North Coast Solar Stocks

December 8, 2009

Constellation Energy to build 16 MW solar project

Filed under: FSLR — Tags: , , , , — Jason @ 5:59 pm

Tue Dec 8, 2009 5:59pm EST

* Company to use thin film photovoltaic solar panels

* Shares of company flat in after-hours trading

LOS ANGELES, Dec 8 (Reuters) – Utility owner Constellation Energy Group (CEG) will build a solar power project of nearly 16 megawatts in Maryland and will sell the electricity generated to the state under a 20-year agreement, the company said on Tuesday.

The project accounts for the bulk of a $60 million, 17 MW solar facility that Constellation will build, own and operate on 100 acres of land leased from Mount St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, Maryland.

The company plans to use thin film photovoltaic solar panels that convert sunlight into electricity but did not
specify a particular supplier.

Tempe, Arizona-based First Solar Inc (FSLR) is the industry’s leading supplier of thin film solar technology as
its cadmium telluride-based panels are cheaper to produce.

Constellation plans to finish the project by December 2012, currently set to be the largest solar facility in Maryland. It will also sell 1.2 MW of the electricity to the university.

Constellation Energy also is working to develop a $140 million, 70-megawatt wind power project in Maryland.

Shares of Constellation Energy were flat in after-hours trading after closing down 1.4 percent at $33.02 on the New York Stock Exchange on Tuesday.

(Reporting by Laura Isensee, editing by Matthew Lewis)

Enbridge and First Solar Agree on 60 MW Renewable Energy Expansion at Sarnia

Filed under: FSLR — Tags: , , , — Jason @ 9:00 am

Initial 20 MW Sarnia Solar Project achieves commercial operations

9:00 am EST, Tuesday December 8, 2009

CALGARY, ALBERTA AND TEMPE, ARIZONA–(Marketwire – 12/08/09) – Enbridge Inc. (ENB) and First Solar, Inc. (FSLR) announced today that they have entered into an agreement to expand the Sarnia Solar Project from 20 megawatts of capacity to 80 megawatts (MW), with a total system cost of approximately CDN $300 million for the expansion. When completed in the second half of 2010, it is expected to be the largest photovoltaic solar energy facility in North America.

Enbridge and First Solar announced in October an agreement for Enbridge to acquire the initial 20 MW solar energy project that First Solar developed at the Sarnia site. This project achieved full commercial operation on December 7, 2009.

“We’re delighted to further strengthen our relationship with First Solar,” said Patrick D. Daniel, President and Chief Executive Officer, Enbridge, Inc. “First Solar has delivered the initial 20 MW as committed – demonstrating their strong technical competence combined with attention to meaningful community engagement and corporate social responsibility practices that align with our own values.

“Enbridge has made significant strides in growing its green energy business in 2009. With this investment, we will have interests in more than 470 megawatts of green power capacity from our five wind energy projects, expanded solar facilities, four waste heat recovery facilities and the world’s first commercial application of hybrid-fuel cell technology.”

“We welcome this new investment from Enbridge to expand the Sarnia project,” said Bruce Sohn, President of First Solar. “It demonstrates confidence in First Solar’s Engineering, Procurement and Construction team, which has recently completed the first 20 MW at Sarnia.”

Mr. Daniel noted that solar energy is a key component of Enbridge’s environmental performance strategy to invest in renewable and alternative energy sources that complement Enbridge’s core operations and provide environmental benefits.

“Our increased investment in the Sarnia Solar Project maintains risk and return characteristics which are fully consistent with Enbridge’s low-risk business model, and similar to our crude oil pipeline business,” said Mr. Daniel. “The expansion of the Sarnia Solar Project will take advantage of the capacity of the Sarnia site to accommodate additional capacity. Following on our recently announced wind energy project, the Sarnia solar expansion provides a good balance in our renewable energy portfolio between solar and wind.”

Subject to the satisfaction of certain conditions precedent, First Solar will construct the solar project for Enbridge under a fixed price engineering, procurement and construction contract, utilizing its thin film photovoltaic technology. First Solar’s advanced thin film technology has been deployed in 1.5 gigawatts of installations in the U.S. and Europe.

The 60 MW phase of the project is expected to begin construction in December and be completed by December 2010. At 80 MW, Enbridge expects the Sarnia Solar Project will generate enough power to meet the needs of over 12,800 homes and help to save the equivalent of approximately 39,000 tonnes of CO2 per year.

First Solar will also provide operations and maintenance services to Enbridge under a long-term contract. The power output of the 80 MW facility will be sold to the Ontario Power Authority pursuant to 20-year Power Purchase Agreements under the terms of the Ontario Government’s Renewable Energy Standard Offer Program.

“Our recent investments in green energy projects in Ontario – including the 99 MW Talbot Wind Energy Project, our 190 MW Enbridge Ontario Wind Project, and the Sarnia Solar Project – are evidence of Enbridge’s commitment to advancing environmentally preferred energy solutions, and of the value of the Ontario government’s proactive support and encouragement of investment within the province,” said Mr. Daniel.

Sarnia Solar Energy at a glance:

Capacity peak: approx. 80,000 kilowatts

Module surface area: approx. 973,000 m2; approx. 1.3 million thin film modules (First Solar)

Annual yield: approx. 120 million kWh (corresponding to the annual consumption of over 12,800 households)

CO2 saving: over 39,000 tonnes per year

About Enbridge

Enbridge Inc., a Canadian company, is a North American leader in delivering energy. As a transporter of energy, Enbridge operates, in Canada and the U.S., the world’s longest crude oil and liquids transportation system. The Company also has a growing involvement in the natural gas transmission and midstream businesses, and is expanding its interests in renewable and green energy technologies including wind and solar energy, hybrid fuel cells and carbon dioxide sequestration. As a distributor of energy, Enbridge owns and operates Canada’s largest natural gas distribution company, and provides distribution services in Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick and New York State. Enbridge employs approximately 6,000 people, primarily in Canada and the U.S. Enbridge’s common shares trade on the Toronto and New York stock exchanges under the symbol ENB. For more information, visit enbridge.com.

