First Solar Buys GE’s Tech: A Defensive Move?

James Montgomery Flexing its muscles yet again, thin-film solar PV leader First Solar (FSLR) has quietly acquired GE's (GE) similar solar intellectual property portfolio, but questions linger about whether and when the company will see the benefits. The deal includes both a specific module purchase commitment plus a longer-term commitment with agreed-upon pricing "over an extended period of years," according to First Solar CEO Jim Hughes during the company's 2Q13 earnings results. GE, meanwhile, will supply inverters for First Solar's global deployments, technology acquired through French firm Converteam, and it will seek to sell solar PV...
PV industry growth 1977-2017

The Solar Industry’s Prolonged Adolescence And What Maturity Will Look Like

by Paula Mints Every day the solar industry’s maturity is announced in company meetings, at conferences, in articles, and on Twitter, among other means, and through various media. The industry’s presumed maturity is held as a badge of its success by most and used as a PR message by many. The assumption of the industry’s maturity, primarily based on its size, low module prices, and low tender bidding, things that taken either individually or as a whole does not indicate ma-turity. Teenagers, after all, exhibit growth spurts even as their brains continue to develop through their early twenties. Teenagers also declare their...

Finding the Key to CIGS PV Reliability

by Joseph McCabe, PE This past week there was a photovoltaic (PV) workshop that probably wasn't on your radar. It was held at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and is called the PV Module Reliability Workshop (PVMRW). This is where the nerds of the PV industry get together to discuss the factors that influence how long a PV module will last and other factors which might influence the long-term performance of a PV system. It wasn't on your radar because it is not something that influences big business. Or is it? If you track the PV industry...

What Happened To Solar In 2016, And What To Expect In 2017

by Shawn Kravetz, Esplanade Capital What happened to solar industry fundamentals in 2016? Global demand shattered records growing ~40% to ~80 GW The U.S. grew ~75% to ~14 GW with solar accounting for 40-50% of new generation capacity in 2016 (vs. close to 0% in 2004 when Esplanade started investing in solar.) China installed 34 GW, a massive but volatile figure with record H1 installations giving way to an air pocket in the third quarter followed by a fourth quarter rebound Solar now competes against natural gas, coal, and other wholesale electricity sources not...

These Solar Panels Do NOT Work!

By Jeff Siegel Solar Failures Rising Those who wish death upon the solar industry are about to be given a gift. According to a New York Times investigation, reports of defective solar panels are starting to rise  just as the industry is on the cusp of significant adoption and expansion. Energy analyst Todd Woody points out that no one is exactly certain how pervasive the problem is, writing: There are no industry-wide figures about defective solar panels. And when defects are discovered, confidentiality agreements often keep the manufacturer's identity secret, making accountability in the industry all the...

US-China Solar Wars Enter Second Round

Doug Young Trade War. photo via Bigstock Just days after China finalized anti-dumping tariffs on US makers of polysilicon, the main ingredient used to make solar panels, the US has announced it is opening a new anti-dumping investigation into solar panels imported from China. The close timing of this latest round of developments in a solar trade dispute between the US and China may look worrisome on the surface, especially if they had come a year ago. But in this case the solar signals seem less confrontational...

Chinese Solar Turmoil Brings Crowdfunding and Internet Interlopers

Doug Young  Bottom line: Yingli’s use of crowd-funding to finance a small project and the bargain sale price of a small polysilicon maker reflect continuing struggles at second-tier solar companies and the need for more consolidation. Two solar energy stories are showing how overcapacity continues to haunt the sector 2 years after it began to emerge from a major downturn. The first involves a desperate-looking fund-raising plan from the struggling Yingli (NYSE: YGE), which is trying to use crowd funding to pay for a new solar plant. The other news involves another slightly bizarre investment in the space, with...

Trina and BYD Grow With State Support. How Will They Do Without?

Doug Young Bottom line: Trina’s new loan and BYD’s uncertain outlook for EV sales this year reflect continued reliance of new energy technology companies on state support, which could pressure them as government incentives get retired. Two new energy stories are in the headlines today, reflecting the progress but also the continued reliance on government support that this up-and-coming group of companies faces. That particular reality isn’t new, though some who were hoping the industries would become commercially independent more quickly may be disappointed. But more important, this reality could challenge many of the companies in the...

