Is Timminco For Real?

Timminco (TIMNF.PK or TIM.TO) was, without a doubt, one of the great solar plays of 2007. The Toronto-based company, which has yet to turn a profit, claims it has come up with a process to produce solar-grade metallurgical silicon with cell efficiencies of about 14%. Metallurgical silicon allows for important energy cost savings in the production process (~70%), so being able to approach cell efficiencies reached by conventional solar-grade silicon processes could mean an important cost advantage for metallurgical silicon producers when measured on a per watt basis. Eventually, certain people began publicly doubting Timminco's...

Tesla’s Buffalo Solar Tiles: As Hot As They Seem?

by Paula Mints In August, Tesla (TSLA) announced that production of its roof tiles at its not-yet-a giga-factory in Buffalo New York would be delayed until late in 2017. Wait ... it is late in 2017. Tesla indicated that production on the tiles was continuing at its 25-MWp pilot scale facility in Fremont, California. The Fremont facility was the former home of the dearly departed Silevo. On August 31 Tesla announced that it was now manufacturing solar cells at its facility in Buffalo and indicated it would have 2-GWp of cell capacity eventually. During Tesla’s earnings call Mr. Musk showed pictures...

SolarCity Shows Private Sector Can Respond To Funding Gap Left By DOE

by Clean Energy Intel Solar City has today announced that it has obtained private sector financing for its SolarStrong Project to put solar on the rooftops of 120,000 military homes across the US over a five year period. Bank of America (BAC) has now agreed to provide the finance, though the project has been slightly downsized from it original target of 160,000 homes. This is very good news for the solar sector. SolarCity had of course been let down by the DOE, which in the immediate aftermath of the Solyndra affair had said that it could not complete SolarCity´s...

New Ways to Invest in Solar Like Buffett

Tom Konrad Over the last couple of years, investors who were hoping to do well by doing good have gotten bad sunburns.  Since the start of 2011, the two ETFs which track the solar sector, Guggenheim Solar (NYSE:TAN) and Market Vectors Solar Energy (KWT) are down 74% and 75%, respectively, even after the large jumps up in the first week of the year. That jump was in large part caused by the January 2nd purchase of two large solar projects by Warren Buffett controlled MidAmerican Solar from Sunpower Corporation (NASD:SPWR.) You might wonder, Why would...

Solar Headwinds, Part II

Tom Konrad, CFA Prospective investors in solar manufacturers should consider the competitive forces that constrain the industry's long-term profitability. In the first part of this series, I showed how a competitive analysis of the corn ethanol industry in early 2007 illuminated the forces that soon caused ethanol company stock prices to collapse in late 2007.  I also implied that the solar cell manufacturers, including industry leaders such as Sunpower (SPWRA) and First Solar (FSLR) are vulnerable to these forces and may not be able to maintain high returns on capital over the long term. I'm not...

Private Equity Giant Eyes Chinese Solar

by Doug Young Following reports last month of the imminent formation of a major new private equity investor, media are now saying the company, China Minsheng Investment, has formally registered and is gearing up to make its first investments. The new company certainly has the resources and connections to quickly become a major player on both the domestic and global private equity scenes, with an initial 50 billion ($8 billion) in registered capital. Now it appears the company will start by helping to consolidate China’s embattled solar panel-making sector, which will become its first focus area....

Chinese Anger at EU Solar Tariffs

Doug Young I’ve been trying to avoid writing about the latest punitive tariffs for Chinese solar panels that look set to come from the European Union this week, since the story has dragged on for more than a year now and the outcome was almost inevitable. But that said, it would be a bit remiss of me not to write at least something on this latest move, which is expected to see European Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht formally recommend the introduction of anti-dumping tariffs for solar panels supplied from China. (English article) The latest reports...

Earnings Surprises Keep SunPower An Investor Favorite

By Harris Roen The stock market has been paying attention to SunPower (SPWR) in a big way. At the end of May the stock hit an annual high of 23.76, a gain of 125% from where it was just a month earlier. That price is quadruple levels it was trading at in the beginning of the year. Since May, the stock has seen about a 17% correction, and is trading sideways in the 18 to 20 price range. Volume at these high price levels have been impressive tooshares exchanging hands in the past 30...

Can Panasonic Produce High Efficiency Solar Modules at Tesla’s Gigafactory 2 in 2017?