December 7, 2009

Solar ETFs Rally As Climate Talks Start

Filed under: FSLR, JASO, KWT, SPWR, STP, TAN, TSL — Tags: , , , , , , — Jason @ 6:48 pm

By Trang Ho
6:48 pm EST, Monday December 7, 2009

Solar energy stocks led the market higher Monday on several analyst upgrades. In addition, the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, kicked off and the Environmental Protection Agency reported greenhouse gases are endangering people’s health and must be regulated.

Claymore/MAC Global Solar Energy (TAN) rose 3% to 10.07 in a little less than average volume. Shares broke above their 50-day moving average last week in scant volume.

The ETF has traded in a price channel between 8 and 11 for the past seven months. It has returned 27% year to date vs. 22% for the S&P 500. It carries Relative Strength and Accumulation/Distribution Ratings of 54 and B-.

Market Vectors Solar Energy (KWT) surged 4.7% to 15.31 in higher than usual volume. Shares have traded in a sideways band between about 12 and 16 for the past six months.

KWT has gained 18% this year. Its 44 RS and B- Acc/Dis Ratings are technically weaker than TAN’s.

“If both TAN and KWT break out above the channels they are trading in, then expect them to move to the price level of the recent high,” said Tom Bulkowski, a technical analyst and founder of ThePatternSite.com. “That means TAN could run to 11.50 and KWT to 18.”

Industry Developments

Barclays Capital upgraded JA Solar Holdings (JASO), SunPower (SPWRA, SPWRB) and Suntech Power Holdings (STP) Monday to overweight from equal weight. The three companies popped 10% to 12% on the news.

Suntech Power said last week it won a 17-megawatt supply contract for 2010 from a Canadian firm. Its shares have spiked 68% year to date.

A top holding in both ETFs, First Solar (FSLR), added to last week’s gains and closed at 135.05 in average volume. The stock has been trending lower, forming lower lows and lower highs, since May. It trades below both its 200- and 50-day moving averages. It is flat for the year.

Shares rallied Thursday. They continued higher Friday after Collins Stewart upgraded the stock to buy from hold. Pricing pressures in the solar market eased in recent months and demand is beginning to pick up, analyst Dan Ries wrote in a client note. First Solar fared better than its competitors during the recession because its cadmium-telluride panels are cheaper to make than the silicon-based ones that dominate the market.

(more…)

December 4, 2009

First Solar: Collins Stewart Turns Bullish

Filed under: FSLR — Tags: , , , — Jason @ 10:13 am

By Eric Savitz
barrons.com

First Solar (FSLR) share are higher this morning after Collins Stewart analyst Dan Ries upped his rating on the stock to buy from Hold, setting a price target of $160. FSLR closed yesterday at $128.12.

Ries writes that pricing pressures in the solar market have eased in recent months as demand has exceeded supply. He increased his forecast for ASPs for Q4 by two cents to $1.68/watt; for 2010 by 6 cents to $1.50/watt, and for 2011 by 8 cents to $1.25/watt. “We continue to believe the FSLR modules will have to go below $1.20/watt in the years ahead, but the path to that level in our view [is now] more gradual.”

To reflect the higher price forecasts, Ries lifted his GAAP EPS estimates for FSLR to $7.46 from $7.43 for this year, and to $6.50 from $6 for next year.

FSLR today is up $3.70, or 2.9%, to $131.82.

First Solar climbs premarket

Filed under: FSLR — Tags: , , , — Jason @ 9:10 am

Analyst upgrades First Solar to ‘Buy’ on stock value and rising demand, shares rise premarket

9:10 am EST, Friday December 4, 2009

NEW YORK (AP) — Shares of First Solar Inc. (FSLR) climbed in Friday premarket trading as an analyst upgraded the stock, citing its attractive price and increasingly favorable market conditions.

Shares of the nation’s largest solar panel maker rose $3.45, or 2.7 percent to $131.57 in premarket trading. Since the end of the third quarter, shares of the company have sunk more than 16 percent to close at $128.12 on Thursday.

Collins Stewart analyst Dan Ries urged upgraded First Solar to “Buy” from “Hold.”

“Pricing pressures in the solar market have eased in recent months as demand has exceeded supply,” Ries said, as he raised his average selling price assumptions by 2 cents to $1.68 per watt in the fourth quarter, by 6 cents to $1.50 per watt in 2010 and by 8 cents to $1.25 per watt in 2011.

This translates to higher profit estimates Ries said, boosting his 2010 estimate to $6.50 per share from $6 per share and his 2011 estimate to $7.25 per share from $6 per share. Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters expect earnings of $6.57 per share in 2010 and and $8.31 per share in 2011.

Ries noted that First Solar’s mid-December analyst meeting may lead to positive 2011 revisions. The company plans to provide 2010 outlook figures, including capital spending, which will impact 2011 production estimates.

November 25, 2009

A Competitive Boost For Solar Energy

Filed under: FSLR, KYO, SPWR — Tags: , , , , — Jason @ 5:43 pm

Christopher Helman, 11.25.09, 5:43 PM ET

HOUSTON – The dream of every green energy acolyte is that there will come a time when it is no stranger for homes to have solar panels than to have air conditioning units.

John Berger, chief executive of Standard Renewable Energy, thinks that in the next decade the U.S. could get well down the road to making that a reality.

Houston-based Standard Renewable got 75% of its $35 million in revenue this year from installing solar systems. Just 10 months ago it was buying solar panels from the likes of Kyocera (KYO), BP (BP), SunPower (SPWRA, SPWRB) and First Solar (FSLR) for $4 per watt. Today, prices have plunged to $1.90 a watt.

It’s not for lack of demand. What’s brought prices down is a surge in worldwide manufacturing capacity. New plants have opened across China. Factories are even coming to the U.S.

As a result, insists Berger, solar power is starting to look affordable and even competitive with grid power. To the educated observer, this may sound implausible. But Berger says Standard has installed residential solar systems for as little as $4 per watt.

Berger’s bean counters have extrapolated that price for 31 metropolitan areas, factoring in average sunshine and cloud cover, applying the federal government’s 30% investment tax credit, and assuming that a homeowner can finance a system at the going mortgage rate of around 5%. Amortized over 20 years, the effective rate that a homeowner would pay for electricity in the New York metro area is 12.7 cents per kilowatt/hour. In Dallas it’s 11 cents/kwh, and in Las Vegas, just 9.3 cents.

The nationwide average residential electricity price is 12.05 cents, according to the Energy Information Administration.

