A tiny solar company named SoloPower will flip the switch on production at a U.S. factory Thursday, a major step toward allowing it to tap a $197 million government loan guarantee awarded under the same controversial program that supported failed panel maker Solyndra.
SoloPower has initiated a strategy to differentiate it from struggling commodity players in the solar panel industry. Still, there are several similarities between SoloPower and Solyndra - which became a lightning rod in the U.S. Presidential campaign this year after taking in more than $500 million in government loans and then filing for bankruptcy.
Like Solyndra, SoloPower is a Silicon Valley start-up and uses the same non-traditional raw material in its solar panels. And, like its now-defunct peer, SoloPower is one of just four U.S. panel manufacturers to clinch loan guarantees under the Department of Energy's $35 billion program to support emerging clean energy technologies. The DOE payments to SoloPower will come on top of the $56.5 million SoloPower has collected in loans, tax credits and incentives from the state of Oregon and the city of Portland, where its first factory will be located.
The past few years have been brutal for solar power stocks. First, the 2008-2009 financial crisis scared away customers and depressed sales. Some solar firms benefited from government stimulus packages during the recession, but their prospects have since dimmed as debt-saddled governments rein in spending—including on subsidies for new solar projects.
Looming in the background is a glut of solar panels that has lasted for more than two years. That has depressed prices and put severe pressure on the profits of many solar power stocks.
This Solar Power Stock’s Downward Spiral Is Continuing
Case in point: LDK Solar (NYSE: LDK), which just reported a net loss of $254.3 million, or $2.00 a share, in the second quarter. That was much wider than the $87.7 million, or $0.62 a share, that the company lost a year earlier. It was also far worse than the $1.42 a share that the Street was expecting. Revenue dropped 53%, to $235.4 million, also missing the consensus estimate of $237.5 million.
Suntech Power Holdings Co Ltd, the world's largest solar panel maker, said it temporarily shut a portion of its solar cell production capacity in China, as it grapples with weak selling prices and import duties in the United States.
Suntech's operational solar cell capacity will temporarily be reduced to 1.8 gigawatts (GW) from about 2.4 GW.
The cut at the Wuxi facility is expected to affect about 1,500 employees in China. Most of these employees would be offered positions at other production facilities but some would face severance, Suntech said.
Suntech said it is on track to reduce recurring operating costs by 20 percent in 2012.
The company last month estimated weak margins for the second quarter and cut its full-year shipment outlook.
Another solar equipment manufacturer, China's LDK Solar Co Ltd, reported on Monday a much bigger loss, downgraded its sales forecasts and said it was in talks with potential investors.
The solar-energy industry's huge assembly this week in Orlando buzzed with alternating currents of anxiety and optimism over this year's presidential election.
A common thought at Solar Power International, which bills itself as North America's largest conference and exposition for the solar-energy business, was that the future will stay reasonably bright if President Obama wins a second term, but that it might be lights out if Mitt Romney prevails in November.
"Both campaigns have been pretty vague on their energy plans, but certainly in the past four years we have seen strong leadership from the Obama administration to try to diversify our energy portfolio," said Rhone Resch, president and chief executive officer of the Solar Energy Industries Association, a co-host of the four-day event.
Resch said the industry's labor force has grown in recent years from 20,000 workers to more than 100,000 and has been a major bright spot in the economies of certain states, such as New Jersey.
Not only was General Motors praised by the Solar Energy Industries Association as the #1 user of solar power among automakers in the United States, it also ranked #13 among all companies for solar use. A variety of solar array initiatives at its plants have helped give it the ability to generate enough electricity to power 800 U.S. homes each year.
SEIA and the Vote Solar Initiative determined the rankings via cumulative solar energy capacity. Rhone Resch, CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association, deciphers that phrase this way:
“GM has set an example in renewable energy within its industry and beyond. Solar helps companies reliably manage their long-term energy costs, and our top 20 companies are going solar in a big way across the nation.”
In 2011, GM publicly stated its commitment to doubling its global sonar output to 60 megawatts by 2014 and to increase renewable energy use to 125MW by 2020.
Solar Power International (SPI) is North America’s premier business-to-business event for professionals in solar energy and related fields.
- Thousands of solar energy industry professionals from 100+ countries attend.
- One of five attendees comes from outside the United States.
- More than 900 exhibiting companies from all vertical markets in the solar power spectrum.
The significance of Solar Power International comes not from the number or diversity of its attendees. Rather, this year's conference matters because it comes at a time of rapid innovation and change in the industry. These changes affect so many aspects of the business that players need to constantly update their understanding; to be just a month behind puts you at a competitive disadvantage.
What's changed since Dallas?
SPI 2011 was held last October in Dallas, Texas. Since that time, the industry landscape has changed drastically, specifically with regard to how projects are getting financed. In any given month, DG Energy Partners sees dozens of MWs of projects seeking financial partners. Regardless of where these projects are located, the underlying trends remain the same; hardware prices have continued to fall, EPC margins have continued to shrink and projects have grown increasingly difficult to complete. And we haven't even mentioned what changes we can expect in 2013.
Chinese solar companies expect the European Commission to announce within days a formal investigation into their alleged dumping of solar panels in Europe, which could result in heavy tariffs being imposed on them next year.
