Please visit
for new posts.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Additional Solarvalue AG Secondary Placements Planned

Solarvalue AG (XETRA:SV7) ( announced Successful Private Placement Increases Solarvalue AG's Equity on the DGAP ad hoc service. Sorry, I can’t link to DGAP articles anymore since they have converted to a slick Web 2.0 style interface. Solarvalue placed 275,000 shares with investment funds, asset managers, and private individuals raising share capital to 840,000. Back at the Berlin Press Conference, Solarvalue talked about increasing share capital by 115,000 to 565,000, so this placement is in addition to that capital increase.

Claiming liquid assets of 2 million, Solarvalue appears undercapitalized to complete the upgrades required at the TDR facility to begin Solar Grade Silicon production. Solarvalue confirms this by disclosing plans for more secondary placements in the first six months of 2007 and presenting at the Kepler Equities Alternative Energies Conference in Paris on February 1, 2007.

Solarvalue has a new Investor Relations contact: Maximillian Fischer of max. Equity Marketing GmbH. Despite this new resource, I have not yet received a reply to my questions about Friday’s press release (see Solarvalue to proceed without Strategic Partners) on Solarvalue’s new arrangement with partner, W&P Profil.

With all these plans for secondary offerings, individual investors should be extra cautious with Solarvalue AG stock as every share increase is dilutive to existing share holders.

Labels: ,

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Solarvalue to proceed without Strategic Partners

Solarvalue AG (XETRA:SV7) ( announced Adjusted Business Plan offers new opportunities and guarantees Solarvalue AG's independence on the DGAP ad hoc service. Solarvalue says that less money is needed to convert the facility to solar grade silicon production, and they have more capital from recent share placements and a new arrangement with partner W&P Profil d.o.o.

I have sent a request to Solarvalue for further clarification of their new arrangement with W&P Profil. I don’t think the press release was clear on this.

It is hard to gauge the impact of this adjustment. Could suitable terms not be reached with the strategic partners? Conspiracy theorists will propose other plausible explanations. I know I thought the original plan ceded too much ownership to the strategic partners for their small equity investment.

Later in the press release, Solarvalue explains the M6 arc furnace will first be converted to solar grade silicon production instead of M5. If you read Solar Grade Silicon roads lead to Ruše - Part 2, you know that M6 is supposed to require modifications to rotate for ideal metallurgical silicon production. After two months since the original schedule was announced, production has slipped by a quarter to the third quarter (3Q) 2007. Solarvalue will need to execute on the new schedule before their claim of 850 metric tons of 2007 production is credible.

If Solarvalue does not require strategic partners, the pressure is on for them to sign silicon supply contracts to pre sell a portion of their solar grade silicon production. The would be strategic partners are prime candidates.

I am pressed for time this morning, but I will post a follow up article early next week.

Monday, January 22, 2007

PV Technology, Performance, and Cost – 2006

New photovoltaic report co-authored by Paul Maycock, PV Energy Systems, and Travis Bradford, the Prometheus Institute for Sustainable Development

I received an email about the release of this report, PV Technology, Performance, and Cost – 2006, last week, although the report was first announced in a December 19, 2006, press release. Before searching, I had also not noticed this IN FOCUS write up titled New Report Projects Future for the Global PV Market.

The PV Technology, Performance, and Cost – 2006 report features over 50 pages and 42 figures with chapters covering:
  • World PV Market Conditions Through 2005
  • Cell and Module Technology
  • Crystalline Silicon Ingots, Cells, and Modules
  • Other Current PV Technologies
  • Conclusions: PV Technology/Cost Summary
A sample figure was included in the email projecting:
manufacturing costs and profitability for current and emerging technologies through 2015.
At the price of $1200, the report’s appeal is limited to PV industry insiders, trade groups, investment analysts, governments, and think tanks. Be aware that only one half of the report price benefits the Prometheus Institute, a registered 501(c)3 non-profit organization.

If you prefer to try before you buy, the Tables of Contents and Figures from the report can be perused here. Inside Greentech has an interview with Mr. Bradford (I assume all references to Beckford are in fact Bradford?), Watch for falling solar margins, says report, by Dallas Kachan.