Add in generous subsidies on municipal and state levels and in some green utopias like Austin, Texas, and Berkeley, Calif., and the cost goes even lower.

“In some locations,” says Berger, “solar could achieve grid parity next year.”

Yeah, we’re skeptical, too. Berger is, after all, trying to sell solar panels. But it’s nice to think that this could be possible. And the stars are aligning to make panels even cheaper. All this new panel production online is squeezing margins of big players like First Solar, whose shares have fallen 40% since May. Berger thinks that panel makers’ profit margins, now around 15%, will fade closer to 7% in the years to come–in line with the makers of other kinds of silicon-based chips.

The case for solar would also be helped by any carbon emissions legislation that might pass Congress some day. Carbon cap-and-trade would inevitably add costs to power generated from coal and natural gas. Utilities will try to pass costs onto ratepayers.

“The utilities are getting nervous. We provide a real opportunity for people to change where they get their electricity from,” says Berger.

One beauty of solar is that it is a distributed source of power generation–it can go anywhere that needs electricity and gets good sunlight. No need to build new transmission lines.

But don’t think solar will let you get off the grid entirely. The average home system that Standard Renewable installs is a 3.5 kw system that will produce, on average, 4,900 kwh of electricity a year, or less than a third of the average home’s electricity usage. It’ll cost roughly $14,000 installed. Payback period? If your utility charges, say, 13 cents per kwh, the system will pay for itself in 22 years.

Berger has expanded Standard beyond Texas to Oklahoma, New York, Florida, Arizona, Colorado and Georgia. Revenues have tripled in the past year and profitability is in sight, he says. He’s hired 130 new employees since July (green jobs!), bringing his total staff to 330.

Predictably, Berger says now’s the time to buy solar, as many state and local rebates will run out over the next year or so. “It’s the gift that keeps on giving.”

November 23, 2009

First Solar sells California project to NRG

Filed under: EIX, FSLR, NRG — Tags: , , , , , — Jason @ 1:25 pm

Mon Nov 23, 2009 1:25pm EST

* NRG to buy 21-megawatt solar project in Blythe

* Financial terms of deal not disclosed

LOS ANGELES, Nov 23 (Reuters) – U.S. solar power leader First Solar Inc (FSLR) said on Monday that it was selling the first of its utility-scale solar power projects in California to national power plant operator NRG Energy Inc (NRG).

The companies did not disclose financial terms of the deal.

First Solar will operate the 21-megawatt solar power project for NRG Energy under a long-term contract, the company said in a statement.

Macquarie Securities analyst Kelly Dougherty said in a note to clients that the news “is an incremental positive” for First Solar and will likely add to the company’s revenue for the fourth quarter.

Tempe, Arizona-based First Solar started building the project in September. The plant, about 200 miles east of Los Angeles in Blythe, California, is expected to be finished by the end of the year. Electricity from the plant will be sold to Southern California Edison, a unit of Edison International (EIX).

First Solar is one of the world’s largest producers of photovoltaic cells, which turn sunlight into electricity. Its production costs are the lowest in the industry, although its thin-film cadmium telluride cells are not as efficient in capturing sunlight as more traditional silicon-based cells.

The sale follows another recent deal for First Solar. In October, the company sold a 20-megawatt solar power project in Ontario to Enbridge Inc (ENB), Canada’s largest oil pipeline company.

Princeton, New Jersey-based NRG has mostly fossil fuel-heavy power plants that generate enough electricity to serve 20 million U.S. households, but plans to add a range of renewable energy technologies.

The company owns three land-based wind farms in Texas and invested in solar thermal start-up eSolar earlier this year.

Shares of First Solar were up half a percent at $121.84 each in trading on Monday on the Nasdaq.

(Reporting by Laura Isensee; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

NRG buys Blythe solar project from First Solar

Filed under: EIX, FSLR, NRG — Tags: , , , , — Jason @ 11:51 am

NRG buys largest utility-scale solar project in California from First Solar; terms undisclosed

11:51 am EST, Monday November 23, 2009

PRINCETON, N.J. (AP) — NRG Energy Inc. (NRG) on Monday said it bought the 21 megawatt Blythe solar energy project in California from First Solar Inc. (FSLR) for an undisclosed amount.

The New Jersey-based power plant owner said the site — located in Riverside County in southeastern California — is the first and largest utility-scale photovoltaic solar project in the state.

The Blythe plant will be connected to Southern California Edison’s (EIX) electrical distribution grid, and electricity will be sold to SCE under a 20-year power purchase agreement. At peak capacity, the site will be able to power almost 17,000 homes, NRG said.

Using First Solar’s thin film photovoltaic panels that convert sunlight directly into electricity, the project will generate more than 45,000 megawatt-hours of electricity per year, displacing more than 12,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year. That’s the equivalent of taking 2,200 cars off the road.

The plant uses about 350,000 solar modules, each measuring 2 feet by 4 feet, which cover about 200 acres. The project uses no water during normal operation, the company said. Construction began in September and is expected to be completed by year-end.

First Solar will provide operations and maintenance services at Blythe under a long-term contract with NRG.

Shares of NRG rose 20 cents to $24.01 in morning trading. First Solar shares rose $1.48 to $122.67.

First Solar Sells California Solar Power Project to NRG

Filed under: EIX, FSLR, NRG — Tags: , , , , — Jason @ 8:00 am

21 Megawatt Blythe Project is California’s Largest Photovoltaic Facility

8:00 am EST, Monday November 23, 2009

TEMPE, Ariz.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–First Solar, Inc. (FSLR), today announced the sale of the 21 megawatt (MW) AC solar energy project it has developed and constructed in Blythe, Calif., to NRG Energy, Inc (NRG).

Located in Riverside County about 200 miles east of Los Angeles, the Blythe project is California’s first and largest utility-scale photovoltaic (PV) solar generation facility, and among the largest in North America. Construction began in September and is expected to be completed by year-end. Electricity from the plant will be sold to Southern California Edison (EIX) under a 20-year power purchase agreement.

“First Solar is very pleased that the first of our utility-scale solar projects in California will be coming on line with a leading power producer like NRG,” said Bruce Sohn, president of First Solar. “This clean, affordable, and sustainable energy will help California meet the goals of its Renewable Portfolio Standard.”