The expected move against the companies, whose share prices have tumbled and whose financial outlook is cloudy due to oversupply and falling solar-equipment prices, would come as they are already fighting clean-energy trade battles on several fronts.
Also, China and the European Union are at loggerheads over several other trade rows, including a European plan to punish airlines if they don't comply with an emissions-control program—issues that could have the potential to sour China's readiness to help in financially underpinning Europe's debt-laden economies.
European solar-panel makers filed a confidential complaint July 25 with the commission, the EU's executive arm, accusing Chinese solar-panel manufacturers of selling products at below-cost prices in Europe.
The QBotix Tracking System rethinks two-axis tracking in an effort to bring the cost down to what solar project developers pay for single-axis trackers.
Instead of having the hardware to adjust the angle on every solar panel, QBotix engineers created a traveling robot equipped with the motor needed to change the angle. Like a small train, the robot drives along a track a few feet off the ground placed along the edge of solar panels and makes adjustments.
It’s designed so that one robot can service 200 panels in 40 minutes, the time it takes the sun to move 10 degrees. The track can be a simple loop or navigate turns and hills, according to QBotix CEO and founder Wasiq Bokhari. A magnet on the robot allows it to locate a panel mount, where it can attach its motors to make the adjustments.
Researchers at RTI International have developed a new solar technology that could make solar energy more affordable, and thus speed-up its market adoption.
The RTI solar cells are formed from solutions of semiconductor particles, known as colloidal quantum dots, and can have a power conversion efficiency that is competitive to traditional cells at a fraction of the cost.
Solar energy has the potential to be a renewable, carbon-neutral source of electricity but the high cost of photovoltaics – the devices that convert sunlight into electricity – has slowed widespread adoption of this resource.
The RTI-developed solar cells were created using low-cost materials and processing techniques that reduce the primary costs of photovoltaic production, including materials, capital infrastructure and energy associated with manufacturing.
Preliminary analysis of the material costs of the technology show that it can be produced for less than $20 per square meter—as much as 75 percent less than traditional solar cells.
Vestas Wind Systems A/S said Tuesday that it is in talks with Japanese industrial conglomerate Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. about a strategic tie-up that could secure the long-term future of the financially troubled Danish wind-turbine maker.
Vestas, the world's largest manufacturer of wind turbines, has been struggling with steep losses and a tight financial situation, prompting speculation in the market of a company sale or a dilutive issuance of new shares.
The shares jumped 19% Tuesday after news of the Mitsubishi talks, with analysts saying that the project could help the company navigate its way back to profitability.
"No matter what the deal contains, it will surely include an injection of capital to Vestas," Alm. Brand Markets analyst Michael Friis Joergensen said.
Vestas fell deep in the red in 2011, when massive overcapacity, excessive costs and budget overruns in the development of a new turbine forced it to issue two profit warnings, helping send the share price lower.
German born, barcelona-based architect andré broessel has sent us images of his latest development of a spherical glass
solar energy generator. the project uses the advantageous strategy of implementing a ball lens and specific geometrical
structure to improve energy efficiency by 35%. in contrast to its traditional photo-voltaic 'dual-axis' counterparts,
the device incorporates a fully rotational weatherproof natural optical tracking device that is adequate for functioning
on inclined surfaces and curtain walls, empowering any building surface. the new solar generating concept has
capabilities that concentrate diffused daylight or moonlight for a more effective site context application.
One reason that solar energy has not been widely adopted is because light absorbing materials are not durable. Materials that harvest solar radiation for energy often overheat or degrade over time; this reduces their viability to compete with other renewable energy sources like wind or hydroelectric generators. A new video protocol addresses these issues by presenting a synthesis of two inorganic nanocrystals, each of which is more durable than their organic counterparts.
The article, published in Journal of Visualized Experiments (JoVE), focuses on the liquid phase synthesis of two nanocrystals that produce hydrogen gas or an electric charge when exposed to light. "The main advantage of this technique is that it allows for direct, all inorganic coupling of the light absorber and the catalyst," says the leading author Dr. Mikhail Zamkov of Bowling Green State University.
Article in the journal Nature written by Energy Secretary Steven Chu and Arun Majumdar, former director of the Department of Energy's Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy.
Access to clean, affordable and reliable energy has been a cornerstone of the world's increasing prosperity and economic growth since the beginning of the industrial revolution. Our use of energy in the twenty–first century must also be sustainable. Solar and water–based energy generation, and engineering of microbes to produce biofuels are a few examples of the alternatives. This Perspective puts these opportunities into a larger context by relating them to a number of aspects in the transportation and electricity generation sectors. It also provides a snapshot of the current energy landscape and discusses several research and development opportunities and pathways that could lead to a prosperous, sustainable and secure energy future for the world.
China connected 50.26 gigawatts of wind-generated capacity to the nation’s largest electricity grid as of this year, the official Xinhua News Agency said, citing a statement from China State Grid Corp.
Growth in the on-grid wind power capacity was up 87 percent annually over the last six years, Xinhua reported, citing the larger of China’s two transmission operators. Grid-linked capacity will rise to 100 gigawatts by 2015 and 200 gigawatts by 2020, according to the report published yesterday.
China, the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, plans to have at least 15 percent of its energy mix come from non-fossil fuels by 2020. Wind farms are the second-biggest contributor to renewable-energy capacity in the nation after hydropower dams.
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