In a prior Blog post, DEAL! Solarvalue AG purchase receives final approval, I recommended reading the free report, Polysilicon: Supply, Demand & Implications for the PV Industry (free registration required for download), from The Prometheus Institute for Sustainable Development. I welcome a chance to write an independent review of the report, and I promise not to give the conclusions or ending away but provide a cost benefit assessment. I wonder if the Prometheus Institute folks will be interested in this proposal?

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Solar Camera defends Solar Gadget Crown

[Las Vegas, Nevada USA]

2007 International CES

As a 2006 International CES Innovations Honoree, the JASCO GE Wireless SolarCam(TM) was not new, but this weatherproofed wireless surveillance camera charges an internal battery with a small array of multicrystalline solar cells. To conserve power and minimize useless surveillance footage, SolarCam is activated by onboard motion detectors.

Craig Morris, Product Manager, GE SmartHome(TM),
 Jasco Products Company, said,
The SolarCam has an internal charger circuit and 6V lead acid battery. Expected battery life is about 2 years, and SolarCam needs about 4 to 6 hours of sunlight per day to maintain a full charge.
SolarCam transmits a proprietary 2.4GHz wireless video and audio signal to an indoor receiver with an analog television connection. The receiver can be up to 150 feet (~ 45.7 meters) away and supports four SolarCams. A receiver remote control enables intense surveillance anytime by overriding the motion detectors.

SolarCam has a Manufacturers Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of $199.99 and can be purchased from JASCO direct by phone (see contact page).

The JASCO Products Company uses the GE brand under a licensing agreement with General Electric Company (NYSE:GE) for GE Home Electric and SmartHome products.

I will cover products on the solar charger and solar panel front in my final CES post, but regular readers can expect a photovoltaic post further up the value chain next.

Special thanks are in order to EPIA, the European Photovoltaic Industry Association, for including four posts from GUNTHER Portfolio in their Solaris Newsletter - January 2007. This is a real honor for the Blog.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Etón Rumored to Plan Solar Powered Radio

[Las Vegas, Nevada USA]

2007 International CES

I have spent the past three days, January 8-10, 2007, trolling the aisles of the Sands Expo and Convention Center and the Las Vegas Convention Center at the 2007 International CES looking for solar photovoltaic powered products.

I heard from an informed source that Etón Corporation plans to introduce a solar powered radio towards the end of the second quarter or early third quarter of 2007. Although my source did not know details about the specification, I would guess this solar powered radio will be part of the FR series of Self-Powered AM/FM/Shortwave Radios. No word if a dynamo crank is also included or the estimated MSRP (Manufacturers Suggested Retail Price).

Etón began as an exclusive North American licensee for Grundig shortwave radios in 1986. The core consumer electronics business of Grundig was acquired in 2004 by a joint venture between BEKO Elektronik A.S. (IST:BEKO) and Alba plc (LON:ABA).

In an annual CES ritual, CES attendees, exhibitors, and, yes, even press, were scamming for ways to attend or just watch as members of the TRADE and talent arrived for the first day of the 2007 AVN Adult Entertainment Expo (AEE). FAN Tickets are $75 at the door for a single day admission starting Thursday, January 11, 2007, through Saturday, January 13, 2007. I know nothing. I saw nothing. NOTHING.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Photovoltaic Conference and Exhibition Preview 2007

Near and long term plans for event coverage

In chronological order, here are the conferences I am interested in covering or following in 2007. My focus is on technical conferences and business to business tradeshows, not regional marketing and sales events. Time and budget resources won’t allow me to visit all of them.

2007 International CES (Consumer Electronics Show)
January 8-11, 2007

Las Vegas, Nevada USA

While this tradeshow is solar lite, I am on the prowl for solar powering and solar powered gadgets and accessories. This is my fourth straight year visiting CES and my first with accreditation.

