Flawed EMCORE Concentrator PhotoVoltaic System deal with the Pod Generating Group?
The Pod Generating Group plans a risky High Concentration PhotoVoltaic System deployment in Northern Ontario Canada
EMCORE Corporation enters into an Agreement to supply 60MW of Terrestrial Solar Power Systems in Ontario, Canada
EMCORE Corporation To Supply 20 Megawatts Of Concentrating Solar Photovoltaic Systems in South Korea
On the surface, these seem like celebratory milestone events for Concentrator PhotoVoltaics (CPV). However, HCPV systems require direct solar radiation (irradiance) for operation =at all=. If a cloud passes overhead or the sky is overcast blocking direct sunlight, the HCPV system will not generate electricity.
Three regions in the world have been identified as having the best direct solar resources for HCPV system installations:
Southern Europe (Spain, Italy) and North Africa
Southwestern United States and Mexico
At the recent ThinkGreen Conference in San Francisco, SolFocus, Inc. CEO Gary Conley expanded upon this view to include the Middle East and India, the Gobi Desert in Mongolia, and the southern region of South America (Chile, Argentina).
And still Sault Saint Marie (The Soo), Ontario, Canada, and South Korea are not among them.
Is EMCORE just trying to buy their way into the Concentrator PhotoVoltaic market with these deals? No financial terms or performance guarantees were disclosed for either deal.
Although EMCORE trumpets their CPV systems as delivering the lowest cost per watt, it does not look as though EMCORE is so sure this Canadian deployment will achieve contractual terms. Per the press release:
EMCORE also has the right to substitute other solar technologies in portions of the projects.
Given the suboptimal direct solar resources available in Canada, cost per kilowatt-hour (kWh) is the proper focus metric not cost per Watt. Objective evaluation of Canadian solar resources and available photovoltaic technologies would result in the selection of traditional crystalline silicon or thin film solar modules as the preferred solution for Sault Saint Marie.
Originally from Sault Ste. Marie, Martin said the idea for the new company was formed back in November 2006, when the Ontario Power Authority started its Standard Offer Program.
Pod Generating has a 20-year power purchase agreement with the Ontario Power Authority for its project, made up of two 10 MW facilities. It'll be getting 42-cents Canadian per kilowatt hour produced at the plant.
Martin would not disclose how much funding Pod Generating has received from Calyon, but the Pod Consulting web site says the solar group is backed by over $300 million in financing, with several strategic investors.
Since then, PGG has been awarded four more 10 MWp (MegaWatt-peak) solar projects as Renewable Energy Standard Offer Contracts with the Ontario Power Authority (OPA) as detailed in Pod Generating Group Awarded Additional Ontario Solar Power Supply Contracts.
I believe the problems begin with PGG’s technology driven instead of market or solution driven VISION of THE NEW SPACE AGE:
The Pod Generating Group is dedicated to bringing space technology into daily use, here on Earth.
Through the development of utility-scale solar power generating facilities throughout Canada and the United States, Pod Generating Group is realizing this vision.
The Pod Generating Groups seems to be more about Canadian political connections bolstered by promises of local CPV manufacturing (Manufacturing Plant Coming to Sault Ste. Marie) when the exchange rate favors manufacturing across the border in Michigan than proper application of existing photovoltaic technologies.
I contacted both EMCORE and the Pod Generating Group (PGG) and asked the following questions about the Ontario Canada project:
- Can you please explain how an HCPV deployment in Ontario makes technical and economic sense at this point in their development?
- What is the expected direct solar insolation for this location used in the economic analysis?
- At current production costs, I don’t see how this project can break even?
EMCORE was aware of my request and chose not to respond. The Pod Generating Group did not respond to my emails or voice messages, and I was unable to reach a real person at the company. The extension listed on their press releases was wrong although an operator at the Sault Ste. Marie Innovation Centre (SSMIC) was able to connect me with the voice mail of incubator client, PGG.
I expect this initial post will trigger a series of follow ups.
On a more festive note, please see Best Wishes for the Holidays and a great 2008! for my special holiday greeting.
Here is a bonus EMCORE Picasa slideshow from the 22nd EU PVSEC.