North Coast Solar Stocks

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.”

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August 13, 2009

Q-Cells to cut about 500 jobs in restructuring

Filed under: FSLR, JASO, KYO, LDK — Tags: , , , , , — Jason @ 3:49 am

Thu Aug 13, 2009 3:49am EDT

* Q-Cells says to review all investment projects

* Aims to reduce production costs by 25 pct

* Books further write-down for REC, H1 loss 697 mln euros

* Phoenix Solar EBIT lags expectations, confirms ’09 outlook

* Q-Cells indicated down 6.6 pct, Phoenix Solar up 0.4 pct

By Christoph Steitz

FRANKFURT, Aug 13 (Reuters) – Q-Cells, one of the world’s biggest makers of solar cells, is planning to slash about a fifth of its workforce, it said on Thursday, in a move to counter the effects of a price war.

“Together with the necessary reduction in overheads in all areas, around 500 jobs will be cut permanently. Short-time work will continue to be in operation at the Thalheim plant depending on the market development,” Q-Cells said in a statement, adding it would review all investment projects.

It now employs about 2,600 staff.

The news comes a day after Chinese rivals JA Solar Holdings Co Ltd (JASO) and LDK Solar Co Ltd (LDK) posted quarterly net losses due to a price slump that has put a sudden stop to growth in the sector.

Q-Cells in July withdrew its 2009 sales forecast after the price slump and high operating costs brought a 62 million-euro ($87.58 million) second-quarter operating loss. At the same time it announced outline details of the restructuring program.

It expects the restructuring to cut production costs by 25 percent, necessary after Asian rivals cut prices.

In the first half of 2009 the company made a net loss of 696.9 million euros, caused by further writedowns on the sale of its stake in Norway’s Renewable Energy Corp in May. The writedowns were widely expected by analysts.

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November 14, 2008

Kyocera says to build solar cell plant in Japan

Filed under: KYO, STP — Tags: , , — Jason @ 12:53 am

Fri Nov 14, 2008 12:53am EST

TOKYO, Nov 14 (Reuters) – Japan’s Kyocera Corp (KYO), the world’s No. 4 solar cell maker, said on Friday it would build its second solar cell factory as it plans to more than double its output in three years to meet growing demand.

Kyocera, which trails Germany’s Q-Cells, domestic rival Sharp Corp and China’s Suntech Power Holdings Co (STP), declined to say how much it was investing. Local media put the figure at 40 billion yen ($412 million).

Demand for solar cells is growing rapidly due to high oil prices and concerns over climate change, and has also been boosted by government subsidies and incentives.

The Kyoto-based Kyocera plans to increase its solar cell output to 650 megawatts by March 2012 from expected 300 megawatts in the current year to March 2009, seeking to keep pace with growing demand for renewable energy.

Kyocera’s output still lags far behind market leader Q-Cells’ plan to ramp up capacity to 1,000 megawatts in 2009 and 2,500 megawatts in 2010. The new plant in Shiga Prefecture, western Japan, is scheduled to begin operations in 2010, the company said.

November 6, 2008

Akeena Solar Announces Third Quarter 2008 Results

Filed under: AKNS, KYO, STP — Tags: , , , , — Jason @ 8:15 am

Thursday November 6, 8:15 am ET

LOS GATOS, Calif., Nov. 6, 2008 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Akeena Solar, Inc. (AKNS), a leading designer and installer of solar power systems, today announced results for the third quarter of 2008.

“Akeena bounced back in the third quarter with our second best revenue quarter ever,” said Barry Cinnamon, president and chief executive officer. “Revenue rose 31% from last year’s third quarter and 50% from the second quarter on the strength of commercial installations. In fact, commercial revenues quadrupled versus the third quarter a year ago and more than doubled from the second quarter as installation crews focused on commercial jobs with year end deadlines.”

“Our transition to Andalay is nearly complete, and demand for our proprietary panels continues to expand in both residential and commercial markets. As a result, we ended the quarter with a record backlog of $16.7 million,” Cinnamon added. “With the passage of the ITC, many commercial jobs are progressing to the installation stage. Residential customers are contracting with us now before state rebates decline, then they are simply interconnecting their systems in 2009 so that they are eligible for the uncapped 30% ITC. These factors support our expectation that we will generate revenue growth this year in the range of 30% to 40%, consistent with prior guidance.”