International Conference on Solar Concentrators for the Generation of Electricity or Hydrogen (ICSC-4)
March 12-16, 2007
San Lorenzo del Escorial (near Madrid), Spain

Photovoltaic concentrator technologies are hot, and I predict this biannual conference will experience the highest percentage increase in attendance of any solar photovoltaic event in 2007. Reduced rate registration is available before January 26, 2007, at a reasonable price of 350€ rising to 450€ after that. Alas I don’t think my schedule will permit a week visit in March, but I will need the proceedings for follow up articles.

Photovoltaic Technology Show 2007
April 3-5, 2007

(Muenchen), Germany

While I was skeptical about this PHOTON sponsored event, industry insiders praise the event for the Silicon Summit (4th Solar Silicon Conference). Even a silicon oligarch was jealous with praise for the fees PHOTON was raking in with this conference! The PV Production Equipment Conference and PV Investors Conference have been added this year. I would like to cover this event, but I won’t hold my breath waiting for an accreditation given my past experiences with PHOTON.

Intersolar 2007
June 21-23, 2007
Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany

While I enjoyed the Solar Promotion sponsored PV Industry Forum last year before Intersolar 2006, I am not sure I will be attending Intersolar this year since I view this as a regional show oriented towards the German market. In 2008, Intersolar will move to larger fairgrounds in Munich.

22nd European Photovoltaic Solar Energy Conference and Exhibition
September 3-7, 2007

Milan, Italy

This is my must cover conference selection for 2007. With the comprehensive conference program, the official PV Industry Forum, and the expanded trade exhibition, this is the best annual technical and business to business solar conference and exhibition =bar none=.

Solar Power 2007
September 24-27, 2007

Long Beach, California USA

Solar Power is the premiere US solar business to business event. While there is a technical component to Solar Power, I consider this conference and exhibition to be a regional US market event. Since I have a keen interest in the US photovoltaic market, I will be certain to cover Solar Power this year in Long Beach.

20th NREL Industry Growth Forum
Fall 2007 (specific date not announced)

Denver, Colorado USA

A great two day conference about technologies the latest solar startups are developing for commercialization and pitching to venture capitalists and investors.

8. Forum Solarpraxis (website online end of January 2007)
November 15-16, 2007

Berlin, Germany

I enjoyed covering the 7. Forum Solarpraxis in 2006 while I was in Berlin for the Solarvalue press conference. I found the Analyst Conferences (but see SOLON AG CEO Kicks PV Blogger Out of Analyst Conference) most interesting in getting a clear picture of the German solar market environment.

17th International Photovoltaic Science and Engineering Conference (PVSEC-17)
December 3-7, 2007

Fukuoka, Japan

This event strikes me as the Asian equivalent of EU PVSEC with more Japanese photovoltaic company participation. I would love to cover this event, but the timing before the Christmas holidays may make this impractical for me, but you never know…

And in the Press Room here at the 2007 International CES, the press folks were watching Steve Jobs’ keynote address at the Macworld Expo and cheering on the announcement of the iPhone. One reporter decided to “blow off” a meeting with Intel in favor of doing a write up on Apple’s iPhone.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Motech and AE Polysilicon ink Polycrystalline Silicon Feedstock Supply Agreement

Motech and AE Polysilicon Sign Strategic Supply Agreement

AE Polysilicon Corporation signs supply agreement to supply Motech Industries

A duet of press releases from Motech and AE Polysilicon appeared at the Motech Solar (中文, English translation) website on December 29, 2006.

