Thursday, January 24, 2013

SolarWorld Announces Major Restructure of Debt Ahead

Solarworld AG announced late Thursday that there will be large scale restructuring of its current debt structure in order to remain viable in the currently very difficult market.

SolarWorld showed a net debt of 805.2 million euros at the end of Q3, 2012 with a D/E ratio of .218 - twice that of a year prior.  Cash on hand from the Q3, 2012 report was 232 million euro.  The company has two bond payment deadlines, both in the amount of 400 million euros.  One payment is due in 2016 and the second in 2017.  

(c) pv-tech

Of note SolarWorld stated in November of 2012 that heavy losses were expected for Q4 due to oversupply of modules in the market.  SolarWorld already showed in its Q3 report EBIT losses of 190 million euro.  In trading late Thursday SolarWorld fell 1 percent to 1.6 euros, though the announcement was released after the close.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

REC leaks detailed information on strategy and cost

Mikkel Tørud, SVP Investor Relations & Business Development, was holding a presentation at the Pareto Power & Renewable Conference in Oslo today. The document, published on REC's website holds very interesting and detailed information on what their strategy has been for the past four quarters and provides background information on the lay-offs in Moses lake.

REC is basing their strategy on the market analysis from Bloomberg New Energy Finance, expecting global installations to go up from 30-34GWp in 2012 to 40-50GWp in 2015, which would be the matching point for global production capacity.

The geographical distribution of those sales is expected to shift heavily from Germany, Italy and rest of Europe to China, the U.S., Japan and upcoming new markets.

According to REC all polysilicon producers worldwide are now operating with reduced utilization and the only growth expectations are in the low cost market segments.

As prices in the module markets aren't expected to recover, the cell/module technology mix will continue to be dominated by polysilicon (around 60% market share , with mono around a third of the market and thin film around 11% market share.

Tørud's presentation doesn't skip the dominance that China has achieved in the cell and module production market. He adds REC's strategic positioning in a level of detail that is unprecedented.

Outlining the reasons for shutting down the inefficient Siemens process in Silicon I in Moses lake, comparing its technological and commercial disadvantages over the FBR process and showing the detailed cost breakdown that allows REC to stay in the market against the aggressive Chinese competitors.

It remains to be seen if the brand value and market position defined by quality and distribution channels will be sufficient to keep REC in the game. The liabilities that the group created in the insolvency of their national wafering operations in Norway could still jeopardize RECs survival in the quarters to come.

Highly interesting read though, here's the link to the file posted by REC:

PV equipment spending downturn for 2013

An in-depth analysis of the PV equipment market by NPD Solarbuzz reveals the full scale of the impact the overspending / over investing of the past years has on the technology market right now. Finlay Colville expects the spending level in 2013 to be around $2 billion, which is a fraction of the once $12 - $13 billion recorded in 2011.

What will the effects be? Technological development in the field of production technology will come to an almost complete halt, equipment suppliers will have to reduce operative and management staff and cash-out will be very closely guarded. Basically everyone is trying to hold their breath until 2014/2015 when the markets will come closer to a match between available production capacity and market demand.

With the restructuring of GT Advance Technologies, the downsizing of Meyer Burger and refocussing of Applied Materials it appears that this process in ongoing. The insolvency of German supplier Centrotherm points in the same direction.

The political question in this analysis is what we can do to protect the know-how and the structure that we currently have in place in order to not lose more of our solar capacity when the upturn occurs. Right now cash is king so downsizing and hedging are the strategies for independent suppliers that we're already observing. Some of the suppliers will most likely consolidate into bigger corporations or groups while others will need to rely on liquidity help in order to survive. We'll keep watching and reporting.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

GT Solar Offers St. Louis Solar Cell Production Line

GT Solar announced that it had shuttered it's monosilicon furnace plant and cell line last Thursday, January 10.  At that time it was indicated that GT would consolidate the St. Louis operations at its headquarters facility in Nashua, NH.  GT Solar purchased the St. Louis company, Confluence Solar, in August of 2011 for $60 million.

(c) istockwizard
At the time of acquisition GT had planned to generate annual revenues in the range of $300 to $400 million, primarily from equipment sales.  The company informed the St. Louis Business Journal in the summer of 2012 that it had invested some $27.5 million since acquisition to bring the technology to commercialization and expected to spend nearly another $11 million by years end.

As Confluence Solar was an ingot furnace technology startup when GT acquired the company, it appears that the investments GT made post acquisition were to provide wafering and cell production capability to the St. Louis plant.   

Today, GT Solar has announced that the solar cell equipment will be offered for sale.  Specific equipment is not yet detailed, but it appears to be the wafering, cell production, and associated equipment that was installed for commercialization of the furnace technology.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Hemlock Semiconductor follows REC with lay-offs

As reported by Reuters and the Chicago Tribune today, Hemlock Semiconductor Group just announced it will lay-off about 400 workers in Tennessee and Michigan due to the polysilicon surplus in the global market and the Chinese threats to put tariffs on their products sold in China.

Yet another 400 highly qualified jobs that might likely not return to the U.S. unless we give our Solar and Semiconductor industries the protection and support that they strategically should have.
Hemlock Semiconductor Group

(c) Hemlock Semiconductor Group

Thursday, January 10, 2013

REC closing Polysilicon plant in WA while prices are expected to rise?

According to their headquarters, Renewable Energy Corporation ASA (REC) will reduce their production in  Moses Lake, WA by 2,400MT this year. The decision comes after the realization that the cost reductions that has been achieved over the past quarters have not been enough to produce at a cost lower than the current market prices for Polysilicon.

Copyright Warut Roonguthai
At the same time Bernreuter Research issued a forecast that growing PV installations worldwide will drive spot prices up to US$25/kg by the end of 2013.
It remains to be seen if the market growth in Japan, China and the US will be as big as projected (between 35 and 37GW) and if that level of consumption will be sufficient to hit raw material prices. With the current level of inventory in the industry, the effects most likely won't be noticeable until late in this year.

The Chinese government is on track spurring that growth with a plan to add 10GW of solar power capacity to their domestic energy mix that was published today. This switch from subsidizing production to subsidizing markets has set the stocks of Chinese Solar Manufacturers on a rally, with the likes of Suntech, Trina and Yingli closing between 2% and 13% higher today. The possibility of that growth reaching U.S. solar manufacturing besides a possible price increase for panels is close to zero as U.S. exports to China remain on the same nonexistent levels.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Top Ten Cleantech Incentives in the US

Great overview over the major Incentives in the US from Cleantechies.

The list shows some of the major issues that our incentive environment currently has: We're mixing incentives for energy generation, energy conservation, clean technology development and job creation.

Five of the ten incentives listed by cleantechies are mixing efficiency and generation project. None of them expressively address job creation  in the renewable energy sector, the only one touching it is the recovery act.

An additional difficulty that we noticed discussing the article in our team is accessibility for small and mid size companies that still provide for the majority of jobs in the US. We need to get better on how to make sure that the job generating entrepreneurs in the US get a quick overview and a fast access to those incentives rather than work through complicated application procedures for years until they have an actual benefit.

Nevertheless the overall sum of all incentives going into the solar portion of the green sector is nowhere close to what the Chinese government has been doing over the past years and continues to invest with the explicit focus on generation businesses in the first step and reduce the carbon footprint in a second step.