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Found 11 results for Technology
June 22 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Musk's Solar Lifestyle Idea Has One Big Flaw

This article by Leonid Bershidsky for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

The commercial success of Musk's vertical integration idea hinges -- in terms of turning a profit rather than generating a high market capitalization -- on battery Technology that would have mass rather than niche appeal. The assumption upon which Musks' concept -- and Tesla's $32.3 billion market capitalization -- is built is that Tesla is betting on the right battery Technology and no one will come up with a much better one. That is the big hole in the donut: The assumption is far from safe.

Cheap and reliable energy storage is central to the idea of an off-the-grid, solar-powered household. Such a home needs energy at night, when the sun isn't shining: It has fridges, air conditioners and other appliances running, and a Tesla charging in the garage. So it needs a good battery, and Tesla's Powerwall doesn't necessarily fit the bill -- if only because the cost of the energy it supplies, including amortization, is higher than grid prices. Because of this, and given the high price of Tesla cars, the lifestyle on offer is an expensive statement. In terms of cost and convenience, it's not competitive with the traditional grid-and-fossil fuel model.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Let’s call Tesla Motor’s acquisition of SolarCity what it is; a bailout. The tide of highly attractive subsidies for solar has turned. NV Energy, Warren Buffett’s Nevada utility, successfully argued that it should not have to bear the full cost of the electrical grid when solar producers get to use it for free and get preferential rates on the electricity they supply. That represented a major upset for SolarCity in particular but also highlighted a deeper challenge for the solar leasing business model which has contributed to increased scepticism among investors about the prospects for related companies. The big question is whether other states, particularly in the sun-belt will announce similar charging structures. 



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January 04 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Nevada Regulators Eliminate Retail Rate Net Metering for New and Existing Solar Customers

This article by Julia Pyper for GreenTechMedia may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

The Nevada Public Utility Commission voted unanimously in favor of a new solar tariff structure on Tuesday that industry groups say will destroy the Nevada solar market, one of the fastest-growing markets in the country.

The decision increases the fixed service charge for net-metered solar customers, and gradually lowers compensation for net excess solar generation from the retail rate to the wholesale rate for electricity, over the next four years. The changes will take effect on January 1 and will apply retroactively to all net-metered solar customers.

The broad application of the policy sets a precedent for future net-metering and rate-design debates. To date, no other state considering net-metering reforms has proposed to implement changes on pre-existing customers that would take effect right away. Changes are typically grandfathered in over a decade or more.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Renewable energy and distributed generation are two of the greatest threats to established utilities in the sun-belt. If people can generate their own electricity at home, sell excess onto the grid at a favourable rate and only take from the base load provider when necessary, they are put in a highly advantageous position relative to the utility. On the other hand utilities are accustomed to a highly regulated market but not to competition. 



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October 08 2015

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

SolarCity Unveils World's Most Efficient Rooftop Solar Panel, To Be Made in America

This press release from SolarCity may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

SolarCity will begin producing the first modules in small quantities this month at its 100 MW pilot facility, but the majority of the new solar panels will ultimately be produced at SolarCity’s 1 GW facility in Buffalo, New York. SolarCity expects to be producing between 9,000 - 10,000 solar panels each day with similar efficiency when the Buffalo facility reaches full capacity.

SolarCity’s panel was measured with 22.04 percent module-level efficiency by Renewable Energy Test Center, a third-party certification testing provider for photovoltaic and renewable energy products. SolarCity’s new panel—created via a proprietary process that significantly reduces the manufacturing cost relative to other high-efficiency technologies—is the same size as standard efficiency solar panels, but produces 30-40 percent more power. SolarCity’s panel also performs better than other modules in high temperatures, which allows it to produce even more energy on an annual basis than other solar panels of comparable size.

SolarCity initially expects to install the new, record-setting solar panel on rooftops and carports for homes, businesses, schools and other organizations, but it will also be excellent for utility-scale solar fields and other large-scale, ground level installations.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

The low price of oil and other energy commodities has taken a toll on the moveable feast of solar power breakeven calculations. The sector simply has to continually introduce more efficient products and there is good reason to expect it will. Solarcity’s announcement of a production-ready panel sporting 22% efficiency is great news provided the final announced price is competitive. In the lab efficiency rates of over 40% are achievable but it’s a big leap from a sterile environment to rooftops. This is the primary reason SolarCity’s announcement is important. 