Motech Industries Inc. (TPO:6244) announced a five year strategic supply agreement with AE Polysilicon Corporation for polysilicon delivery. As press releases go, there is interesting phraseology and new facts in both of them.
Under the Strategic Supply Agreement, polysilicon delivery from AE to Motech is expected to begin as early as 2008, and the annual delivery quantity will be up to 2,400 metric tons. Under the terms of the Strategic Supply Agreement, AE receives certain upfront prepayments and purchase commitments, and Motech is granted certain equity investment and conversion rights, and certain rights to purchase polysilicon at pre-negotiated, formula-based prices rather than market prices.
The Chinese version of the press release seems to indicate the latest PR is revealing the details of the original letter of intent and implies activities have been proceeding before the formal agreement was signed. But, it appears Motech is unsure AE Polysilicon can deliver or hedging their Taiwanese safe harbor statement bets:
Because AE is a development stage company implementing new technology, there can be no assurance that AE will be able to fulfill its polysilicon delivery commitments, and, as with any new technology, unforeseen issues may arise.
Per traditional Guanxi style Chinese business practices, besides Motech’s direct investments in AE Polysilicon, Motech has:
authorized certain officers and directors of Motech to make parallel direct investments in AE with personal funds. Motech also notes that the CEO of its solar division, Dr. Simon Tsuo, is the brother of the founder of AE, Dr. York Tsuo; and that Simon Tsuo also owns shares in AE. While Motech believes that such arrangements serve to strengthen the strategic ties between Motech and AE, and indeed have facilitated the recent negotiations between Motech and AE, Motech has also implemented certain procedures to avoid potential conflicts. Those procedures include approval of all Motech-AE transactions by an independent Board member of Motech, which was obtained in this case.
Instead of creating this conflict of interest dilemma, why didn’t Motech just take a larger stake in AE Polysilicon to the benefit of all Motech shareholders? I don’t think there will be a US stock market listing of Motech ADRs any time soon.

New facts about AE Polysilicon are disclosed. AE mentions their fluidized bed reactor process requires trichlorosilane and uses fluidized bed deposition reactor technology proprietary to AE and patented technologies licensed from a third party. AE claims to have closed a first round of venture funding from private and strategic investors.
AE has identified a “brown-field” site in the United States upon which to construct its first commercial production plant and has contracted engineering firms to commence design and engineering work. A package of economic incentives for the plant is currently awaiting regulatory approval.
The brown field site appears to be located in Clinton, New Jersey, from the Chinese press release. New Jersey is an inspired choice for a new silicon production facility; the Garden State has the dubious distinction of leading the nation with the most Superfund Sites. Also, New Jersey has been keen on attracting renewable energy companies, investments, and jobs in support of New Jersey’s progressive Clean Energy Program™ (NJCEP,

AE confirms plans for an initial Phase 1 capacity of 1,500 metric tons per year with operations beginning by the end of 2008. This seems to indicate Motech won’t be receiving any significant volumes of silicon feedstock in 2008. AE tips ambitious plans for global production capacity of 10,000 metric tons per year by 2012 year-end.

Hannon Armstrong Capital and Thelen Reid Brown Raysman & Steiner LLP have been retained by AE Polysilicon to raise capital and help negotiate the financial, regulatory, and legal issues they will face in building a chemical production facility in a Northeastern US blue state with a history of “Pay to Play” dirty politics.

I first saw this news reported at The Bits + chips column, Solar cell maker Motech and AE Polysilicon sign supply agreement. Also, please see my previous posts about AE Polysilicon at AE Polysilicon Update and Unknowns NA Polysilicon, AE Polysilicon, and MST joining PV silicon party.

Given all the recent silicon coverage, I am starting to think the tagline for this Blog should be “All Silicon, All the Time”.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Solar Grade Silicon roads lead to Ruše - Part 2

[Maribor and Ruše, Slovenia]
TDR - Metalurgija Visit with Solarvalue AG

In Solar Grade Silicon roads lead to Ruše - Part 1, the tour of the TDR Facility began with the M1 arc furnace. The day after Part 1 was posted, Solarvalue AG (XETRA:SV7) ( announced the Purchase of Future Solar Grade Silicon Factory Concluded in Solarvalue Takes Over TDR Factory in Ruse or Solarvalue übernimmt TDR-Fabrik in Ruse on the DGAP ad hoc service. Solarvalue said:
Strategic investors are helping to finance the retrofitting of the factory.
Solarvalue plans to announce the strategic partners shortly, when all the details for publication have been agreed with the companies.
Information about the strategic partners should emerge in January 2007.

After passing through the Ferrosilicon production area, the M6 and M5 arc furnaces were next. Both of these arc furnaces are housed in a newer building, circa the early 1980’s, built before the Iron Curtain fell. Mr. Mott was impressed with the solid, spare no expense construction of this building. Belgrade is alleged to have financed this expansion with Yugoslavian Defense spending.