Using First Solar’s industry-leading thin film PV panels that convert sunlight directly into electricity with no water consumption during operation, the project will generate over 45,000 megawatt-hours of electricity per year. The solar generation displaces over 12,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year—the equivalent of taking 2,200 cars off the road. The construction of this project created 175 green jobs.

First Solar will provide operations and maintenance services at Blythe under a long-term contract with NRG. Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

First Solar is developing 1,300 megawatts of PV solar projects under contracts with utilities in California and the Southwest.

November 22, 2009

First Solar plant re-energized

Filed under: AEP, FSLR, PCG, SRE — Tags: , , , , , — Jason @ 10:00 am

Expansion reflects growth in demand across North America

First Solar Inc., which began in Toledo and is headquartered in Arizona, has its only North American factory in Perrysburg Township. The plant is expanding.

By GARY T. PAKULSKI
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

A huge expansion of a solar panel manufacturing plant in Perrysburg Township is nearing completion just in time for a massive planned increase in solar energy use across the United States and Canada.

Utility-scale solar fields, mostly in the West and South, will consume the output of the First Solar Inc. (FSLR) plant through 2015 and probably will cause the company to import panels from its factories in Europe and Asia, an official said.

“We definitely have created demand in the United States far beyond what that single plant can supply and will need to supplement that with product from other plants,” said Alan Bernheimer, a company spokesman.

Executives launched an initiative two years ago to boost U.S. sales to correspond with the company’s growing manufacturing capacity and offset any cooling of a solar energy-building boom in Europe that consumed millions of Perrysburg Township-made panels. Those efforts are now bearing fruit.

Massive solar fields built by First Solar have been completed or are nearing completion outside Las Vegas, in southern California, and in Ontario along Lake Huron.

Five other big First Solar projects that probably will use panels from the suburban Toledo plant are under way or have been announced. They include one that would become the largest solar array in the nation, covering nearly seven square miles and producing enough electricity for 160,000 homes.

All of the projects are multiple-acre solar fields that will be connected to the nation’s electric grid.

An evolution
If the company moves forward on already-announced projects, the work would consume more than 18 million of the 2-foot-by-4-foot panels that First Solar produces.

“That’s great news,” said Steve Weathers, president of Toledo’s Regional Growth Partnership. “What we like to see with any company is growth in their customer base.”

He said the local plant’s growth demonstrates an evolution in the local economy as northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan shift to other industries and away from heavy reliance on jobs in auto manufacturing.

(more…)

November 20, 2009

California utility wins OK for more transmission

Filed under: EIX, FSLR — Tags: , , , , — Jason @ 6:21 pm

Fri Nov 20, 2009 6:21pm EST

* California regulatory agency clears application

* Southern California Edison to build 150-mile line

* When completed, line to move 1.2 gigawatt of power

LOS ANGELES, Nov 20 (Reuters) – Southern California could gain more transmission capacity — needed to accommodate electricity from renewable resources — after a project by utility Southern California Edison won approval from a key state agency on Friday.

The California Public Utilities Commission cleared the utility’s proposal for the $537 million, 150-mile project, called the Devers Palo Verde2 line, the utility said in a statement.

Southern California Edison, a part of Edison International (EIX), modified its original 270-mile Devers Palo Verde proposal earlier this year after Arizona utility regulators rejected construction of the line in that state, saying they did not want to export additional power to California.

When completed in 2013, the project is expected to move an extra 1.2 gigawatts of power from Riverside County to energy customers in Southern California.

The 128-mile, 500-kilovolt line will connect SCE’s Devers substation near Palm Springs to a proposed Midpoint switchyard near Blythe, California. SCE also will build a 42-mile, 500-kv line between the Devers substation and its Valley substation in Riverside County.

The project will relieve transmission congestion in an area identified by federal agencies and could help move more electricity generated by solar and other renewable energy resources in the future, the utility said in a statement.

California has the most aggressive renewable energy goals in the United States, with a target to get a third of its electricity from renewable resources by 2020.

A major hurdle, however, is a lack of transmission lines needed to move electricity from remote areas where solar, wind and other renewable power is produced, to cities where it is consumed.

In August SCE and U.S. solar leader First Solar Inc (FSLR) announced plans for two photovoltaic solar projects for a total of 550 megawatts in the California counties of Riverside and San Bernardino.

Arizona-based First Solar is one of the world’s largest producers of photovoltaic cells, which turn sunlight into electricity.

The SCE’s transmission line is also subject to approval of the California Independent System Operator.

(Reporting by Laura Isensee and Eileen O’Grady; Editing by Christian Wiessner)

November 17, 2009

First Solar Exec Gaffney Leaves; Profit Hit On Severance

Filed under: FSLR — Tags: , , , , — Jason @ 2:53 pm

By Eric Savitz
barrons.com

First Solar (FSLR) disclosed in an 8-K filing this morning said EVP and corporate secretary John Gaffney is leaving his post by “mutual agreement” with the company. Gaffney, formerly an attorney with Cravath, Swaine & Moore, was in charge of the company’s sustainable development and environmental affairs activities, as well as the legal and corporate development departments.

According to the filing, the company will take a $6.9 million after-tax Q4 hit to net income to cover his severance, or about 8 cents a share.

Gordon Johnson, an analyst with Hapoalim Securities, notes that Gaffney was involved in recent efforts to lobby for continued exclusion of the company’s cadmium telluride solar products from a pair of European standards known as WEEE (the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment directive) and RoHS (the Restriction of Use of Certain Hazardous Substances directive). As the New York Times recently reported, there is a move in Europe to extend the rules to cover the use of cadmium in solar products.

“Given Mr. Gaffney’s role as the lead coordinator in such effort, we question the inconvenient timing of his departure,” Johnson writes in a research note. “Mr. Gaffney’s termination during such a crucial period carries potentially negative inferences and could be indicative of negative complications in the company’s recent lobbying efforts. We reiterate out view that any tightening of EU regulations on cadmium in PV panels would be extraordinarily detrimental to FSLR and highlight the possible negative conjectures of Mr. Gaffney’s awkwardly timed departure.”

Johnson notes that FSLR produces only products that are cadmium-based, and that the current RoHS rule limited the amount of CdTe to 100 parts per million in any substrate – while the CdTe layer in First Solar’s panels are 47% Cadmium (or in other words, 470,000 parts per million.) “Thus, to be clear, FSLR is not currently in compliance with the RoHS directive, and will likely need to apply for an exemption in the near future,” creating “a large risk to the investment case” for FSLR shares, he writes.