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September 17 2015

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day on Tesla

My hunch - but I may be wrong - is that electric cars are relatively easy to build... there is not much Technology in an electric engine, no complexity; as for the batteries (which I understand are Panasonic's in the case of Tesla, which assembles them together in very large modules) I understand that the know how is not really in the hands of Tesla or any other producer (even Renault/Nissan stopped developing in house Technology) and therefore someone else did the clever job. 

As a first mover Tesla has very competently built a good product, taking risk only where strictly necessary: luxury brand (low risk) with traditional, long bonnet, probably off the shelf design (low risk), an old chassis for the roadster, well tested batteries. Also, the complexity of electric power train - compared even with a small 1ltr engine - is little: there are fewer (almost none in fact) moving parts, no gear box. No way a new producer could enter the industry with its own internal combustion engines, but the electric car gives this opportunity.  A good demonstration of this is that Tesla's provisions for warranties are in line with those of a mature manufacturer with a well-tested line up of cars... probably Tesla know that there is so little in an electric car that can actually go wrong.

Traditional producers have held off from making a proper move into the sector not to cannibalize their current products and make all R&D and Capex in a probably obsolete Technology completely worthless. After all they can catch up quickly: the difference between a Tesla, and a BMW or Nissan Leaf or 500e is purely the size of the battery, whose development risk is not theirs... On paper, a Leaf may have the range of a Tesla simply by doubling the size of the battery. In the meanwhile, no necessity of taking the risk of killing their current baroque business model, made of V12, V6, boxer, in line 4 or 3 or 2 cylinder hyper complex engines that you have to service all the time and last 300k when of exceptional quality.

Traditional car manufacturers will "tolerate" Tesla as far as it does not build a too strong brand (ludicrous speed is genius by the way: intrinsic of electric engine, easy to do, but presented as cool high tech stuff), then move in and with their economies of scale and less vertically integrated structure quickly catch up... it will be dear, but unavoidable as Tesla made clear it is possible to achieve a usable and fun product with no petrol engine.? VW making its move,? but I guess everyone if working on something. 

What I think could get ugly in this story - from the point of view of Tesla shareholders - is the excessive use of dodgy accounting (there are examples), the glorification of the CEO and its ideas (never good in a plc), just to get hold of capital for a venture that is extraordinarily risky and liable to competitive pressures from corporations much larger and much more sophisticated. How far will the individual Musk go to keep the business going? He is very successful, people love him, Tesla S has been voted best car ever. Difficult to give that up, right?

Did not look at the other businesses of his, with Space X he is against defence and/or state run companies... difficult.

Anyway, just a thought, I may be completely wrong...

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Thank you for this detailed email and I agree that with valuations as they currently stand Tesla does not have a great deal of margin for error. The company has lost money in every quarter since 2013 but less than analysts estimated which has helped support the massive run-up in prices. 



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September 07 2015

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Yingli Fights to Survive as Another Solar King Dethroned

This article by Alex Nussbaum for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section: 

One of those investments was the 2009 purchase of Cyber Power Group Ltd. for $77.6 million, a company that makes polysilicon, the main raw material in solar cells. Yingli’s founder and Chief Executive Officer Miao Liansheng invested another $270 million to upgrade the plant. The project made more sense then, when the material sold for $400 a kilogram; today, it can be bought for less than $20, said Angelo Zino, an S&P Capital IQ analyst in New York.

Yingli spent aggressively on marketing as well, including sponsoring the World Cup. Its logo was prominent during matches in Brazil last year. “They spent on capacity, they spent quite a bit on marketing,” Sanganeria said. “They took everything to the extreme.”

Suntech and Q-Cells faced similar issues, borrowing to expand capacity and then finding themselves constrained by debt, said Raymond James’ Molchanov. Both struggled to cut manufacturing costs fast enough to keep up with the market. The challenge was exacerbated starting in 2011 when slowing demand in Europe led to a global oversupply of panels and falling prices.

Eoin Treacy's view -

The problem for solar cell manufacturers is that the primary bullish case for solar is that Moore’s law can now be applied because it is a Technology rather than an extractive resource. This means companies relying on producing legacy products, when Technology is advancing rapidly are being left behind and often with high debt loads. 



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June 29 2015

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Fintech reloaded Traditional banks as digital ecosystems

Thanks to a subscriber for this report from Deutsche Bank which may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Isolated solutions are often only implemented in a fragmented fashion from division to division. Innovation processes are still being driven forward laboriously using an outdated silo approach. Furthermore, many banks' command of the global “language of the internet” is still deficient. The banks will not achieve resounding success using such methods. Digital change requires far-reaching structural reforms that extend beyond all internal and external bank processes and systems.

