Top 10 PV-Tech Blogs of 2011

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With significant traffic going to our Chip Shots, Editors’ and Guest Blog columns, this year marks the début outing for an analysis of the 10 most popular blogs from all three blog sections of the PV-Tech website. Such is the growing popularity that two of the Top 10 blogs would have been candidates for the Top 10 stories accolade, with several others coming in just below the number 10 position.

At number 10 is an editors’ blog from way back in February 2011, which discussed the expected impact on the PV industry as major and wannabe major polysilicon producers completed a massive wave of production capacity expansion plans. The blog could be argued to have been prophetic in a way, from the point of view that the lowest pricing projections were reached in the fourth quarter of this year, not in 2013, which highlights the massive turmoil the industry has undergone this year.

Obviously, with a title that reads: “New wave of polysilicon expansions bode well for PV market expansion,” my blog didn’t detail that a significant number of the wannabes have since stopped production as prices have fallen below their production costs!

That said, the writing was on the wall back then; this subject matter is forming a large portion of the news stories we’re currently reporting on. Be sure to be on the look-out for a follow-up around the same time in 2012 as new data and insights unveil themselves.

The 9th most popular blog, entitled: “Never mind “you know who”: CIGS thin-film survivors Nanosolar, Stion keep going about their business,” comes from Tom Cheyney’s Chip Shots blog. The unnamed company in the title was none other than Solyndra, and the commentary came in October, a time when every mainstream and non-mainstream medium (and their dogs) were covering the collapse of the company.

Though Nanosolar hasn’t been that active with its PR this year, Stion has made up for the former’s inactivity, recently announcing a further collaboration to build what will be the third thin-film plant employing its CIGS(Se) technology.

The 8th most popular blog is the first to come from the Guest Blog section of the website. Market analyst Finlay Colville from NPD Solarbuzz has been a long-term and prolific contributor to this section of our site, and this particular piece, entitled: “Challenges for the PV equipment supply chain in 2011,” certainly made for interesting reading. Though published in May 2011, this guest blog continues to receive pageviews every day, which isn’t surprising given what we now know about the market!

At 7th spot, this editors’ blog is certainly a surprising entrant in the Top 10 for 2011 – especially for its author, might I add: unlike other blog contributions, this one was a 10-minute job and took the form of a sarcastic – possibly even humorous! – swipe at politicians, in this case, Germany’s current Chancellor. Of course Angela Merkel isn’t going mad, but thankfully most readers understood the sentiment.

Veeco’s departure from the CIGS thin-film PV equipment market seems a forgotten topic since Tom first highlighted the questions and concerns for this segment of the equipment industry, considering what else has happened in the market this year. This particular Chip Shots blog was extremely popular at the time and comes in at 6th on our Top 10 most popular blogs for 2011.

In 5th place is the second entry from a guest blogger, this time another long-standing contributor: financial analyst, Mark Bachman. In the blog entitled “Other than First Solar, who holds a low-cost manufacturing benchmark?”, Mark had integrated two vital elements into the title itself: 1. Citing First Solar, and 2. Using a question mark in the title! And on reflection, three of the Top 10 blogs were question posers.

However, the message to be taken from this blog is that there is indeed more than one crystalline silicon PV manufacturer that can compete with First Solar and MEMC as per this blog’s focus. A growing number of competitors have emerged and although some of them have seen major restructuring activities, so too have both First Solar and MEMC had to reshuffle their operations in only the last month.

Another guest blog appears in 4th spot; this one came from a very recent and first-time blogger on the site, Richard Keiser. Entitled: “100GW of demand and the coming inflection point in the US solar market,” the blog provided an insight into a very detailed and complex report produced and available free of charge from the market analyst. Posted in mid-November, this was the most recent blog posted out of the Top 10 and continues to gain readers daily. In fact, in just the past week, it jumped from 5th to number 4.

At number 3 is another guest blog and a second Top-10 ranking for Finlay Colville at NPD Solarbuzz. This time, Finlay took an interesting look at the next wave of thin-film manufacturing investments, estimated by the analyst to be in the region of US$6 billion. China’s Hanergy equipment suppliers Fujian Apollo are on a massive plan of attack, although others with more conservative approaches – considering the market dynamics – all go to show that the interest in thin-film investments continues.

Back to the theme of polysilicon for the 2nd most popular blog this year. My commentary covered comments from JinkoSolar executives in their second-quarter financial conference call in August. Although many may think that this blog has to do with the chemical leak – a story that went media mainstream around the world, the title said it all (with a question mark!): “How low can polysilicon spot prices go?”

As can be the case with blogs, they set a flag in the ground that people will come back to time and again to confirm whether or not something written in the past had turned out to be correct. JinkoSolar’s comments on its polysilicon purchase price and where this price was expected to head proved very popular with readers, and the blog continues to gain readers daily. As one might expect, JinkoSolar executives never mentioned the poly pricing subject in their recent third-quarter results conference call – nor did the financial analysts ask. 

We’ve come to that momentous occasion where we can announce the number 1 PV-Tech blog of 2011. The honour goes to Sam Wilkinson, Photovoltaics Group Research Analyst at IMS Research, with a blog contributed in August 2010 and entitled: “PV module costs and prices – what is really happening?

Yes, that’s right: August 2010. Sam certainly hit an industry nerve as he attempted to wade through the data and like others, this entry has been a benchmark blog on our site and, 18 months on, still gains readers.

It’s interesting to note – on second glance at the blog – how much things have changed in the ensuing 18 months.

The wonders of Google search may well be at play as the title has proved to be even more relevant today than it was when written, as the traffic (pageviews) to this piece more than doubled in 2011. The significant price declines across the PV supply chain have – not surprisingly – driven many thousands of people to get the answer to that very question raised by Sam over a year ago.

The team at PV-Tech would like to thank all our guest bloggers for their contributions in 2011 and we look forward to inviting them back to contribute in 2012. We would also like to take this opportunity to encourage new guest bloggers to come forward and show us what you’ve got!

Below are the Top 10 blogs for 2011 in order of rank. 

1. PV module costs and prices–what is really happening?

2. How low can polysilicon spot prices go?

3. The next big US$6 billion in thin-film manufacturing investments


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