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.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

REC's latest Asia deal: what's the impact on the US PV market?

Renewable Energy Corporation, Norway's vertically integrated  PV player - biggest outside China - just announced a $187.73 million contract with an unnamed Asian cell producer.

Supposedly it's a three year deal providing high quality poly-silicon wafers to Asia. It appears that the shortage on the equipment markets, specifically for wire saws and cell lines with delivery times up to 15 months is leading to an industry-wide optimization of capacities. Those who have wafers but not the capacity to turn them into modules, a business model REC has been following for years, try to find buyers for their product. At the same time the module producers with excess capacity look for further wafer and cell suppliers.

The first impact on the US PV market is that the importers from Asia get a stabilized source on a high quality level. With module fabrication being the most labor intense part of the PV production it will give the last two big customers REC gained a certain cost advantage over American producers like SolarWorld or CaliSolar.

American PV companies are already suffering from fairly low market share and except for CaliSolar none of the producers present in the US have been announcing firm expansion plans here in the US. So although good for the worldwide PV supply chain efficiency it appears to further raise the pressure on the US PV industry in the fight for market shares.

Picture Copyright © Renewable Energy Corporation ASA

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

US Government loan programs vs. Chinese loan programs

The example of Yingli Solar shows the difference in scale comparing US support for the solar industry with the Chinese support for their industry.

Yingli Solar has received an initial eight-year government loan of US$70 million from the China Development Bank for their expansion plans in 2008. An additional  US$5.3 billion (!) loan for production expansion was granted in 2010 according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

Given that in 2010 Yingli already had a 27% market share in California, the biggest market in the US compared to a 16% market share of all American producers combined it shows that loan funding does lead to a direct market advantage.

On the US side of Solar funding the federal DOE is already proud when they announce a US$117 million support for various Solar Tech companies through the recovery act. The overall amount of government loans handed to the Solar industry in Oregon from the SELP program in the report period 2009-2010 was... US$0. No funds! With more than half of the solar wafering of the US being done in Oregon, the most voluminous and powerful loan tool the Oregon government holds in their hands did not spend a single dollar for the fastest growing industry in the state.

Worse than that, we're discussing to sunset the Energy Tax Credits and don't get out of trial stages on the feed-in tariffs that would at least kick-start the market. A discussion about local content requirements for solar installations that end up receiving FITs, tax credits or government loans is currently not even getting started.

We need to get a public discussion going that really addresses the mechanisms that attract solar manufacturers to our state if we want to stop loosing market share to East Asian competitors.

picture property of

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Solar World to expand in Hillsboro, OR?

SolarWorld Hillsboro
According to industry insiders SolarWorld plans to expand their production in the US in the coming years up to 1GW per year. That would apparently include at least module production. The expansion of their module production is already in a planning stage and will be located at the Hillsboro facility.
What remains unclear is if the expansion would include crystal growing and wafering. The latest information hints at an outsourced polycrystal production (SolarWorld news page) which would limit SolarWorld's ability to switch to diamond wire saws.
picture property of SolarWorld USA