The new market players from the non-bank sector, by contrast, have an almost perfect understanding of the language of the internet. First and foremost it is the scarcely regulated digital ecosystems, but there are also many fintechs that are using their platforms and ingenious “walled garden” strategies to dominate markets across a range of sectors. Their recipe for success is based on the harmonious interplay between implemented hardware and software. Via the optimum interlinking and utilisation of compatible and interoperable standards/technologies we – the platform-spoiled consumers – are courted with attractive products and services conveniently, globally and from a single source. 

Traditional banks could do this, too, however. This now provides the opportunity to swiftly learn and adopt the strengths and particularly the monetarisation strategies (walled gardens) of the successful digital ecosystems.

There are many benefits to be gained by banks that transform themselves into platform-based, digital banking ecosystems. Apart from easy access to numerous personalised products and services, including those of external providers, as well as a more secure IT environment, the customer can also make interactive contributions on the financial platform in a variety of useful networks. Furthermore, the banking ecosystem offers a flexible corporate architecture that will in future enable as-yet-unimagined technologies to be docked onto one's own infrastructure in a timely fashion and at an acceptable cost.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

A link to the full report is posted in the Subscriber's Area.

Fintech (finance Technology) is rapidly advancing as the evolution of the block chain, demand for enhanced online services and the economies of scale represented by services delivered online coalesce to drive the sector’s growth.  



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June 23 2015

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

The Way Humans Get Electricity Is About to Change Forever

This article by Tom Randall for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section: 

The price of solar power will continue to fall, until it becomes the cheapest form of power in a rapidly expanding number of national markets. By 2026, utility-scale solar will be competitive for the majority of the world, according to BNEF. The lifetime cost of a photovoltaic solar-power plant will drop by almost half over the next 25 years, even as the prices of fossil fuels creep higher.

Solar power will eventually get so cheap that it will outcompete new fossil-fuel plants and even start to supplant some existing coal and gas plants, potentially stranding billions in fossil-fuel infrastructure. The industrial age was built on coal. The next 25 years will be the end of its dominance.  

2. Solar Billions Become Solar Trillions
With solar power so cheap, investments will surge. Expect $3.7 trillion in solar investments between now and 2040, according to BNEF. Solar alone will account for more than a third of new power capacity worldwide. Here's how that looks on a chart, with solar appropriately dressed in yellow and fossil fuels in pernicious gray:  

3. The Revolution Will Be Decentralized 
The biggest solar revolution will take place on rooftops. High electricity prices and cheap residential battery storage will make small-scale rooftop solar ever more attractive, driving a 17-fold increase in installations. By 2040, rooftop solar will be cheaper than electricity from the grid in every major economy, and almost 13 percent of electricity worldwide will be generated from small-scale solar systems.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

The pace of technological innovation in solar is rapid and the argument that Moore’s law is applicable is gaining ground as the sector attached increasing research and development spending. The difficulties reported in getting the Ivanpah concentrated solar facility, in the Mojave Desert, up to peak performance is a setback suggesting the time required to deliver new technologies might be longer than some are currently envisaging. Here is a section from a Huffington Post piece dated November 17th: 

"During startup we have experienced ... equipment challenges, typical with any new Technology, combined with irregular weather patterns," NRG spokesman Jeff Holland said in a statement. "We are confident that Ivanpah's long-term generation projections will meet expectations."

The Technology used at Ivanpah is different than the familiar photovoltaic panels commonly used for rooftop solar installations. The plant's solar-thermal system — sometimes called concentrated-solar thermal — relies on nearly 350,000 computer-controlled mirrors at the site, each the size of a garage door. 

 



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June 08 2015

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

From cars to power grids: battery technology from Daimler is accelerating the transition to renewable energy generation

This article from Daimler highlights its entry into the domestic and commercial energy storage sectors. Here is a section:

Daimler is entering into business in the field of stationary energy storage plants with its one hundred percent subsidiary Deutsche ACCUmotive. The first industrial-scale lithium-ion unit is already on the grid and is being operated by the partner companies The Mobility House AG and GETEC Energie AG. For business with private customers in the area of energy storage in Germany, Daimler AG is planning to collaborate with EnBW AG. Daimler is also aiming to enter into cooperation with other sales and distribution partners both in Germany and at international level. "Mercedes-Benz energy storages provide the best confirmation that lithium-ion batteries Made in Germany have a viable future," says Harald Kröger, Head of Development Electrics/Electronics & E-Drive Mercedes-Benz Cars. "With our comprehensive battery expertise at Deutsche ACCUmotive we are accelerating the transition to sustainable energy generation both on the road and in the field of power supply for companies and private households. The Technology that has proven its worth over millions of kilometres covered in the most adverse conditions, such as extreme heat and cold, also offers the best credentials for stationary use. We have been gathering initial experience in this field since 2012."

