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First Solar Goes to Thailand; US Stays in OPEC's Grasp: The Week In Cleantech, 8-17-2012

Jeff Siegel

August 15: First Solar (NASDAQ:FSLR) Moves to Thailand

In an effort to continue its steady expansion, First Solar (NASDAQ:FSLR) has set up a Thailand operating subsidy and has officially opened its Bangkok office.

The Thai subsidiary is charged with the responsibility of expanding FSLR's market for utility-scale solar projects. Senior Manger of Business Development told reporters. . .

“The long-term energy fundamentals in Thailand are very favorable for a solar power solution to meet their growing energy needs, and we will continue to invest here as part of our strategy to develop sustainable, utility-scale solar markets.”

Yesterday, my colleague R.T. Jones commented on how non-China solar companies are competing against China's solar dominance. This could be seen as an example of that. Although to assume China's solar industry is also not sailing through rough seas is naïve.

In fact, a Reuters report that came out yesterday indicated that as solar panel prices continue to fall, China solar companies will continue to struggle with increasingly heavy debt loads. We've been saying this for almost two years now!

So what's next?

Major consolidation.

Mark my words, although I remain extremely bullish on the long-term outlook for solar, we will not have much more than a dozen or so profitable solar companies operating globally after 2015.

August 16: Ford (NYSE:F) Ready to Dominate Electric Car Market

  •     Ford (NYSE:F) announced yesterday that it now has more than 1,000 engineers working on vehicle electrification, with dozens more to be added next year. The company is also now doubling its battery-testing capabilities in hopes of accelerating its hybrid and electric vehicle development by 25 percent. The Focus Electric is Ford's first all-electric offering for the masses. It's actually a pretty sweet car, although like most electric cars, it is a bit pricey. To be honest, I think the company's actually going to get a lot more traction from its C-Max, which is a crossover SUV that comes in both conventional hybrid and plug-in hybrid electric models. The former offers a pretty impressive 47 mpg, and the latter offers equally impressive fuel economy with a 20-mile all-electric range as well. Another reason I think Ford's got a winner here is the price. The conventional hybrid model goes for about $26,000. Competitive with the Prius V (The Prius version of an SUV crossover), but offering a bit more room and luxury. And the electric model comes in at about $34,000. It does qualify for a $3,740 federal tax credit, which brings it in around the $30,000 mark. Not bad for a plug-in model, especially considering the roominess of the vehicle. I definitely think Ford's going to crush it on the C-Max.
  •     CX Solar Korea has announced it's leading a group of investors that will pony up nearly $1 billion to build a massive solar farm in Pakistan. The $900 million project is set to begin with a 50 megawatt installation, with follow-on projects that'll reach 300 megawatts by 2016. CX Solar is now in talks with panel suppliers. Since the company will be using both conventional crystalline silicon and thin film, it'll be interesting to see if First Solar (NASDAQ:FSLR) gets a call about the latter. Although, as we reported earlier this year, Pakistan has been turning towards cheap Chinese solar panels to combat high electricity tariffs and dependence on diesel generators, which cost more to operate than solar. Pakistan has also been moving forward on the wind power front. Back in May, the Islamic Development Bank and the Asian Development Bank came to an agreement on a $133 million financing deal for two wind projects in that country.
  •     A couple of years ago I read a report that showed China boasting massive growth in wind farm construction. The problem, however, was that many of these farms were not connected to the grid. And in fact, weren't even close to being connected. Talk about a chicken and egg situation gone bad. But this morning, we learned that China's wind power capacity actually linked to the grid has increased by 87 percent. This year, just over 50 gigawatts of wind were connected, thereby moving China closer to its goal of 100 gigawatts by 2015, and 200 gigawatts by 2020. Although few take China at its word these days, I do believe the Middle Kingdom isn't going to just let massive groupings of turbines sit and rust. The nation is desperate for more power, and I have no doubt that in about eight years, there will be 200 gigawatts of wind power helping to keep the lights on in China.

August 17: Obama and Romney Slow Our Escape from OPEC

This is why I hate politics. . .

On the table is a plan to increase the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standard to 54.5 mpg by 2025.

Although automakers put up a stink early on, most have since signed on to get this done. However, the Obama administration is now dragging its feet due to “continued opposition.” Gee, I wonder who opposes making our vehicles more fuel efficient?

According to a spokeswoman for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the rule is undergoing inter-agency review and the process is expected to be completed soon. And by soon, she means after the election. Because the truth is, the Obama administration doesn't want to kick the GOP beehive any more than it has to before November.

Now It's no secret that Mitt Romney opposes the future CAFE requirements. He claims this is an example of an over-reaching government, and that he would instead work with manufacturers to find ways to encourage fuel economy on the part of the consumer. What those “ways” are however, are still unknown. He said that trying to have the manufacturer push the product on the consumer – something the consumer doesn't want – is not the right approach.

Yeah, I would love to meet the guy who actually has to work for a living complain about a vehicle that gets better gas mileage. If consumers don't want vehicles that are fuel efficient, than why does every single car commercial on television clearly state the vehicle's fuel economy?

Of course, I get it. It's all politics. I highly doubt that Romney really wants to oppose something that allows us to displace enormous amounts of foreign oil. But you know the drill. It was proposed by this administration, so in an effort to secure votes, he must oppose it.

And that's why I hate politics. It gets in the way of progress.

Now look, if you're you're a regular reader of these pages, you know I'm no shill for Obama either. Quite frankly, I have zero interest in what either side has to say during election time. It's all empty rhetoric and bullshit designed to trick voters into believing that their guy will save us from decades upon decades of lies, deception and an extraordinarily unacceptable amount of fiscal irresponsibility.

But let's be real about the CAFE issue.

At this point, no one is forcing automakers to do anything. They've signed on!

And the bottom line is that by increasing fuel economy standards to 54.4 mpg, American consumers will save $1.7 trillion, and we will be able to displace about 2.2 million barrels of oil per day. Or roughly half of what we currently import from OPEC.

That, my friends, should make this a national security issue, not a partisan one.DISCLOSURE: No positions

Jeff Siegel is Editor of Energy and Capital, where these notes were first published.



was posted on AltEnergyStocks.com.


       

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