FSLR today is up 47 cents, or 0.4%, to $123.88.

First Solar and Ordos Take Key Step Forward in 2GW China Project

Filed under: FSLR — Tags: , , , , — Jason @ 4:30 am

Cooperation Framework Agreement Signed During China-US Presidential Summit

4:30 am EST, Tuesday November 17, 2009

BEIJING–(BUSINESS WIRE)–First Solar, Inc. (FSLR) today announced a Cooperation Framework Agreement with the Chinese government that takes another critical step towards the realization of the world’s largest solar power plant in the autonomous region of Inner Mongolia, China.

First Solar President Bruce Sohn and Mayor Yun Guangzhong of the Ordos City Government signed the Cooperation Framework Agreement in the presence of Chinese Vice Premier Li Keqiang, Vice Minister Liu Qi of the National Energy Administration, and U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu. The Agreement between First Solar and Ordos spells out additional project details and local support that advance the development of the 2 gigawatt (GW) solar power plant and confirm the June 1, 2010 expected construction start date for the 30 megawatt (MW) Phase 1. First Solar and Ordos also agreed to establish two committees to ensure the successful execution of the project and to develop a new energy industry in Ordos.

“This Cooperation Framework Agreement and its recognition by the National Energy Administration mark a critical step forward in the approval process for the Ordos project, one of the world’s most ambitious renewable energy projects,” said First Solar Chief Executive Officer Rob Gillette. “It reinforces the commitment of First Solar, the Chinese government, and the Ordos local government to make an immediate contribution to the development of a healthy solar industry in China and to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.”

The signing ceremony took place as part of the U.S.-China Summit where U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao met to discuss upcoming global climate change negotiations and clean energy, among other topics. “President Obama’s trip to Beijing is a significant step forward in further solidifying bilateral relations with China. First Solar is enthusiastic in contributing to the commercial relations of our two countries through this Cooperative Framework Agreement,” said Mr. Gillette.

“Solar energy will play a significant role in achieving China’s low carbon future,” said Yun Guangzhong, Mayor of Ordos City. “We are very pleased to be partnering with one of the solar industry’s global leaders in a project of such significance.”

The 2GW First Solar project is to be built in multiple phases, beginning with the 30MW Phase 1. Phases 2, 3 and 4 are to be 100MW, 870MW, and 1,000MW, respectively. Phases 2 and 3 are to be completed by 2014 and Phase 4 is to be completed by 2019. The project is part of a planned 11.95GW New Energy Industry Demonstration Zone in Ordos City, Inner Mongolia. The New Energy Industry Demonstration Zone is expected to combine solar, wind, hydroelectric and biomass power sources to provide a steady supply of renewable energy to the region that includes the Chinese capital.

Yesterday, Mr. Sohn participated in a Clean Energy Roundtable with National Energy Administration Vice Minister Liu Qi, Energy Secretary Chu, Commerce Secretary Locke, U.S. Trade Representative Kirk and a small group of senior U.S. and Chinese business executives. During the high-level Roundtable, in which First Solar was asked to address the significance of renewable energy, Mr. Sohn told participants that China’s vision and leadership in supporting solar energy and the Ordos project will “serve as a model of renewable power generation for the world. Projects such as Ordos will enable significant cost reductions through scale, and make solar a truly sustainable energy source in the near future. First Solar is committed to helping build a sustainable solar industry and low carbon economy in China by bringing advanced solar PV technology, global experience, and a focus on cost reduction and environmental sustainability.”

The Cooperation Framework Agreement sets forth the agreement in principle of the parties concerning the project and related activities. Final agreement between the parties is subject to the negotiation and execution of definitive agreements among the parties.

November 16, 2009

Solar Stocks Rally As Yingli Forecasts Stable Pricing

Filed under: CSIQ, ESLR, FSLR, LDK, SPWR, STP, YGE — Tags: , , , , , — Jason @ 3:37 pm

By Eric Savitz
barrons.com

Solar stocks are flying today after some bullish comments Friday on pricing in the solar sector by Yingli Green Energy (YGE) CFO Bryan Li on the company’s Q3 conference call on Friday. Li said he expects Q4 average solar products pricing to be flat to down slightly in Q4 from Q3, with flat to up pricing in Q1 of next year.

Merrill Lynch/Bank of America analyst Lu Yeung wrote in a Friday research note that the ASP forecast “bodes well for the broader industry group.”

Barclays Capital Vishal Shah likewise noted in a report today that the comments from YGE management suggest that “the price war in the solar industry may be temporarily over.” He added that while weather, Germain feed-in-tariff reductions and development of non-German markets will be important in how 2010 plays out, “YGE’s comments increase the prospects of potential upward earnings revisions for the sector in the near term.”

Janney Capital Markets analyst John Roy today upped his rating on on YGE to Buy from Neutral, “as the outlook for pricing and thus margins have improved.” He contends that “Yingli is a major price setter, and they are guiding to a more benign pricing environment in 2010.” He adds that “there is other evidence that prices are beginning to stabilize,” and that the trend should continue.

Ergo, most solar stocks are sharply higher:

* Suntech (STP) is up $1.75, or 12.8%, to $15.47.
* Sunpower (SPWRA) is up 63 cents, or 2.4%, to $27.05.
* Canadian Solar (CSIQ) is up 74 cents, or 4%, to $19.19.
* Yingli is up 54 cents, or 4%, to $13.99.
* First Solar (FSLR) is up $4.74, or 4%, to $123.04.
* Evergreen Solar (ESLR) is up 8 cents, or 5.4%, to $1.56.
* LDK Solar (LDK) is up 58 cents, or 9.1%, to $6.97.

Solar Leaders One Year Later

Filed under: CSIQ, ENER, FSLR, HOKU, SPWR, STP — Tags: , — Jason @ 11:02 am

From our entry November 13, 2008 in Time to start re-entering the leaders.

