Monthly Archives: March 2015

China Puts The Brakes On New Solar Production Capacity

Doug Young Bottom line: New signals indicate Beijing plans to move aggressively to prevent solar panel makers from adding unneeded new capacity to help their local governments meet economic growth targets. A new low-key announcement from Beijing is hinting at a quiet struggle taking place behind the scenes in China’s promising but embattled solar panel sector, with the regulator saying it will stop the building of most new manufacturing capacity. On one side of this struggle are local government officials, who may be encouraging solar panel makers in their areas to add capacity that will benefit their...

Why This German Solar Executive Is Skeptical About American YieldCo Assumptions

by Tom Konrad CFA Ever since the first YieldCo, NRG Yield (NYSE:NYLD), went public in 2013, it and other similar YieldCos have been reshaping the market for operating renewable energy assets, especially wind and solar PV farms.  A YieldCo is, to put it simply, a publicly traded subsidiary of a developer and operator of clean energy farms that uses the cash flow from its assets to return a high current dividend to shareholders. Most large, publicly traded clean energy developers have already launched or are preparing to launch a YieldCo. The current crop includes NRG Yield, Pattern...

US Geothermal: Wringing Profits From Hot Rocks

by Debra Fiakas CFA Last week I spent the better part of a day listening to presentations of energy companies at the Wall Street Analyst Forum in New York.  Although I had heard the management of  US Geothermal (HTM: NYSE) tell the company’s story before, I was impressed to hear about the progress the company has made in squeezing profits from electricity produced with turbines run by underground steam.  Management called it gratifying! The company reported $31 million in sales in the year 2014, delivering $14.9 million in net income to the bottom line.  That is something...

Yingli Joins The $1 Club; China Solar Slows

Bottom line: A new second wave of consolidation is likely to occur in China’s solar panel sector later this year, with money-losing companies like Yingli and ReneSola as the most likely acquisition targets. Looming signs of new trouble are brewing in the solar panel sector, with shares of Yingli Green Energy (NYSE: YGE) taking a bath after the company reported widening losses and slowing revenue growth. The 15 percent sell-off saw Yingli’s shares re-approach an all-time low from just 2 and a half years ago, as the company joined a small but growing club of US-listed solar panel makers...

Who’s on First, What’s on Second and Why It Does and Does Not Matter

by Paula Mints Sizing the supply side of the global PV industry has never been easy. As annual shipments grew to gigawatt heights outsourcing increased in tandem making it almost impossible to settle on a reliable number for the size of the industry in any given year. Outsourcing, a common practice in all industries, takes place when one manufacturer buys a product or component from another manufacturer.  In the PV industry, manufacturer A buys cells from manufacturer B, assembles the cells into modules and includes these modules in its in-house production.  When both manufacturers report the resulting...

Praj Licenses Gevo’s Isobutanol Technology

Jim Lane In Colorado, Gevo (GEVO) announced that Praj Industries Limited has signed a memorandum of understanding to become a Gevo licensee for producing renewable isobutanol at sugar-based ethanol plants. Under the MOU, Praj will undertake to license up to 250 million gallons of isobutanol capacity for sugar-based ethanol plants over the next ten years. Gevo will market the isobutanol produced by Praj’s sub-licensees. Praj will also contribute process engineering and equipment services to expand isobutanol capacity at Gevo’s plant in Luverne, Minn, as well as to improve yields and optimize energy consumption at the facility. “Praj has...

SunRun: The Next Big Solar IPO

By Jeff Siegel Good news for solar investors … Another solar financing/installation company is about to go public. And if history serves as any indicator, this could be yet another opportunity to land some pretty solid gains. As reported in the Wall Street Journal, Sunrun, Inc. is set work with banks including Credit Suisse Group AG and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. on an IPO. No final price has be set at this time, but currently the company is valued at more than $1.3 billion, which puts it roughly in the same box with Vivint Solar (NYSE: VSLR). The fastest...

11 Wind Energy Stocks for 2015

By Jeff Siegel Something doesn't add up here... A recent Energy Department report has suggested that wind power will be cheaper than natural gas-generated power within 10 years. And that's without a federal tax incentive. Sounds good. Certainly I love hearing about renewable energy competing with fossil fuels in the absence of subsidies. Yet here's the weird thing... While the DOE report states that wind can be the cheapest, cleanest power option in all 50 states by 2050, the Obama administration is pushing to not just renew the wind energy production tax credit but actually make it permanent. That's...