“As we begin planning for 2009 with an uncapped ITC for residential customers, a restoration of the commercial tax credit and new utility opportunities, we’re anticipating substantial growth in the U.S. market. We are laying the groundwork for significant sales in the burgeoning utility market now that utilities can take advantage of the 30% ITC. Since our Andalay flat roof system is both light-weight and non-penetrating, it is ideally suited for flat rooftops leased by utilities,” added Cinnamon. “Our gross margins are expected to improve as we gain greater operational efficiency with the installation of Andalay and we achieve Andalay cost reductions in the second year of production from our OEM partners. We also expect to reduce our operational expenses in 2009 as we improve our sales and marketing efficiencies, and reduce our customer acquisition costs.”

Cinnamon concluded, “Worldwide conditions in the solar industry have put us in an enviable position in the solar value chain. Supply of solar modules exceeds demand, especially since manufacturing capacity continues to increase and shipments to Europe have slowed down. As a result, module manufacturers are now looking towards the U.S., which is expected to be the largest worldwide market. There are only three ways to differentiate solar modules: low price (which generally is an unprofitable strategy), high efficiency (which is expensive and technically challenging), or superior aesthetics, reliability and fast installation times. Our patented Andalay technology excels in these latter dimensions, and our current OEM partners Suntech (STP) and Kyocera (KYO) understand these benefits.”

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June 23, 2008

Japan looks to solar subsidies to boost industry

Filed under: KYO, STP — Tags: , , , — Jason @ 6:48 am

Mon Jun 23, 2008 6:48am EDT
By Mayumi Negishi

TOKYO, June 23 (Reuters) – Japan is poised to bring back subsidies for solar panel makers next year to maintain its lead in the industry, two officials at its Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry said.

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) will receive recommendations from a panel that is due to discuss clean energy on Tuesday, officials said.

The ideas discussed include subsidies and tax breaks that could halve the cost of putting up solar panels in households, one said.

“It’s clear that lack of vision dented Japan’s lead in market share,” said the official, who asked not to be named as he was not authorised to speak to the media. “Japan has the technological advantage. But the measures would have to be drastic if we are to keep our lead.”

Japan has watched domestic solar demand dry up after it pulled the plug on subsidies, hurting firms’ ability to invest in research and expansion abroad.

Japan’s decision to scrap solar subsidies helped Germany’s Q-Cells AG beat Japan’s Sharp Corp to become the No.1 supplier of solar cells, while China’s Suntech Power Holdings Co Ltd (STP) nudge out Kyocera Corp (KYO) for third place, analysts said.

Japan, still the world’s biggest supplier of solar cells, made a mistake scrapping solar subsidies in 2005, said Nomura analyst Tetsuya Wadaki.

“The tide won’t change quickly. But Japan has owned up to its mistake. Now there is ample hope,” he said.

Because of the low barrier to entry in the solar market right now, Japanese firms will likely regain their technological edge only when thin-film technology becomes mainstream — around 2010, he, and other analysts, said.

Thin-film solar cells cost less to make because they use a fraction of the silicon used in other silicon-based solar cells, but they are now less efficient in turning sunlight into electricity.

Japanese firms’ failure to procure adequate silicon further puts a cap on growth in the next two to three years.

Reports about the panel’s proposals left shares of Sharp and Kyocera remained mostly unchanged, while Sanyo Electric Co Ltd, which owns a hybrid technology that combines elements of thin-film and existing silicon-based cells, closed up 3 percent at 274 yen.

Shares of makers of solar equipment on expectations that the measure would further spur investment in environmentally friendly energy.

Japan is also home to solar equipment suppliers such as Ulvac Inc, which jumped 7.8 percent, NPC Inc, which rose 6.2 percent and SES Co Ltd, which rose 15.7 percent.

Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda on June 9 announced a long-term goal to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 60-80 percent from current levels by 2050.

The initiative includes a target to have more than 70 percent of newly built houses equipped with solar panels by 2020.

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