Sunrise brief: Is the solar sector as healthy as it seems?

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Energy analyst Gordon L. Johnson II offers up a different view of the U.S. solar market, arguing that data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration paints a less rosy picture than what the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and Wood Mackenzie reported in June.

(Read “Supply chain constraints are starting to hit the solar industry, SEIA says.”)

SEIA reported that U.S. solar installations were up 46% year over year during the first quarter of 2021. The U.S. Solar Market Insight Q2 2021 report said the U.S. sector installed just over 5 GW(dc) of solar capacity, a 46% increase over the first quarter of 2020 and the largest first quarter on record.

Johnson, who is CEO of New York City-based GLJ Research, said in an email sent to media outlets that EIA data show that U.S. net-metering installations through April rose just 7.1% on a year-over-year basis. He also said that non-net-metering installations fell 20.4% through April compared to a year earlier, and that small-scale installations were down 3.8%.

“Most importantly,” he said, solar installations were down 0.02% year over year.

To reinforce his view, Johnson pointed to reports from inverter company SolarEdge that said its first quarter U.S. installations were down 38.1% year over year.

Johnson’s main takeaway was that “we see growing evidence” that solar residential demand in the U.S. “could disappoint” in the second quarter and possibly into the third quarter.

Forced labor claims ‘unfounded’

Claims that Chinese solar firms are benefiting from forced labor in Xinjiang are unfounded and unfairly stigmatize firms with operations there, the country’s solar association said in a statement quoted by the Reuters news agency.

The Biden administration on June 24 ordered a ban on U.S. imports from Chinese-based Hoshine Silicon Industry Co. over forced labor allegations. The U.S. Commerce Department separately restricted exports to Hoshine, three other Chinese companies and what it said is the paramilitary Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (XPCC), saying they were involved with the forced labor of Uyghurs and other Muslim minority groups in Xinjiang.

The news agency at the time quoted China’s foreign ministry spokesman as saying China would take “all necessary measures” to protect its companies’ rights and interests.

On July 1, the China Photovoltaic Industry Association said in a statement that it had recently inspected solar industry production facilities in Xinjiang and the U.S. assertions had no factual basis.

It also said the industry had created a large number of jobs, contributing to the region’s economic and social development and added that the rights of employees from all ethnic groups were fully respected.

SWEPCO seeks renewable capacity

Southwestern Electric Power Co., a unit of American Electric Power, issued three Requests for Proposals (RFP) for renewable and short-term generating capacity.

The RFPs solicit bids for the purchase of wind resources of up to 3,000 MW; solar resources up to 300 MW, and short-term accredited deliverable capacity up to 250 MW.

Wind resources must be a minimum of 100 MW, interconnect to the Southwest Power Pool and be located in Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas or Missouri. Solar resources must be a minimum of 50 MW, interconnect to SWEPCO’s transmission system within SPP and be located in the SWEPCO service territory. Proposals for short-term capacity must be for a minimum of 50 MW from SPP resources.

Proposals are due by August 12. Response and contact information is available online at SWEPCO.com/2021RFPs.

APS DER RFP

If you can decipher the alphabet soup, then this news item is for you. Arizona-based utility APS is seeking proposals for products that aggregate distributed technologies to provide systemwide capacity resources from 5-40 megawatts and locational resources of 1-5 megawatts.

The RFP is open to all eligible distributed demand-side technologies, including both dispatchable and non-dispatchable resources, which can include products such as energy storage, smart thermostats, managed electric vehicle charging stations and connected water heater and pool pump controls. Proposed projects must begin service no earlier than June 1, 2022, and no later than June 1, 2024.

Information regarding respondent registration and proposal requirements can be found at aps.com/rfp.

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