The M6 arc furnace is somewhat smaller than M1 in circumference. As can be seen in the tapping floor photo, the M6 furnace is stationary and was manufactured by
Elkem AS despite the dropped “L” from the name plate (Note to Elkem: Consider supplying a new name plate gratis to TDR for branding and quality perception purposes). Elkem is part of Orkla ASA (OSL:ORK), a 1960’s style conglomerate of Branded Consumer Goods, Specialty materials, and Financial Investments businesses. During of the visit, M6 was in operation producing Ferrosilicon, an alloy of iron and silicon with between 15 and 90% silicon. Per the control room panel, M6 was operating at 14MW (Megawatt). Alternate tap holes are utilized on the M6 arc furnace to improve thermal uniformity and prevent heat build up at a single tap hole.

Here is a look down one of the M6 electrodes at the top floor of the building. Although I was being careful, I’m glad John Mott reminded me not to touch the electrode when I was taking this photo. The electrodes are consumed during arc furnace operation and new sections are attached at the top floor to replenish the electrode material.

The 12 MW M5 submerged electric arc furnace will be the first setup for metallurgical silicon production by Solarvalue. M5 has been out of operation since about early 2006. TDR personnel were already working to bring M5 back into service at the time of the visit. The tapping floor photo of the M5 arc furnace reveals a critical feature required for silicon metal production: the ability to rotate. Even though M5 completes a full rotation perhaps every few days, this movement brings uniformity to the molten silicon metal saving electricity and slowing the buildup of a greenish black tinted mixture of Silicon carbide (SiC), Quartz, and Silicon at the bottom of the arc furnace. Routine maintenance is required to remove this nasty mix, and high velocity BX explosive may be needed to make cracks and fissures in the hardened material to allow jack hammers to complete the cleanup task.

Here is a view inside the M5 furnace while it was being reconditioned for restart. Wood panels have been placed across the top level of the hearth to facilitate carbon electrode maintenance activities.

Figure from Elkem website

Solarvalue Process I will produce metallurgical silicon (mg-Si) by the Carbothermic Reduction process using high purity quartz ranging from 10-20mm up to 100-150mm in size and high purity carbon sources including coke, low ash coal, hardwood chips, or charcoal.

Oxygen is separated from quartz (silica or SiO2) through reduction with carbon at high temperatures to yield silicon and carbon monoxide (CO) as summarized by the equation:

2C + SiO2 -> Si + 2CO

High alternating electric current, on the order of 50 to 60 kA (kilo Amps) in the secondary conductors, flows into the three carbon electrodes to generate an arc, and the arc current and radiant energy heats the quartz and carbon charge mix above 2200 degrees C to enable the reduction reaction. The arc is regulated and constant current is maintained during the process by raising or lowering the electrodes with an automatic positioning system to control resistance. Copper bus bars and water-cooled cables carry current to the electrodes from three separate transformers.

Intermediate reactions generate gaseous silicon monoxide (SiO) and solid silicon carbide before molten silicon can be tapped and forming by-products SiO and CO. The SiO oxidizes with the atmosphere to reform as a dust like SiO2 referred to as silica fume which is captured and sold for industrial applications.

As the tour moved on from M5 and we walked between the TDR stone buildings to the future Solar Grade Silicon Production building, John remarked the TDR facility and Slovenia reminded him of a James Bond movie. “Goldfinger,” I said. John agreed. My unconscious reaction was to look over my shoulder for an Aston Martin DB5.

In Part 3, the TDR tour will conclude and Process II and Process III of the Solarvalue Method for Solar Grade Silicon production will be reviewed.

GP Note: Solarvalue reimbursed me for my flights to Berlin and Graz. I maintain independent editorial control over this article series, I have not been paid to write them, and I do not own any shares of Solarvalue AG stock.

Sources for additional information:
How Products Are Made :: Volume 6 Silicon
Understanding Electric Arc Furnace Operations (schematic but steel focused)
Reference Document on Best Available Techniques in the Non Ferrous Metals Industries December 2001 European Commission pp 142-144, 557-560