Can Uber Save BYD?

By Jeff Siegel Back in 2007, we jumped on a small electric car company called BYD Company (OTCBB: BYDDF). We actually crushed it on that one as we took a position before Warren Buffett announced he was taking a 10% stake in the company. Of course, when we started covering the company, I had no idea Warren Buffett even knew that a Chinese company was making electric cars. The stock had a nice ride, but shortly after Uncle Warren jumped in, the stock soared and got very top heavy. It got way too hot, way too fast. We...

Linc Energy: Making Synthetic Crude From Coal Downunderground

by Debra Fiakas CFA Gas-to-liquids is back on my radar screen after an article appearing in early March 2015 on Biofuels Digest described progress Emerging Fuels Technology (EFT) has made in perfecting the Fischer-Tropsch process to convert carbon-based feedstock to liquid fuel, otherwise called Gas-to-Liquids.  Fischer-Tropsch often referred to as FT for short is a series of chemical reactions to convert carbon monoxide and hydrogen into liquid hydrocarbons.  The reactions are triggered by a catalyst, usually cobalt or iron, and managed under high temperatures in a chamber or reactor.  Some might consider it a neat trick...

Trade Wars Send Chinese Solar Companies Offshore

Doug Young Bottom line: A new wave of overseas investment by Chinese solar panel makers should ease western complaints of unfair state-support and provide a more solid foundation for the sector’s longer-term development. Solar panel makers migrate overseas As a settlement to avoid anti-dumping tariffs for Chinese solar panels exported to Europe showed signs of unraveling last week, a new report emerged that showed a more positive trend for a sector that has become the subject of nonstop trade wars over the last 4 years. That newer trend has seen...

Rentech After Fischer-Tropsch

by Debra Fiakas CFA A long article appearing in early March 2014 on Biofuels Digest about Emerging Fuels Technology (EFT) gave me pause.  The article has since been removed from the site but it was an interesting primer on Oklahoma-based EFT’s use of the Fischer-Tropsch process to convert carbon-based feedstock to liquid fuel, otherwise called Gas-to-Liquids. While Emerging Fuels Technology has been listed in Crystal Equity Research’s Alternative Chemicals Group of the Beach Boys Index of companies trying to harness energy from the sun through biomas, I must admit the company had not been taken seriously.  ...

EU Likely To Impose Further Sanctions On Chinese Solar Firms

Doug Young Bottom line: A widening investigation into violations of an anti-dumping solar panel settlement between China and the EU is likely to result in punitive sanctions, dealing a blow to the Chinese panel makers. What started as some quiet rumblings earlier this week is quickly brewing into a major storm, with word that a landmark settlement between the EU and China a year ago to resolve an anti-dumping dispute over solar panels is quickly unraveling. In this case it’s probably more accurate to say the settlement was between the EU and actual Chinese solar panel makers,...

Invest Where Solar Beats $10 Oil

By Jeff Siegel In Dubai, solar is now cheaper than oil at $10 a barrel. Yes, you read that correctly. As reported by the National Bank of Abu Dhabi: Dubai set a new global benchmark in December 2014: at 5.84 US cents per kW hour, the bid for Dubai Electricity and Water Authority’s 200 MW solar PV plant was cheaper than oil at US$10/barrel and gas at US$5/MMBtu. You see, while oil in the U.S. is used primarily as a transportation fuel, in the oil-rich Middle East, the shiny black stuff is used to generate electricity. In...

EU Probes Chinese Solar Firms

Doug Young Bottom line: The EU is likely to resolve its latest dispute with Chinese solar firms over implementation of a year-old pricing agreement, but the clash will undermine trust and hints at future conflict over the issue. After several months of relative quiet, Chinese solar panel makers are back in the headlines this week with another looming trade dispute in Europe. This particular story, and much of the industry’s woes over the last 2 years, stems from broader western allegations of unfair government support for Chinese panel makers. In this case China and the EU signed...

India Hates Coal

By Jeff Siegel If you think the war on coal in the U.S. is bad, you ain't seen nothing yet! We recently got word that India is set to double the tax on coal production, while promoting electric vehicles and renewable energy projects. I'm pretty sure there's some Luddite reporter in Mumbai right now who's head's about to explode. But that's neither here nor there. While I'm no fan of regulatory regimes of any kind, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't happy to know that a crap-ton of money is getting funneled into renewable energy and electric...