North Coast Solar Stocks

September 27, 2007

A Solar Payoff for Cypress Semi

Filed under: SPWR — Tags: , , , — Jason @ 4:29 pm

By TIERNAN RAY

THURMAN JOHN “T.J.” RODGERS, the brash, outspoken founder and chief executive of Cypress Semiconductor, may be warming to a breakup of his company. If so, it could be a windfall for Cypress investors.

Cypress, whose chips are the brains behind the “click-wheel” in some models of Apple’s iPod Nano, has seen its stock rise 74% this year, largely on the strength of the shares of SunPower, its solar-energy subsidiary. SunPower shares are up 125% this year.

But Cypress is still undervalued, say investors and analysts. With Cypress’ market cap at $4.44 billion, and its 55% stake in SunPower worth $3.6 billion, the rest of Cypress, its traditional semiconductor business, is being valued at about $5 per share, drastically below its fair value of $11, say some analysts.

A splitting up of Cypress’ chip business and the subsidiary could boost the valuation of the chip unit and endow the company with billions in cash.

Rodgers has resisted breakup calls from hedge funds as recently as last year to restructure. For one thing, he has to pay taxes on SunPower if he does anything before November 2009.

But analysts say a tax-free deal could be engineered quickly. And some say that lately they sense a greater willingness on Rodgers’ part to entertain such possibilities.

That’s a good bet to take. For, even if Rodgers did wait, investors buying Cypress shares today would get a valuable chip business trading at a mere one times revenue with almost a billion in cash and a demonstrated willingness to buy back shares.

“Take all the cash Cypress is sitting on, and the bang-up job they’re doing streamlining the [chip] business, and you’ve got good upside without any more outperformance from SunPower,” says Kevin Landis, who runs Firsthand Capital Management, which counts Cypress as the firm’s single largest holding.

But that’s not reflected in Cypress’ share price, says Landis, because, “You’ve got a sandwich of a turnaround story [at Cypress] and a growth story [at SunPower],” and it’s hard for investors to appreciate both stories at once.

(more…)

September 24, 2007

Ascent Solar Shares Hit All-Time High

Filed under: ASTI — Tags: , , — Jason @ 11:53 am

Monday September 24, 11:53 am ET

Ascent Solar Shareholder Quercus Trust Raises Stake to 15.4 Percent; Shares Hit All-Time High

NEW YORK (AP) — Shares of Ascent Solar Technologies Inc. hit a new all-time high on Monday, surging more than 13 percent after a major shareholder upped its stake in the maker of photovoltaic materials.

Shares rose $1.50, or 9.1 percent, to $18 in morning trading. Earlier, shares climbed as high as $19.06, eclipsing a previous high of $16.75.

Ascent shareholder Quercus Trust bought 323,701 shares last week for $14.41 to $15.84 apiece, according to a Friday filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Quercus now beneficially owns 1.7 million shares, or a 15.4 percent stake based on Ascent’s 11 million shares outstanding as of June 30.

Quercus has steadily increased its stake in the technology company during September. The Newport Beach, Calif.-based fund reported owning an 8.8 percent stake of Ascent as of Sept. 4, and a 10.2 percent stake on Sept. 12.

Quercus Trust is led by David Gelbaum, a major donor to environmental and conservation causes.

September 13, 2007

Spire Corp Entry

Filed under: SPIR — Tags: , — Jason @ 12:00 am

SPIR – Spire Corp.

Entry Price $10.00 9/13/07

Original Stop Loss $8.00

Adjusted Stop Loss $10.00 Hit 7/14/08

Out at Even.

September 3, 2007

Applied Materials Revolutionizes Solar Module Manufacturing with Breakthrough SunFab Thin Film Line

Filed under: AMAT — Tags: , — Jason @ 4:00 am

Monday September 3, 4:00 am ET

MILAN, Italy–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Applied Materials, Inc. today introduced its revolutionary Applied SunFab(TM) Thin Film Line, the world’s first and only integrated production line for manufacturing thin film silicon solar modules using 5.7 square meter (m2) glass panels. These ultra-large substrates, sized at 2.2m x 2.6m, are four times bigger than today’s largest thin film solar production panels. The Applied SunFab Line defines a new standard for the industry that can be replicated by customers around the globe to rapidly establish solar panel manufacturing capacity and achieve the lowest production cost per watt to drive down the cost of solar electricity.

The Applied SunFab Thin Film Line is the first and only integrated production line for manufacturing solar modules using 5.7m2 glass panels.

