The Dangers of PR Driven Solar News

by Paula Mints   Few people understand the time, money and effort required to develop and manufacture high quality solar technologies.  We can blame this fact on a reliance on press releases for news about the solar industry. Manufacturers drive these misunderstanding by not properly explaining that champion results are not analogous to or in many cases near commercial viability. The PERC, passivated emitter rear contact solar cell, now gaining market traction began its long trudge to commercial competitiveness in the mid-1980s. When manufacturers announce results without fully ex-plaining these results the effect is misleading and also...

The Commoditization of the Solar Industry

by Paula Mints   Philosopher, essayist, poet and novelist George Santayana said: Those who cannot re-member the past are condemned to repeat it. The solar industry is expert at repeating its behavior and justifying the often devastating results by referring to them as the solar rollercoaster or, the solar coaster. To be clear, the industry’s behavior is closer to a Shakespearean tragedy than it is to a carnival or theme park ride. People choose to ride rollercoasters because once the ride begins they lose control for a brief period. They can enjoy the feeling of being safely...

Solar Module Prices: The Trend Is Down

by Paula Mints Buckle up, another module price war is afoot – or maybe it’s dumping or maybe it’s panicked selling or maybe it is the result of overcapacity and softening demand or maybe it is China’s government saying NO MORE to it’s out of control market and effectively stranding a whole lot of overcapacity or maybe it is all of the aforementioned. Pricing is always a complex subject. The average price for modules from China is currently $0.60/Wp (and dropping) and the average price for smaller buyers is $0.66/Wp (and dropping). These are averages and...

US Solar: Lawsuits, A Quiet Exit, and Grand Plans But Fewer Results

Lessons From SunEdison, First Solar, and SolarCity by Paula Mints SunEdison (SUNEQ) Currently SunEdison faces at least 15 lawsuits. SunEdison, Terraform (TERP) and other defendants asked to have the cases against them consolidated. Along with the lawsuits, from October 2015 through May 26 at least 20 security class actions have been filed against SunEdison its subsidiaries, officials and underwriters. Many of these actions relate to claims that investors were misled about the liquidity of SunEdison, et al. Meanwhile, GCL-Poly wants to buy SunEdison’s (MEMC) polysilicon business for $150-million and those in charge of selling off the...

Tesla and SolarCity: When Acquisition Strategies Run Amok

by Paula Mints When two companies with negative financials and high debt marry a good response to the nuptials is … Huh? When Toto pulls back the curtain in the Wizard of Oz to reveal that the Wizard is just a normal man with no special powers the Wizard says: Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. In the case of the proposed stock acquisition of SolarCity by Tesla pulling the curtain would reveal two debt ridden companies with cash flow problems. Just the Facts Please The facts are: two companies with...

Canadian Solar Boosts Outlook; Yingli Hopes For Sale

Doug Young Bottom line: Canadian Solar’s raised revenue guidance hints at rising prices and could signal upside for the company’s profits, while YIngli’s latest signals may show it’s trying to sell itself to a healthier rival. The strongest and weakest players from China’s lively solar panel sector are in the headlines today, with superstar Canadian Solar (Nasdaq: CSIQ) and the struggling YIngli (NYSE: YGE) both releasing their latest quarterly results. But whereas Canadian Solar has just announced its financials for this year’s first quarter, including a raised revenue outlook for 2016, Yingli is just now releasing its...

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....

First Solar’s Surprising Strategy Switch

by Paula Mints CdTe and crystalline manufacturer and project developer First Solar (FSLR) announced positive results for Q1 as well as a switch in strategy emphasis from deployment to module sales. Honestly, revenues, positive net income and other financial metrics matter less in this case than the company’s strategy switch to module sales. Downward price pressure and margin compression along with continued aggressive pricing from China makes this move confusing. Cost leadership is mutable in the PV industry and it is difficult to imagine that First Solar will have an advantage in this regard for long. ...

Net Metering Is the Solar Industry’s Junk Food

Shoppers who bring reusable bags to the grocery store buy more junk food. This example is part of a growing body of behavioral psychology research showing that when we feel good about ourselves for doing one thing right, we give ourselves permission to be careless in other areas. The solar installation industry seems to be falling into the "reusable shopping bag" trap. Solar itself is the reusable shopping bag. The junk food is net metering. Net metering is a simple, intuitive way to pay for solar generation at retail rates. But it puts solar companies on...

Yingli’s Hopes For Government Rescue

Doug Young Bottom line: Yingli looks set to receive a government bailout from Beijing. Beijing is telling one of the nation’s biggest policy lenders to provide money for struggling solar panel maker Yingli (NYSE: YGE) before it defaults on a bond payment due next month. Last week Yingli said it was in desperate negotiations with 2 groups of creditors, including one holding 1.4 billion yuan ($220 million) worth of bonds set to mature next month. (previous post) The other group is owed another 1 billion yuan related to an Yingli bond that came due last year,...

Shriveling Yingli Fends Off Bond Holders

Doug Young  Bottom line: Yingli is likely to get sold or announce a major government-led restructuring, which could include bankruptcy, before a new round of 1.4 billion yuan in bonds comes due next month. In what looks like a case of deja vu, fast-shrinking solar panel maker Yingli (NYSE: YGE) is in the headlines again as it looks set to default on 1.4 billion yuan ($220 million) worth of bonds set to come due next month. The default would be Yingli’s second within a year, after it failed to pay off part of another big bond that matured last...

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...

The War On Net Metering

by Paula Mints Net metering and interconnection are rights afforded distributed generation (DG) residential and commercial solar system owners through the U.S. Energy Policy Act of 2005. The act required publically owned utilities to offer net metering and left the various policies up to the states to enact. In 2004, before that energy policy was enacted, 39 states had net metering and interconnection standards and policies. At the beginning of 2016, 43 U.S. states and three territories had net metering policies, and four states had policies similar to net metering that the Database of State Incentives for Renewables...

Recurrent Energy and Jumei: A Tale Of Two Listings

Doug Young Bottom line: Canadian Solar’s Recurrent Energy unit is likely to make its first public filing for a New York IPO in the next 2 weeks and should get a positive reception, while Jumei is likely to quietly de-list from the US in the next 3-4 months. One of the few Chinese IPOs likely to happen in New York this year is moving closer to the launch gate, with word of major new financing for the power plant-building unit of solar panel maker Canadian Solar (Nasdaq: CSIQ). But while that IPO for Recurrent Energy moves closer...

EU Extends Punitive Tariffs To Transshipped Chinese Solar Panels

Doug Young Bottom line: The EU’s extension of punitive tariffs to China-made solar panels transshipped through shell factories in Malaysia and Taiwan could kill a recent wave of offshore factory construction by Chinese manufacturers. A recent offshore movement by Chinese solar panel makers seeking to avoid western anti-dumping tariffs could come to a sudden halt, with word the European Union (EU) is extending its previously announced punitive duties to Taiwan and Malaysia. The EU’s ruling means it believes that many of the offshore solar panel plants recently built by Chinese manufacturers are little more than shells designed...

Beijing Bails Out Yingli, Shareholders Not So Much

Bottom line: Yingli’s new bank loan will be followed by a major restructuring that will force big losses on bond and shareholders, while a new asset-backed bond program to help the broader panel sector raise money will meet with tepid reception. China is throwing a couple of lifelines to its struggling solar panel sector, including a relatively large rescue package for Yingli (NYSE: YGE), the player in the most precarious position. That package will see a consortium of banks, led by the policy-driven China Development Bank, provide Yingli with 2 billion yuan ($300 million) in funds as the company...