Company Entry Last $ G / L % G / L
CSIQ – Canadian Solar Inc. $    5.50 $   19.48 $   13.98 254%
ENER – Energy Conversion Devices, Inc. $   25.00 $   11.11 $  (13.89) -56%
FSLR – First Solar Inc. $ 110.00 $ 123.03 $   13.03 12%
HOKU – Hoku Scientific Inc. $    4.00 $    2.42 $   (1.58) -40%
SPWRA – SunPower Corp. $   25.00 $   27.09 $    2.09 8%
STP – Suntech Power Holdings Co. Ltd. $   10.00 $   15.26 $    5.26 53%
Average Gain 39%

November 13, 2009

Solar power startup Ausra looks to sell itself

Filed under: FSLR, PCG, SOL, WFR — Tags: , , , , , — Jason @ 9:40 pm

Fri Nov 13, 2009 9:40pm EST

* Potential buyers are international conglomerates

* Deals in “aggressive level” of discussion

* Solar thermal start-up raised $130 mln in venture capital

By Laura Isensee

LOS ANGELES, Nov 13 (Reuters) – Kleiner Perkins and Khosla Ventures-backed solar thermal start-up Ausra Inc is in talks to sell itself with three potential buyers, two sources familiar with the company told Reuters on Friday.

The buyers could take a majority stake or snag the whole company and the discussions are at a “very aggressive level”, said one source familiar with the company, who was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.

Both sources said the interested companies were global conglomerates in the power generation business but declined to name them. The companies already have various power products, such as steam and gas turbines, and are committed to renewable energy. One interested party has engaged with Ausra previously, one source said.

Ausra declined to comment.

A sale of the high profile Silicon Valley start-up that has raised $130 million in venture capital would add to a string of recent deals and growing consolidation in the solar power industry.

Chinese solar wafer manufacturer ReneSola Ltd (SOL) plans to buy Dynamic Green Energy Ltd while silicon maker MEMC Electronic Materials Inc (WFR) plans to acquire privately-held SunEdison, which installs, maintains and finances commercial solar systems.

Privately held Ausra, which is based in Mountain View, California, launched as a solar thermal developer in 2006, when solar power and other clean technology were luring venture capitalists.

Two years ago the company landed a power purchasing agreement with California utility PG&E, a unit of PG&E Corp (PCG) for a 117 megawatt solar thermal plant. Solar thermal plants use the sun’s rays to heat liquid to create steam, which drives turbines and generates electricity.

Earlier this year, the company switched tracks, saying it would move away from developing projects and focus on supplying large-scale solar steam generators.

This month Ausra said that it canceled its agreement with PG&E and sold the project’s land to the largest U.S. solar power company, thin film photovoltaic First Solar Inc (FSLR).

Ausra also has deals in Jordan and Australia and other investors include Starfish Ventures and KERN Partners.

One source familiar with the company said that “extensive work” has been done at various stages of completion with the interested buyers.

“We’re talking about meetings with dozens of people involved,” said the person, who also was not authorized to speak publicly about the discussions.

(Reporting by Laura Isensee; Editing Bernard Orr)

November 10, 2009

Thin-film share of solar market to double – report

Filed under: AMAT, FSLR, SPWR, STP — Tags: , , , — Jason @ 5:06 pm

Tue Nov 10, 2009 5:06pm EST

* Thin film to account for 31 pct of solar panels in 2013

* Technology had 14 pct market share in 2008

* Research says First Solar established market viability

LOS ANGELES, Nov 10 (Reuters) – Solar panels that use thin-film technology in place of traditional silicon-based materials will more than double their share of the solar panel market by 2013, according to a report issued on Tuesday by industry research firm iSuppli.

Thin-film panels, such as those made by First Solar Inc (FSLR), the largest U.S. solar power company, are cheaper to make per watt of electricity than are standard panels.

The average thin-film solar panel price is expected to decline nearly 18 percent in 2010 to $1.40 per watt, iSuppli said. Average prices for silicon-based panels are expected to drop 20 percent to $2.00 per watt in 2010.

Panels than employ thin-film technology are expected to claim 31 percent of the global solar panel market by 2013, up from 14 percent in 2008.

“The market viability of thin film has been solidly established by First Solar Inc as it rockets to become the world’s top solar panel maker this year, with more than a gigawatt of production,” said Greg Sheppard, chief research officer for iSuppli in a statement.

Most solar panels, like those made by Suntech Power Holdings Co Ltd (STP) and California-based SunPower Corp (SPWRA, SPWRB), rely on polysilicon as a key raw material, while thin-film panel makers use a variety of different materials to turn sunlight into electricity.

Sheppard added that First Solar has driven its cost of production to less than 90 cents per watt, keeping its costs at about half the level of its competitors that use silicon-based technology.

Thin-film panels’ cost advantage has helped attract Japan’s Sharp Corp to expand into the thin film market. Solar equipment suppliers, such as Applied Materials Inc (AMAT) and Swiss technology group Oerlikon’s solar arm, are ramping up in thin-film space as well.

(Reporting by Laura Isensee; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

November 9, 2009

Energy Conversion posts second straight loss, shrs dip

Filed under: ENER, FSLR — Tags: , , , , , — Jason @ 1:17 pm

Mon Nov 9, 2009 1:17pm EST

* Q1 shr loss $0.28 vs EPS of $0.27 last yr

* Q1 sales more than halve, way below Wall St view

* Sees price declines, sequentially flat shipments in Q2

* Says prior FY rev outlook no longer applicable

* Shares down 4 pct

By Adveith Nair

BANGALORE, Nov 9 (Reuters) – Energy Conversion Devices Inc (ENER) reported its second straight quarterly loss, with sales coming in below estimates as demand for its solar products remained soft, and warned that prices would continue to fall.

On a conference call with analysts, the company said average selling prices, down 13 percent in the fourth quarter, would continue to decline in the December quarter.

“Our current estimate is we think high single digits to just around double digit decline would be appropriate,” a company executive said.

Like others in the solar industry, the Rochester Hills, Michigan-based company has been hurt by a dearth of financing and a global oversupply of solar panels that sent prices on solar power products tumbling.

ECD, which reported five consecutive profitable quarters before two back-to-back quarterly losses, makes lightweight, flexible solar laminates for rooftops and buildings that convert sunlight into electricity.

The company also indicated that visibility remained poor.

“At this time, our project business is uneven with large discreet orders where the shipments and timing of revenue recognition are difficult to precisely forecast. As a result, our prior full year revenue production is no longer applicable,” Chief Financial Officer Harry Zike said on the call.