EU Moderates Tone in Solar Trade Clash with China

Doug Young After more than a year of antagonism, I’m happy to see that the voice of reason finally seems to be coming to the ongoing clash between China and the west in their prolonged dispute over Beijing’s state support for solar panel sector. Germany seems to be the driving force behind this welcome change in tone, following German Chancellor Angela Merckel’s remarks last week that she opposed anti-dumping tariffs on Chinese solar cells being proposed by the EU’s trade office. Merkel correctly realized that a trade war over solar panels wouldn’t benefit anyone, and could potentially deal...

SolarCity Rooftop Solar Lease Securitization Advances

by Sean Kidney US firm SolarCity (SCTY) announced last week that it was seeking to make a private placement of a $54.4 million, 13 year bond backed by cash flows from rooftop solar leases. SolarCity is the second-largest U.S. solar company by market capitalization. Lead manager Credit Suisse (CS) has been working on this deal for some time now, which will now only be eligible to be sold to big, qualified investors. It’s been a race this year between them and a US bank to get the first solar rooftop loan securitization our the door. Looks like...

EU, China Solar Talks Fall Apart: What’s Next?

Doug Young Trade War. photo via Bigstock It’s been interesting to watch all the different interpretations coming out of a brief flurry of talks in Europe late last week aimed at settling a trade dispute between the EU and China over Beijing’s support for its solar panel makers. About the only thing that everyone agrees on is that some talks did happen, and that China took the interesting step of letting an industry association rather than government officials handle its side of the negotiations. But after that, no...

Solar Stocks Will Continue to Outperform But Remain Volatile

By Harris Roen The market is starting to notice that solar investing has been extremely profitable in 2013. As of the middle of September, the average solar stock is up over 50% in the past year, and over 15% in three months (that’s over 60% annualized!). These returns are taken from a broad list of about 60 publically traded companies in the solar industry (see chart above). Though all are involved in solar, solar may not be the primary business of many of these companies. For example, Panasonic (PCRFY) produces photovoltaics, but it is only a small...

Get Ready for a Revival in Solar Tech Investments

James Montgomery The Skies are Brightening as Manufacturers Resume Spending to Improve Efficiency Slumping solar PV equipment spending has finally bottomed out, and we're about to witness a "revival" in investments that will finally close the yawning gap between oversupply and demand, according to a pair of analysts reports. Solar PV manufacturers spent nearly $13 billion in 2011, but then their investments plunged more than 70 percent to $3.6 billion in 2012, and will probably drop another 36 percent this year to $2.3 billion, the lowest level since 2006, says Jon-Frederick Campos, analyst with IHS...

SolarCity: Mixed Results But Good Prospects

By Harris Roen SolarCity (SCTY) has been one of the hottest alternative energy stocks since its Initial Public Offering five short months ago. Yesterday it shot up 24% in one day, on the largest one-day volume since it opened, in anticipation of its quarterly earnings release. It is up 95% in the past three months, and has more than tripled from its initial trading price. As of this writing SCTY has given back about a third of yesterday’s stratospheric gains. Now that earnings have been released, let’s take a grounded-in-reality look at this innovative solar company. ...

Trina Solar’s Second Convertible Bond

By Beate Sonerud and Sean Kidney China’s Trina Solar (TSL)is issuing US$100m of convertible bonds with 5-year tenor and 4% annual coupon, with semi-annual payments. An extra US$15m could be raised, as Trina has given the underwriters a 1-month window to buy additional bonds. Guess they are waiting to gauge demand. Underwriters are Deutsche Bank, Barclays, and Credit Suisse, with Roth Capital Partners as co-manager. The bonds can be converted to shares (American Depositary Shares, meaning they are listed in the US) at an initial price of US$14.69 per share. Currently, Trina’s shares are trading at US$11.40, after...
Weather Risk Managment: Solar Put

How Weather Risk Transfer Can Help Wind & Solar Development

by Daryl Roberts The Need To Accelerate Renewables Adoption Renewables are growing rapidly as a percentage of new electric generation, but are still being assimilated too slowly and still constitute too small of a fraction of total generation, to be able to transition quickly enough to scale into a low carbon economy in time to mitigate climate change. The issue of providing public support, with subsidies and other reallocation methods, is a politically charged subject. High carbon advocates, for example American Petroleum Institute, argues that support for renewables distorts the market. On the other hand, it has been argued, for example by...
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