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Thursday, May 31, 2007

Solar Photovoltaic company Rebrandings hit new High

Are commercials at the Olympic Games, FIFA World Cup, and Superbowl next?

I had just noticed a few solar photovoltaic company rebrandings earlier this week when I read the Phönix SonnenStrom AG (FRA:PS4) Annual General Meeting news on the DGAP ad hoc service (English, Deutsch). Heavens Goethe, Phönix SonnenStrom has decided to rename the company Phoenix Solar AG and change their internet address to (not active at post time and old logo shown). There is already a Chinese company, Taizhou phoenix solar Co., Ltd., parked at

Number two on the list is Evergreen Solar Launches Broad New Branding Campaign with an expensive multicolored logo and Think Beyond. tagline shown above to the left. The timing for this Evergreen Solar, Inc. (NASDAQ:ESLR) branding campaign was after the ill received Evergreen Solar Announces First Quarter 2007 Results and about one month before Evergreen Solar Announces Public Offering of Common Stock and Evergreen Solar Announces Pricing of Public Offering of Common Stock at $8.25 per share.

Completing the trio is ersol with new corporate design. ersol Solar Energy AG (FRA:ES6), a company known for its thriftiness, has also gone the rainbow colored logo route with the tagline ersol. Right from the start. The new logo shown left above has been rolled out across the ersol Group business segments as ersol Silicon, ersol Wafers, ersol Solar Cells, and ersol Modules. And yes, I noticed the new ersol branding while researching an Oerlikon Solar post about ersol Thin Film GmbH.

In the end, I believe solar photovoltaics is a commodity industry. If times get tough in the years ahead, these multicolored logos could be the first victims of aggressive corporate cost cutting measures.

I am thinking about jumping into the rebranding game. Maybe I should change the red and black GUNTHER Portfolio logo to orange and gray? Or perhaps green and gray? I will need to discuss this with my business card printer doing business as the Canon PIXMA iP1500. Even if my company name were in German, I would favor a dual language logo with Chinese translation a la Suntech Power instead of selling out my native tongue.

(Full disclosure: I still own some shares of ESLR stock).
Of course, all logos are the property of their respective holders.

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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Oerlikon Solar: Company Dramas upstage Thin Film progress

OC Oerlikon CEO leaves over executive pay controversy
API GmbH payments for productions systems delayed

Thomas Limberger CEO of OC Oerlikon Corporation AG (VTX:OERL), parent of the Oerlikon Solar division, left the company on May 7, 2007, per Oerlikon chief in shock exit. The Board of Directors appoints Uwe Krüger as new CEO of Oerlikon Group, and Mr. Limberger is said to have made his own decision on this.

The pay controversy began with the round about disclosure of Mr. Limberger’s compensation package in the Oerlikon 2006 Annual Report:

Members of the Executive Board were granted a total of 7000 Oerlikon shares with a value of CHF 2 million in the 2006 financial year and 40000 options with a value of CHF 0.9 million.

There were clear signs of trouble when Thomas Limberger, CEO of Oerlikon, foregoes granted options at his own request. Oerlikon’s Board of Directors swapped Mr. Limberger’s 40000 options not exercisable before January 1, 2009, for a 3000 share stock grant worth CHF 2.160.000 capping his 2006 compensation at a mere CHF 7.714.982 instead of the scandalous estimate of CHF 26 million. If that development didn’t indicate a short term view, then on April 25, 2007, in Statement of Thomas Limberger, CEO of OC Oerlikon Corporation AG, Pfäffikon, Mr. Limberger said:

With reference to rumours circulating many times in the media that I would shortly give up my position as CEO of Oerlikon, I would like to state in agreement with the Board of Directors that these speculations are without any foundation. On the contrary, I will keep on using all my strength and energy to continue the positive development of Oerlikon.

Oerlikon seems to make a habit of correcting the media to set the facts straight. Nevertheless, twelve (12) calendar days later, Mr. Limberger left the company.

In Applied Materials Solar shuts out Oerlikon Solar 3:0, I mentioned this CHF 320 million order from Saudi investor backed API GmbH in passing, and PHOTON International spun the deal as Oerlikon receives rather odd order for large thin-film factory and tipped the company parent as Clausthaler Solar GmbH. In a press release from April 19, 2007, titled Oerlikon Solar, the mysterious API GmbH has delayed payment for the ordered thin film amorphous silicon module plants though production continues as outlined in the purchase contract.

I realize these events may not be new news, but they seem to be under covered outside of Europe and German language publications. I plan to address positive developments regarding Oerlikon Solar in a future post.


Friday, May 25, 2007

Where is the SunPower SPR-315 Solar Module?

And M.SETEK makes first polysilicon

I’ve noticed a number of searches for SPR-315, first discussed in SunPower delivers larger module with 315W Peak Power during my coverage of Solar Power 2006. In the official press release, SunPower Announces High Power, Higher Efficiency Solar Panel, issued back on October 16, 2006, SunPower Corporation (NASDAQ:SPWR) said:

The new SPR-315 solar panel is planned for commercial availability in the Spring of 2007.

In April, SunPower Modules Recognized for Superior Quality and Efficiency mentions:

SunPower will begin delivering its SPR-315 solar panels to customers this summer.

