It’s hard not to notice when an elephant walks into the room. Likewise, the entry of several big-time global technology and materials players in the solar PV game has been duly noted among industry observers. Two newly minted participants—Taiwanese LCD giant AU Optronics and Korean conglomerate Hanwha—have emerged as potent, deep-pocketed contestants. The companies made major pushes at SNEC, where I caught up with AUO’s James Chen and Hanwha SolarOne’s Mohan Narayanan.
On March 3rd, 2011 a group of 22 Czech Senators filed a complaint with the Supreme Court against a new Czech PV law, which introduces a 26% tax on solar energy production. The Senators are afraid of the impact of solar arbitrages against the Czech Republic in the near future.
While walking the floors of the SNEC exhibit halls, a recurring theme popped into my mind: who were all these Chinese companies? Despite the Suntechs, Yinglis, LDKs, and other few-dozen names familiar to most solar industry folks, a prodigious plethora of second-tier/emerging firms do business in the People’s Republic that most non-China hands have never heard of. The big question is, which of these heretofore “unknown” Chinese companies have a shot at surviving the inevitable solar shakeout and taking their enterprises global, or at least succeeding in the local market? One possible contestant: TBEA Xinjiang SunOasis. I talked with the company’s senior marketing manager, Hou Yangang, about his company and its ambitious gigawatt-scale expansion plans.
In reporting their first quarter FY’11 earnings on 24 February 2011, Applied Materials (AMAT) announced new quarterly orders within their Energy & Environmental Services (EES) segment (which is dominated now by c-Si PV-specific tooling) of US$668 million, comprised of new quarterly bookings records for each of the key product lines served by AMAT in c-Si manufacturing today: c-Si cell back-end solutions and wafer wire-saws
When confronted with a trade show as massive as the recently completed SNEC PV Power Expo 2011, with its 13 halls and tens of thousands of moving bodies, one can only hope to engage a small fraction of the industry folks in attendance. Since one of my three show days was devoted to video interviews, my own available time for editorial content sleuthing and schmoozing was further diminished—though some interesting nuggets did emerge from those five on-camera adventures that will air soon on our Website. To get the post-SNEC blog ball rolling, the first tidbit comes from one of those video shoots.
With consistently strong demand over the last couple of years and again this year, concerns over critical supply of polysilicon have resurfaced. Poly supply has become tight, even though expansions in capacity have been ongoing over the same period of PV demand growth.
President Obama’s new budget proposal for fiscal 2012 seeks to make good on his call during the State of the Union speech for a so-called “Sputnik moment” for clean energy in the United States. Despite the sharpening of cost-cutting cutlery across the budgetary and political spectrum (including throughout most of the president’s own budget), the document seeks to increase overall funding for the Department of Energy by about $3 billion to a total of $29.5 billion. One of the main beneficiaries of the proposed increase? Solar energy, as part of the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy program thrust.
In releasing their FY Q1’11 financial results, Amtech Systems CEO J.S. Whang captured succinctly the underlying bullishness prevailing today at the Tempe, AZ-based PV equipment manufacturer:
While 2010 may have been the beginning of the age of volume-scale CIGS thin-film PV, with many companies providing frequent updates on their certification successes, technology advancements, supply deals, shipments, site selection, and production ramps, one beneficiary of many millions of dollars in VC funds remained uncharacteristically silent: HelioVolt. The Austin-based nine-year-old early stager kept it close to the vest for well over a year until recent industry conference presentations as well as news of NREL-certified conversion efficiencies of close to 12% and internal testing results find the proponent of monolithically integrated CIGS coming out into the light once again.
As the well-known song puts it, I don’t like Mondays. However, while I can usually cope with them, coming into the office at the beginning of the week to read about how the UK’s Energy Secretary Chris Huhne has decided to launch an early review of the feed-in tariff made me want to turn around and walk straight back out the door.