This week we saw a couple of big deals announced for solar involving AEE member companies. First Solar, the world’s largest solar company, has entered into a strategic partnership with the Clean Energy Collective (subscription required) to get into the largest potential market for residential solar in the United States – residents who can’t put solar installations on their own roofs. And for those who can, SolarCity has teamed up with Bank of America Merrill Lynch on a $400 million fund to help them do it.
The arrangement with CEC will allow First Solar to get into the residential solar market in a big way. First Solar primarily develops and operates huge, industrial-scale solar farms for utilities in the U.S. and around the world. CEC, in contrast, deals on a much smaller scale, creating community-based solar farms. CEC currently operates projects in eight states and works with 18 different utilities, but is in talks to expand to 47 states. The partnership with First Solar will give CEC the capacity to expand rapidly.
“First Solar is the largest solar company in the planet, serving the whole world. They do solar in dozens of countries across the world,” CEC CEO and founder Paul Spencer said. “They’re the mack-daddy of solar from a United States perspective as well as a global perspective.”
But the CEC business model also gives First Solar a way to get into residential solar at scale. CEC looks to serve households that are unsuitable for rooftop solar installations, such as apartment buildings or buildings with no south-facing roof, which account for up to 80 percent of the potential solar market.
“We’re as important to them as they are to us,” said Spencer, referring to CEC’s big new business partner.
Meanwhile, rooftop solar leader SolarCity announced that it has partnered with Bank of America Merrill Lynch (BofA) to create a $400 million fund to cover solar power projects in 2014 and 2015. This is not the first time the two companies have partnered: the two worked together on SolarStrong, a 2011 project to install solar panels on privatized military housing. SolarCity’s financing model, now backed by BofA bucks, makes it possible for homeowners to install solar panels without paying an upfront cost.
Nuclear got some new backing this week as well, as the U.S. Department of Energy announced $12.5 billion in available loans for advanced nuclear technologies. The solicitation is for “catalytic” nuclear projects that use “new or significantly improved technology as compared to commercial technology in service in the United States.”
Finally, in the category of science fiction becoming science fact, Stanford University researchers have developed an efficient coating (subscription required) that reflects heat and sunlight so that it bypasses the atmosphere and dissipates it straight into space. The coating is made of seven layers, alternating hafnium dioxide and silicon dioxide, and is less than 2 micrometers thick overall. The material could make buildings more energy efficient, and reduce the “heat island” effect in urban areas. According to the scientists’ paper reporting the findings, published in the journal Nature, “The cold darkness of the universe can be used as a renewable thermodynamic resource.”
“The fundamental aspect of nature we are working with here is that any object of a certain temperature radiates a form of light that corresponds to its temperature,” a research associate at Stanford University said. “At the end of the day, what we’re doing is a simple idea.”
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