The Applied SunFab Thin Film Line can be configured with single or tandem junction technology and is designed to produce enough solar modules in a year to generate up to 75 megawatts (MW) of electrical power. Using 5.7m2 panels, the SunFab Line can reduce the cost of utility-scale and building-integrated photovoltaic (BIPV) system installations by more than 20%. Applied has already received multiple contracts for its SunFab Thin Film Line from customers in Europe and Asia.

“We’ve built on our years of experience in semiconductor and flat panel display manufacturing to create the solar industry’s first standardized thin film solution for making solar modules using cost-efficient, ultra-large glass panels,” said Dr. Mark Pinto, senior vice president, chief technology officer and general manager of Applied’s Energy and Environmental Solutions group. “With this state-of-the-art thin film production line and Applied’s global service capabilities, we are well-positioned to accelerate the growth of the solar market by providing an unprecedented ‘cost per watt’ through standardization, scale and efficiency.”

The Applied SunFab Line’s smart design can deliver leading-edge solar manufacturing capability, using the world’s most advanced engineering, process equipment, diagnostics, automation and emissions abatement systems. Applied adapted its production-proven CVD(a) and PVD(a) process systems to build the most critical layers of the module, including its market-leading PECVD(a) system that processes 5.7m2 glass substrates for the flat panel display industry. For more information, visit: http://appliedmaterials.com/products/index_pc3.html.

To maximize the performance of its SunFab production line, Applied offers SunFab Service, providing comprehensive integrated support solutions so customers can quickly ramp to volume production and optimize the efficiency and productivity of the line. According to Charlie Gay, vice president and general manager of Applied’s Solar Business Group, “We want to be long-term partners with our customers in driving the overall success of their lines — continuously improving the equipment and processes to achieve optimal efficiency, reliability and uptime.”

Applied Materials will highlight its new Applied SunFab Thin Film Line at the 22nd European Photovoltaic Solar Energy Conference in Milan, Italy, from September 3-7, 2007.

Seeking The Light

Filed under: AMAT — Tags: , , , — Jason @ 2:20 am

Elizabeth Corcoran 09.03.07

Michael Splinter was raised on the most powerful incantation in the tech industry, Moore’s Law, which roughly holds that computing power per dollar doubles every two years. During his 20 years at Intel Splinter saw this law deliver exponentially better products and profits.

Now, as chief executive of Applied Materials, the biggest pick-and-shovel maker for the semiconductor and flat-panel display industries, Splinter, 56, wants to forge a sunny-side-up version of Moore’s Law. “Can we, with our customers, drive down the cost per watt of photovoltaics?” Splinter asks. “We’ve got to.”

Currently photovoltaics cost $2 to $3 per watt to build, down from $22 in 1980. Splinter thinks he can help drive the cost of solar to under $1 a watt. At that price, even after adding a dollar or two per watt of installation costs, solar power would rival grid-delivered fossil fuel power. (Bear in mind that watts here are measured at midday peaks. Even in California an installation rated at 1 kilowatt will produce only 1,600 kwh a year.)

Ambitious enough to be on Intel’s shortlist of future chief executives, Splinter leaped at the chance to run his own show at Applied in 2003. The growth in solar captured Splinter’s attention early on. Slowdowns at computer chip makers, who buy nearly all of Applied’s equipment, hit hard. The $9.2 billion (revenue) company has a price-to-earnings ratio below that of Kraft Foods.

The solar cell manufacturing industry for years made do with hand-me-down tools from the computer chip industry. But last year solar cell manufacturers bought more silicon wafers than chipmakers–and solar’s demand for wafers is growing three times as fast as demand from the rest of the electronics industry. Applied will likely hit $400 million in contracts for solar manufacturing gear by year-end; Splinter wants $1 billion by 2009.

Applied intends to trim the industry’s costs in four ways: boost solar factory throughput, improve the productivity of every tool, cut materials costs by using photovoltaic materials more sparingly and raise solar cell efficiencies. Splinter has already spent close to $1 billion to hire hundreds of people for his solar group, buy two small thin-film equipment makers and invest in a silicon wafer firm in California.

Charles Gay, who is leading Applied’s solar business, obsesses about speed. Computer chips are made in batches; solar cells are produced continuously. Coating tools once used to put films on sheets of glass are being tweaked so they can also rapidly coat thousands of individual wafers. Thin-film solar makers want to work with the 64-square-foot sheets of glass used by Applied’s LCD customers, but solar glass is four times as thick as display glass. So Applied is strengthening the arms of the robots it sells to hold glass sheets. “We’d like to move one ton of silicon wafers through a line in an hour,” Gay says. At that speed one factory could produce a gigawatt of solar modules per year, ten times as much as the U.S. is now installing. “This is like the 1970s in the computer chip business,” says Splinter, flashing a 200-watt smile.

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