(more…)

November 4, 2009

First Solar buys 117 MW project from solar startup

Filed under: FSLR, PCG — Tags: , , , , , — Jason @ 8:39 pm

Wed Nov 4, 2009 8:39pm EST

* Solar thermal co Ausra started project in 2007

* Financial terms not disclosed

* First Solar says deal to make way for other project

LOS ANGELES, Nov 4 (Reuters) – Solar industry bellwether First Solar Inc (FSLR) said on Wednesday that it bought a 117 megawatt project in California from Kleiner Perkins-backed solar thermal start-up Ausra Inc, a move that could speed up another 550 MW project in First Solar’s pipeline.

The companies did not disclose the financial terms.

Ausra, which is also backed by Khosla Ventures, said that the sale of the project — called Carrizo Energy Solar Farm — follows its strategy to move away from developing solar projects and focus on supplying large-scale solar steam generators.

“The sale of Carrizo is another step in executing our plan,” said Tom Bartolomei, senior vice president of business development at Ausra, in a statement.

Ausra landed a power purchasing agreement with California utility PG&E (PCG) two years ago for the project, located in San Luis Obispo County. That agreement was withdrawn as part of the sale, the company said.

First Solar can use the newly acquired land to revise the layout of the larger 550 MW Topaz Solar Farm project, which has run into “concerns such as farmland conservation and wildlife needs,” said Kathryn Arbeit, who oversees Topaz.

Both projects include land near each other in San Luis Obispo County.

Shares of First Solar closed down 2 percent at $121.59 on Wednesday on the Nasdaq.

(Reporting by Laura Isensee; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

SolarWorld keeps 2009 outlook, Q3 weak

Filed under: FSLR — Tags: , , , , — Jason @ 8:20 am

Wed Nov 4, 2009 8:20am EST

* Confirms 2009 sales outlook of 1 bln eur

* Q3 EBIT 34.7 mln eur vs 38 mln eur estimate

* Company had to fend off 25 pct price slump

* Shares up 1.5 percent vs FTSE clean tech index up 0.8 pct

By Christoph Steitz

FRANKFURT, Nov 4 (Reuters) – SolarWorld on Wednesday reaffirmed a full-year sales target of 1 billion euros ($1.47 billion) despite cutting prices by a quarter and missing third-quarter operating earnings forecasts.

Germany’s No.3 solar company reported third-quarter sales at 232.5 million euros and earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) amounted at 34.7 million. Analysts in a Reuters poll on average expected sales of 270 million and core earnings of 38 million.

Overcapacity of solar cells and modules has led to massive price declines, bringing growth in the once-booming sector to a near standstill at a time when companies have huge difficulties finding funding for cash-intensive solar projects.

“We had to stave off a price fall of 25 percent,” SolarWorld Chief Executive Frank Asbeck, sometimes called the “Sonnenkoenig” (Sun King), told Reuters, adding that some of it was offset by cost cuts.

SolarWorld’s shares rose 1.5 percent by 1224 GMT, outperforming the FTSE clean tech index .FTET50, which gained 0.8 percent.

SolarWorld has survived the downturn better than its peers, countering massive price declines for cells and modules by making everything from components to panels.

FILTER THROUGH

But analysts have warned it was only a matter of time before the price slump would filter through to players that are active in more than one part of the solar value chain.

Larger Norwegian rival Renewable Energy Corporation ASA (REC) — which had sales of 6.480 billion Norwegian crowns ($1.11 billion) in the first nine months of 2009 — said last week overcapacity in the industry would continue into next year. It missed third-quarter forecasts.

Yet in some regions it spotted early signs of improved demand for modules, a slightly more optimistic view than U.S. bellwether First Solar (FSLR) gave last week.

The question is now whether SolarWorld will be able to meet its 1 billion euros sales target.

“This seems aggressive as it is based on record sales of 366 million euros in the fourth quarter,” SES Research analyst Karsten von Blumenthal wrote, keeping a “buy” rating.

Societe Generale analyst Didier Laurens, also with a “buy” rating on the stock, wrote that the company’s existing inventory should enable the group to meet its sales target.

Analysts in a Reuters poll expect on average full-year sales of 976 million euros.

(Additional reporting by Anneli Palmen in Duesseldorf)

November 2, 2009

Q-Cells ends LDK supply agreement, claims guarantee

Filed under: FSLR, LDK, WFR — Tags: , , , , , — Jason @ 2:51 pm

Mon Nov 2, 2009 2:51pm EST

* Q-Cells to apply to draw on bank guarantee

* LDK disputes Q-Cells claims, says will defend itself

* LDK shares tumble 20 pct; Q-Cells down 2.5 pct

By Christoph Steitz and Laura Isensee

FRANKFURT/LOS ANGELES, Nov 2 (Reuters) – Germany’s Q-Cells ended an agreement with its Chinese solar wafer supplier, LDK Solar (LDK), a sign that the solar industry is continuing to struggle with an oversupply of materials.

Q-Cells, one of the world’s largest makers of solar cells, said on Monday that LDK did not fulfill “significant contractual obligations” in a 10-year agreement to supply wafers to Q-Cells. The companies entered the contract when wafer prices were much higher.

LDK, whose shares dropped 20 percent on Monday, said in a statement that it “vigorously disagrees” with Q-Cells’ claims and plans to defend itself against what it called a wrongful termination.

The move comes as manufacturers of solar cells and panels around the world are struggling with oversupply that has driven down prices and curbed demand.

Prices for polysilicon — a key raw material for the solar industry — and for solar panels have tumbled dramatically in the last year, forcing many players to renegotiate contracts.

“People are coping with oversupply and companies are learning that long-term contracts don’t mean much in a down cycle,” said Oppenheimer & Co analyst Sam Dubinsky.

Q-Cells said in a statement that “the contractual parties have differing opinions concerning the validity of the termination of the agreement” and its plans to reclaim a $244.5 million prepayment it made in 2008 related to the agreement.

“Discussions between the two companies and a parallel arbitration process at the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) in Paris have not resulted in an amicable settlement yet,” the company added.

