There's a lot going on in the solar industry this week, including the International Trade Commission's decision to find "injury" in Suniva's Section 201 trade case. I'll cover that and its impacts on the industry in another article on fool.com this weekend.
For this week, the industry's news focused on some policy and strategic changes industry players are making. And I'll look at some moves happening in industries very related to solar energy. Here's what you should know.
NY REV and its impact on solar
The New York state "Reforming the Energy Vision" (REV) initiative, which aims to update the way the grid compensates distributed (residential and commercial) solar and energy storage, moved forward this week...and the solar industry didn't like what it saw. In an order approved by the New York Public Service Commission, the value of distributed resources will be set at nodes all around the state. However, prices could be reset every three years, making it very difficult to invest in long-term assets like solar or storage.
The idea of pricing solar or energy storage differently in different locations is a good one. One area may be able to offset a transmission expansion or other capital upgrade by installing more energy storage or solar, so giving developers the incentive to build in that location is a good idea. But when companies are making the decision to invest in a capital-intensive asset like renewable energy, they need to be certain of their long-term cash flows. If prices are reset every three years, that will likely kill the investment the REV initiative is trying to drive, reducing the opportunity for solar installations in the state.
Enphase turning a new leaf?
Troubled micro-inverter manufacturer Enphase Energy (NASDAQ:ENPH) announced that it has partnered with Waaree Energies to produce an AC solar module (built-in micro-inverter) for the Indian solar market.
Being built in at the factory level is great for a company like Enphase, which has lost market share to the power optimizers the market has moved to in recent years. But it still has a product that manufacturers can choose to preinstall, lowering costs at the installation level. Becoming a preferred supplier for manufacturers wanting to make AC modules would be a step in the right direction for Enphase.
A smart grid buyout
Itron (NASDAQ:ITRI) agreed to buy Silver Spring Networks (NYSE:SSNI) this week in a deal valued at $830 million, or $16.25 per share in cash. Silver Spring provides connected energy solutions for utilities and smart cities.
The deal will bring a broader array of capabilities to Itron, and the company intends to grow its recurring revenue from software that's sold as a service to cities and utilities. Itron is really an enabling company that will make it possible to integrate more renewable energy into the grid.
News and notes
This week, I'm focusing the news and notes section on energy storage, which could be a huge enabler of higher solar adoption rates:
- Daimler (NASDAQOTH:DDAIF) subsidiary Mercedes is planning to invest $1 billion in a plant producing electric vehicles and batteries in Alabama. The company is investing heavily in EVs, and has expanded its energy storage solution with a deal with Vivint Solar in the U.S. This is part of a strategy to offer electric versions of all Mercedes vehicles by 2022 and could indicate a bigger move into energy storage.
- Duke Energy (NYSE:DUK) announced that it's investing $30 million in a 9 MW energy storage project in Asheville and a 4 MW project in Hot Springs, which will be the two biggest storage facilities in North Carolina. Given Duke Energy's late move into renewables, this could be a sign that utilities across the country will begin taking energy storage a little more seriously.
- Drax Group (NASDAQOTH:DRXGY), the owner of the U.K.'s largest power plant, applied to build a 200 MW energy storage system in an effort to increase efficiency and lower costs. The combination of energy storage and traditional power plants is a novel one, allowing the power plant to store energy that would otherwise be wasted and produce energy when it's most efficient. And the combo could play a role in making the transition to cleaner energy in the future.
That's all for this week in solar. Check back to fool.com for more coverage on the solar industry and the ITC's trade ruling next week.