EDITOR'S NOTE: Yesterday, Tesla (NASD:TSLA) announced that it has no intention of using Silevo's technology at "Gigafactory 2," the former Silevo facility in Western New York, now owned by Tesla through its acquisition of SolarCity.  This makes some background on Panasonic (Whose technology Tesla plans to rely on instead) in this month's Solar Flare particularly relevant. Panasonic recently announced that the New York Facility would be operated under the name Panasonic Eco Solutions Solar New York America (PESSNYCA?) and that equipment will be installed and production will begin by summer 2017. In 2014 SolarCity acquired Silevo...

How the Don Quixote Principle Drives Solar

by Paula Mints Don Quixote by Honore Daumier via Wikimedia Commons For decades the photovoltaic industry has been driven by its beliefs, hopes, the availability of incentives, and what it is willing to ignore in terms of market realities and technological barriers. The apparent achievement of grid parity, even at drastically low margins, was hailed a victory. Continued deployment of multi-megawatt installations in the face of low margins for developers and likely gigawatts of poor quality installations has been regarded as proof of the inevitability of the industry’s success. ...

Right About Tesla, Wrong About Yingli

Doug Young  Bottom line: Beijing should promote cutting-edge companies like Tesla that can help advance its new energy agenda, while abandoning ones like Yingli that use old technology to make cheap copycat products. Two green energy stories were in the headlines last week, spotlighting China’s drive to become a global leader in the new technology and also the right and wrong ways to achieve that aim. An item involving US electric vehicle (EV) powerhouse Tesla (Nasdaq: TSLA) represented the right approach, with reports that the company might near a deal with Beijing to build a manufacturing plant in China....

Solar REITs: A Better Way to Invest in Solar

Tom Konrad CFA The last day for a solar developer to submit an application for the Treasury’s 1603 grant program was September 30th, and only for grandfathered solar projects which broke ground before the end of 2011. Solar panel prices have continued to drop this year, but solar project development remains a capital-intensive business.  The 1603 program allowed solar developers to monetize the solar investment tax credit (ITC) much more quickly than they could otherwise, and this essentially reduced their cost of capital.  As the rush of projects begun before the end of 2011 are completed, developers are looking...

SolarCity: The Amazon of Solar?

By Harris Roen SolarCity (NASD:SCTY) has become a sort of proxy for the future of solar in this country. This tremendously successful company is coming up on a one year anniversary of its IPO in December. Several developments at SolarCity warrant a closer look into this dynamic company trying to stay ahead of the curve in a growing, competitive solar installation environment. Despite skeptics, SolarCity’s stock is strong There was much skepticism among investors when SolarCity was preparing for its IPO in 2012. Solar stocks had been badly beaten up in recent...

Two New Reasons to Buy SolarCity

By Jeff Siegel DISCLOSURE: Long SCTY. Well, SolarCity's (NASDAQ:SCTY) latest news probably won't be enough to silence the bears and scare off shorty, but it has stopped the bleeding a bit. After falling more than 25% over the past month, SCTY has stabilized after announcing a new loan program that will allow customers to buy a solar energy system outright instead of leasing a system. Thanks to the company's massive scale and low cost of capital, SCTY will now lend directly to customers. This is a huge advantage over having customers seek out...

Residential Solar in the Ontario microFIT Project: Three Families’ Experiences

Michael Smele Solar Home with sunflower photo via Bigstock The Ontario microFIT program was launched in 2009 as part of Ontario’s provincial government’s efforts to increase the production of renewable energy. The program provides participants with the opportunity to develop a “micro” renewable electricity generation project on their privately owned property that uses solar photovoltaic (PV), wind, waterpower, or bioenergy (biogas, biomass, landfill gas). I have asked three families who navigated the process of microFIT solar installations to share their experience by answering some questions. ...

Yingli Queues Up For Next Chinese Solar Bailout

Doug Young Yingli (NYSE: YGE) has become the latest player in China’s struggling solar sector to get a lifeline from Beijing, as an interesting picture starts to emerge of the relative health of the sector’s major players and who is likely to lead a coming consolidation. The list of who gets these lifelines could also reflect the relative importance Beijing places on China’s wide and varied field of solar panel and panel component makers, meaning some of these lifeline recipients could emerge as potential leaders to help consolidate the sector in the months ahead.I should make a big...