Eoin Treacy's view -

Daimler was in the news last month for its introduction of driverless haulage vehicles to Nevada following the state’s legislation on autonomous vehicles. The company’s entry into the domestic and commercial energy storage sectors is equally ground breaking and suggests it has ambitions of being a pioneer in the future of transportation and energy storage. 



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May 15 2015

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

SMA Solar Jumps in Frankfurt as U.S., Japan Sales Narrow Losses

This article by Stefan Nicola for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section: 

SMA Solar Technology AG, a German solar company that’s cutting a third of its staff to reduce costs, rose to a three-week high in Frankfurt after first-quarter sales jumped and losses narrowed.

SMA climbed as much as 5.9 percent to 14.50 euros, the highest intraday level since April 23, after saying sales grew 28 percent to 226 million euros ($254 million) and a loss on earnings before interest and taxes narrowed to 5.4 million euros. Sales were driven by large-scale solar projects in North America, Japan, the U.K. and Australia, it said.

“With the sales generated and the order backlog at the end of the first quarter, we have already achieved more than 60 percent of our sales target for the year,” Chief Executive Officer Pierre-Pascal Urbon said. “The earnings situation developed better than planned, partly due to the reduction of fixed costs already initiated and to exchange rate effects.”

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Solar cells produce direct current but if you want to it to power your home, heat your water or sell electricity back onto the grid it needs to be inverted into alternating current. Therefore everyone who buys solar cells must also buy an inverter. While SMA Solar is a global leader in manufacturing inverters it is not the cheapest. 



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May 01 2015

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Elon Musk Challengers Jostle to Solve Riddle of Energy Storage

This article by Will Wade for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

If the storage breakthrough is coming, it seems obvious it would happen in California, which has long led the U.S. in supporting alternative energy. The state has the most demanding fuel-efficiency standards for cars, as well as incentives that have made it the biggest market for solar power in the U.S.

California “is often a lab” for the rest of the country, said Brian Warshay, an analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance. It will “continue to be so on the storage front.”

Older methods of trying to store power have existed for decades, including pumped hydropower facilities in which water is sent to higher elevation reservoirs and released through lower turbines to produce electricity when demand is high.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Here is a link to Tesla’s website where they highlight some of the key features of the Powerwall battery. Perhaps the most important consideration today is that almost no one has a battery in their home and that in a decade it could be commonplace. I reviewed the residential battery sector on April 23rd

As much as smoothing out supply and demand curves for electricity use in the home are interesting, the industrial and utility sectors are just as exciting. 

 



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December 11 2013

Commentary by David Fuller

Fracking Boom Pushes U.S. Oil Output to 25-Year High

Here is the opening of this informative article from Bloomberg:

U.S. crude production rose to the highest level in a quarter-century as a shale drilling boom in states such as Texas and North Dakota cut the need for foreign oil and pushed the country closer to energy independence.

The U.S. pumped 8.075 million barrels a day in the week ended Dec. 6, a gain of 0.8 percent, or 64,000 barrels a day, the Energy Information Administration said today. It’s the most since October 1988.

“You can’t swing a cat without hitting a barrel of oil in North America,” saidStephen Schork, president of the Schork Group Inc., an energy consulting firm in Villanova, Pennsylvania. “It’s amazing how quickly things can change.”

U.S. oil output grew 18 percent in the past 12 months, the fastest pace on record, boosting fuel exports and reducing reliance on imports, according to the EIA. The boom will make the country the world’s largest producer by 2015, five years sooner than last year’s forecast, the International Energy Agency in Paris said last month.

 

David Fuller's view -

Remember growing up with all those stories about how we were going to run out of oil, to the point of being impoverished and sitting in the dark?  They persisted right into the 21st Century.  People are still inventing reasons to avoid tapping their natural resources, and paying much higher prices for their energy.  Who benefits from that?

 Technology is everything.  It improves our livelihoods, as most of us know.  We have only begun to see how it can reduce pollution, because that challenge was not sufficiently prioritised previously.     



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