The solar photovoltaic (PV) feed-in tariff (FIT) program introduced by the United Kingdom in April 2010 has catapulted the UK into the mainstream of global PV market activity. According to the results of the Solarbuzz® UK PV Market 2010 report issued today, the UK's emergence could not be better timed, when taking into account the uncertain prospects for the dominant German market next year.
With FITs as high as 41.3 pence per kWh paid over 25 years, the foundations are in place for rampant PV market growth in 2011. Government incentives yield immediate installed PV system Internal Rates of Return between 8% and 11% over the next 12 months. Despite this, the UK market is already exposed to significant potential policy risks-more so than most other European markets-even though the FIT is only six months old.
Six market segments are emerging; five are on-grid, and one off-grid. 2010 demand has already seen rapid growth in residential installations, with the South East and South West regions accounting for 45% of the English part of the market in MW terms. In addition, an emerging pipeline of large scale commercial, agricultural and industrial projects are currently going through the application and permitting processes, ready to impact 2011 demand.
With several big name national utility and retail brands entering the UK market, they join a fast growing downstream installer network that exceeds 500 companies. The leading wholesalers and installers, constituting a group of eighteen companies, are well-positioned to serve the burgeoning market. Back in 2009, the top 3 of these accounted for 60% of shipped wholesale volumes.
"The early entrance of big name brands are helping to lend public confidence to what is generally a poorly understood renewable energy source in the UK," noted Alan Turner, Vice President of Solarbuzz Europe. "These companies join a multitude of European and international companies scrambling to establish early positions in this fast-growing embryonic market."
The wide range of end-market segments has led to four main downstream channels to market. These are not completely exclusive and examples of overlap can be found. In addition, novel business models are being advanced, still to be tested for practical viability, but with some gaining traction.
The fragmented end-market, together with the diversity of the installers and wholesalers, is further complicated by the 60 module suppliers that have already gained the accreditation necessary to enter the market. This downstream picture sets extreme challenges for solar companies to operate profitably in the UK.
"Notwithstanding the potential uncertainty over government policy, no major company can afford to ignore this market opportunity," concluded Turner. "The challenge for companies is to construct business models that can deliver profitable growth while volumes are still low, while at the same time phasing their level of downstream investment consistent with the policy risk."
For more information or to order Solarbuzz reports, contact us at our nine global locations, email us at email@example.com, or call +1 415 928 9743.
LA Federal District Court Rules That UP is not DOWN
TP Solar, Inc, the leader in the manufacture of innovative equipment for heat-treating Silicon wafers for solar cells, has defeated a claim by Despatch Industries Limited Partnership (Lakewood, MN, USA), that Despatch’s US Patent 7,514,650 has been infringed by TPSI’s line of integrated driers and furnaces, Model MD-225. TPSI successfully brought a motion before the Federal Court in LA that TPSI’s MD-225 furnaces do not infringe the Despatch ‘650 patent.
In a ruling by the US District Court for the Central District of California, Western Division, Judge Manuel L. Real ruled that there was no infringement by TPSI since all the TPSI furnaces employ only Top-Lift, UP Access features, whereas the Despatch ‘650 patent was limited by its plain meaning only to Bottom-Drop, DOWN Access functionality. In short, with respect to furnace access systems, in a patent sense, UP is not DOWN. The Court entered the Judgment for TPSI on Sept 15, 2011.
The Court did not reach several other issues raised in defense by TPSI, ruling that its finding of non-infringement on the “UP is not DOWN” issue is completely dispositive of the entire case. The patent infringement suit was originally filed by Despatch in Minnesota in mid-October, 2010, but a successful motion by TPSI resulted in the case being transferred to Los Angeles. The relatively short (10-months) pendency of the litigation with a minimal amount of discovery proceedings is not typical for patent cases, and now frees TPSI to once again focus on development of its innovative products, including diffusion and metallization furnaces, dryers and dopers, as well as ancillary equipment.
TPSI furnaces are rapidly becoming preferred in the Asian market. The win today for TPSI means its Asian customers will not be threatened with any disruption of deliveries from TPSI. The potential for TPSI’s Paramount, CA factory to be shut down, with resulting loss of jobs for the LA area, is also avoided.
TPSI was represented by Jacques M. Dulin, Esq., the senior litigator of Innovation Law Group, Ltd., located in Sequim, WA. Mr. Dulin, a former Patent Examiner and Law Clerk for the Federal Patent Court (Federal Circuit), commented that “This case is kind of neat, in that the Court had to decide if UP is Down. Of course, we did not think so, and the Court agreed”.
Alex Rey, President of TPSI said “TPSI has felt all along that Despatch was misusing its patent as a tool to unfairly try to shut us down. We don’t think they expected such a tough fight, but our faith that we were correct steeled our resolve. We look forward to continuing to compete fairly in the marketplace against Despatch, but we don’t think that it can match the TPSI product cost/benefit analysis on a feature by feature basis.” Despatch was recently acquired by Illinois Tool Works.
For more information, the public record of case 1:11-cv-2357-R can be accessed. Contact Mr. Dulin at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-681-7305. The Court’s Ruling will be posted on www.Innovationlaw.com . Contact Alex Rey of TPSI at 562-808-2171, email@example.com .