a loss of 98.9 million yuan ($14.4 million) in 2015. The results were broadly in line with a forecast it issued in February. It connected 680.8 MW of solar capacity to the grid throughout 2016.

The company — which muscled its way into the Chinese solar market in 2014, after initial successes in property investment — continues to expand its operational PV portfolio. It now has access to a credit line of up to 5 billion yuan from Beijing-based China Kangfu International Leasing, one of its primary financing partners.

Good news coming from India’s EPC companies

RaysExperts adds 30 MW to its Rays Solar Park in just 90 days, whereas Rays Infra Power makes it on to IHS Markit’s top 10 EPC companies list, outside U.S. and China.

Between January and March of this year, solar EPC company RaysExperts added 30 MW capacity to Rays Solar Park, located in Kolayat in the Bikaner district of the Indian state of Rajasthan, which is expected to generate 50.67 million kWh of electricity in the first year.

Located in the highest irradiation zone in India, the new commissioned projects have led to Rays Solar Park’s 100% capacity expansion, with the financial support coming from local banks such as SBI, Kotak Mahindra, HDFC bank.

“Challenges that we were able to overcome pertained to the scarcity of skilled labour in such a remote area, heavy dust storms, sandy and loose soil land surface, lack of internet and other basic amenities. We believe this will restore the falling confidence regarding solar amongst customers,” said Rahul Gupta, Rays Experts CEO, adding that this indeed marks a watershed moment for the company.

In the recently released Solar EPC and O&M Provider Q1 2017 by IHS Technology, Indian solar energy firm Rays Power Infra Pvt Ltd ranked among the top 10 EPC companies outside the U.S. and China.

Though India’s PV demand continues to grow, the combined market share of its five largest EPC companies has shrunk from 63% to 46%, owing to the market’s overall growth, says Rays Power Infra.

The rankings saw no change at the top, with TBEA and First Solar keeping the lead roles among the EPC companies globally. However, according to Ray Power Infra, they are losing market share, having installed less than 100 MW more in 2016 as compared to 2015, while at the same time as global non-residential PV demand grew by 38%.

Commenting on the IHS Technology’s rankings, Ketan Mehta C.E.O., Rays Power Infra CEO said: “Though China and the United States remain key markets for the largest PV projects, India is surfacing as a new growth market outside of those regions. Rays Power Infra ranks at number 5, followed by Juwi, Mahindra Susten, Conergy, ACCIONA and TSK across India, Japan, Thailand, UK, Australia, Rest of Americas, Rest of Europe, rest of Asia Pacific and rest of Africa and the Middle East.”

Midsummer sees profit increase for FY 2016

Financial results for 2016 posted by the Swedish thin film equipment supplier show that revenues almost doubled to SEK 60 million ($6.8 million) for the full year. Midsummer also saw a significant profit increase to SEK 10 million ($1.1 million).

Midsummer received several orders for its DUO system for CIGS manufacturing, amid increased interest in thin film production from several Asian manufacturers.

“2016 was a record year for us,” says Midsummer CEO Sven Lindström. “We did some great business, and the market acceptance for our solar energy technology solutions increased, which resulted in several orders for our compact DUO thin film solar cell manufacturing system.”

Despite continuing price pressure from crystalline silicon, 2016 was something of a boom year for CIGS equipment suppliers. Alongside Midsummer’s successes, German supplier Manz entered into a major partnership in China, and continued to build on this posting positive results for the first quarter of 2017.

Laser specialists LPKF also posted strong results for Q1 2017, stating that improved performance in its solar equipment segment, which manufactures lasering equipment for thin film production, was the main reason for revenue increase.

Midsummer is also expecting its success to continue in 2017. “We have yet again shown that we are the leading provider of advanced solar technology solutions for the production of thin film solar panels, continues Lindström. “We look forward to the future, with continued development and increased sales of our solutions in the global market.”