(more…)

October 29, 2009

Solar power execs bullish on 2010 despite earnings

Filed under: FSLR, SPWR, STP — Tags: , , , , , , — Jason @ 7:36 pm

Thu Oct 29, 2009 7:36pm EDT

* Execs with Suntech, BP Solar, others see growth in 2010

* Driven by government aid, improved financial markets

* See fall in panel prices stabilizing

By Laura Isensee

ANAHEIM, California, Oct 29 (Reuters) – Executives from solar power companies see clearer skies in 2010 for the beleaguered industry, even as quarterly reports from heavyweights like First Solar Inc. (FSLR) and SunPower Corp (SPWRA, SPWRB) have disappointed investors and dragged down shares.

The industry has struggled to emerge this year from tight credit markets, a global glut of panels and falling prices.

“I think we’re already in the middle of a turnaround. We’ve kind of gone through the low point of the recent past,” said Steven Chan, Suntech Power Holdings Co Ltd’s (STP) chief strategy officer, in an interview with Reuters.

Executives from Sharp Corp, BP’s (BP) solar unit and other solar power players shared similar optimism about the sector’s outlook in 2010 at the Solar Power International conference being held in Anaheim, California, this week.

“Demand’s really good going into 2010. Visibility is a hell of a lot better than it was coming into 2009,” SunPower’s chief executive Tom Werner told reporters at the conference.

The industry, which grew at a clip of more than 40 percent for several years, has suffered in the recession, but solar companies kept a bullish attitude on growth next year.

Executives cited various forces that could drive growth in 2010, including U.S. stimulus funds for green projects, extended tax incentives and new financing.

(more…)

First Solar Crushed; Merrill, Caris, Gabelli Downgrade

Filed under: FSLR — Tags: , , , , , — Jason @ 3:20 pm

By Eric Savitz
barrons.com

First Solar (FSLR) shares are getting absolutely crushed today, after a disappointing Q3 earnings report and weaker Q4 guidance. The combination triggered some extremely bearish Street commentary, and spurred at least three analysts to issue downgrades.

* Bank of America/Merrill Lynch analyst Steven Mliunovich cut his rating on the stock to Neutral from Buy, with a new price target of $135, down from $180. He chopped his 2010 EPS estimate to $7.22, from $6.25. “It’s difficult to see upside catalysts given concerns regarding pricing and the German feed-in tariff along with the company’s limited ability to increase production if demand surprises on the upside.,” he writes. “We see four quarters of year-over-year earnings declines, not typically good for stock performance.”

* Caris & Co. analyst Ben Pang cut his rating to Above Average from Buy, and reduced his target to $162 from $205. He says that “earnings leverage is trending below our expectations…as pricing erosion and potential tariff changes will continue to pressure margins.” He says FSLR is likely go gain share, but that multiple expansion is unlikely unless the company can deliver higher efficiencies or better margins.

* Gabelli & Co. analyst Hendi Susanto downgraded the stock to Hold from Buy, noting that the pricing outlook is uncertain given a potential FIT reduction in Germany and competition with silicon-based providers. Susanto says the reduced rating reflects “narrowing margin and concern about impact of FIT reduction and further pricing competition with crystalline silicon modules.”

Meanwhile, Pacific Crest analyst Mack Bachman writes that press reports that the revenue miss reflects a revenue recognition push-out from a single project are wrong. “The revenue miss was due to a lack of module sales despite management giving away more than $60 million in price concessions in Q3,” he writes. “We are concerned that the rebate did not create demand.” His advice: “Put money to work elsewhere.”

FSLR today is down $22.96, or 15.2%, to $128.62

First Solar shares plunge on 3Q revenue miss

Filed under: FSLR — Tags: , , , , , — Jason @ 2:57 pm

First Solar shares plunge sharply on 3rd-qtr revenue miss, but analysts remain bullish

2:57 pm EDT, Thursday October 29, 2009

NEW YORK (AP) — Shares of First Solar Inc. (FSLR) tumbled Thursday after the nation’s largest solar panel maker reported third-quarter revenue far below analyst expectations, even though analysts remained bullish on the company.

First Solar shares plunged $22.69, or 15 percent, to $128.89 in afternoon trading. The stock has traded between $85.28 and $207.51 over the past year.

Late Wednesday, the company reported a 55 percent leap in third-quarter earnings on a 38 percent increase in revenue. But sales of $480.9 million missed the average analyst estimate of $528.8 million, as measured by a Thomson Reuters survey.

The company said its Sarnia project in Canada is about 65 percent complete. Although all modules produced during the quarter were shipped, about $58 million in revenue won’t be recognized until the fourth quarter, the company said.

“This is truly a timing issue,” Chairman Mike Ahearn said on a conference call with analysts. “That project has been sold, the contract wasn’t signed until early in the fourth quarter. We remain on track for annual guidance.”

“Don’t sweat the revenue miss,” said John Roy, an analyst with Janney Capital Markets. He reiterated a “Buy” rating and $185 share price target.

“While the lower revenue was a slight disappointment, we do not view it as a cause for concern and believe it will be made up in the fourth quarter,” Roy said in a note to clients. He added that the results do not change his view that First Solar should remain the low-cost industry leader for the foreseeable future and will likely gain share value in large-scale projects.

Lazard Capital Markets analyst Sanjay Shrestha said First Solar’s pressured share price presents an opportunity to buy up shares at a discount. He reiterated a “Buy” rating and $190 price target.

Jefferies & Co. analyst Paul Clegg said First Solar is positioned to generate greater cash flow returns than its peers, and he can hardly imagine a market scenario where that is not the case.

“We believe that First Solar’s cost structure will remain the lowest in the industry even if silicon prices continue to decline,” Clegg said as he maintained his “Hold” rating and $130 price target.

First Solar falls 17%, but analysts calm

Filed under: FSLR — Tags: , , , , — Jason @ 11:04 am

NEW YORK (MarketWatch) — First Solar (FSLR) fell 17% to $126.60 on Thursday after the thin film solar panel maker weighed in with its earnings. Analysts at Jefferies said First Solar missed its revenue target due to $58 million in sales that will be recognized in the fourth quarter. Jefferies reiterated its hold rating and price target of $130 a share. “We believe that First Solar’s cost structure will remain the lowest in the industry even if silicon prices continue to decline,” analysts said.

Lazard Capital Markets reiterated its buy rating on the stock. “With shares under pressure on revenue deferral into fourth quarter and concern surrounding margin guidance, which simply reflects a higher mix of system business, we encourage accumulating positions on this weakness,” Lazard analysts said.

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