Per the same press release, Sandia National Laboratories:

measured the actual power output of the SunPower 315 watt nameplate-rated solar panel at 321.65 watts, giving the panel an unprecedented [back-up] module efficiency of 19.7 percent.

As an astute reader commented on my first SPR-315 post, the specifications below released at Solar Power 2006 state the module has a Peak Power Tolerance of plus or minus five percent (+/- 5%). This means SPR-315 modules are guaranteed to be in a range from 299.25Wp (Watt peak) to 330.75Wp over the module’s 25 year operating life.

If you check the SunPower website, the specifications for the Gen 2 solar cells used in the SPR-315 and the SPR-315 solar module itself are not posted.

Since I missed SunPower’s Annual Stockholders' Meeting because of a last minute snafu, I listened to their presentations at recent investor conferences. On May 14, 2007, at the UBS 2007 Global Alternative Energy Conference, SunPower CEO Tom Werner mentioned M.SETEK Co.,Ltd. had made their first polysilicon 2 days ago but no ingots yet. Please see M.SETEK’s Polysilicon Plant Photo Preview and SunPower Extends and Expands M.Setek Silicon Supply Agreement for background detail.

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Monday, May 21, 2007

California Clean Tech Open 2007 Kick-off Event Wrap up

[San Francisco, California USA]

Closing Speakers headline the Event

Even though I took BART, I arrived late to the California Clean Tech Open 2007 launch event and missed the Welcome Introductions and opening speakers.

But first, there are six clean tech categories in the competition: Air, Water & Waste, Energy Efficiency, Green Building, Renewables, Smart Power, and Transportation. The California Clean Tech Open (CCTO) winner in each category will receive a "Start-Up In A Box" Prize Package worth $100,000: $50,000 in cash from the category prize sponsor and an additional $50,000 worth of sponsor donated office space and professional services.

The timeline for the CCTO business plan competition is as follows:

June 4, 2007Technology and Entrepreneur Matching Event
June 14, 2007

Executive Summary Workshop for Applicants
June 30, 2007Application Submissions Deadline
June – August 2007Innovators' Symposia and other Sponsor Events
July 26, 2007First Round Judging - Finalist Teams Announced
August – September 2007Clean Tech Entrepreneur Summer Workshop Series and Mentoring Services
September 19, 2007Submit Business Plan and Presentation Deadline
October 1-8, 2007Live Presentation to Judging Panel
October 30, 2007?2007 Competition Awards Ceremony (tentative date)

If you are interested in entering the Competition, please visit How To Enter The Competition to register and understand the competition process. In 2006, 47 finalist teams were selected from 156 business plan entrants for an intensive mentoring boot camp preparing them to present their business plans to the CCTO Judging Panel. The CCTO 2006 Competition Report has all the details about last year. My wild guess is the number of entrants in the CCTO competition will almost double to 300 this year. About 30 to 60 finalist teams will be selected from the Executive Summary submissions.

I found the panel discussion moderated by Kerry Dolan, Senior Editor, Forbes, to be a category prize sponsor showcase without any major revelations. By contrast, the Closing Speakers had practical advice and profound thoughts about the competition, business, clean tech, and energy policy.

The first was profiled in the post, GreenVolts CEO Bob Cart addresses California Clean Tech Open 2007 Kick-off Event.

Raj Atluru, Managing Director, Draper Fisher Jurvetson, shared Clean Tech words of wisdom from the venture capitalist viewpoint:

John Garamendi, Lieutenant Governor of California, focused on fundamental changes to our national Energy Policy as a critical driver for Clean Tech to prevent climate change. This is a decent political speech that avoids mentioning the The Governator (Governor Schwarzenegger) or the California Solar Initiative too much.

Garrett Hering, Associate Editor, PHOTON International, asked the Lieutenant Governor a question about the recent LA Times article, Rebate rule chills sales of solar (registration may be required), by Marc Lifsher, reporting:

Public Utilities Commission reports show a decline of 78% in rebate requests in the first three months of this year, compared with last year, and the solar installation industry says it is threatened with collapse across much of California.

It looks like California, New Jersey (NJCEP Spring 2007 CORE Program and Queues), and Ontario, Canada, (Mixed Reviews for Ontario's Feed-in Tariff) all have problematic solar incentive programs though for different reasons.

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Sunday, May 20, 2007

First Anniversary of GUNTHER Portfolio

Acknowledging those who helped me achieve this milestone

As mentioned in GreenVolts CEO Bob Cart addresses California Clean Tech Open 2007 Kick-off Event, GUNTHER Portfolio turned one year old on May 16, 2007. Since this is a bit of an indulgence, I don’t want to rehash the recent Post 100 on GUNTHER Portfolio when I thanked readers and subscribers. I just want to offer directed thanks to those who helped this Blog get established in the early days.

First, I have to thank Solarvalue for working with an unknown Blogger when they were operating in stealth mode trying to seal the TDR deal. Secretive solar start-up, Solarvalue AG, reveals solar grade silicon production plans through joint venture bid for TDR-Metalurgija in Ruse, Slovenia was the first exclusive story I broke. I remember being worried this story was going to get published somewhere else first.

Second, I am thankful to Renewable Energy Access (REA) and then editor Jesse Broehl for taking a chance on a green, newbie Blogger and reprinting the Solarvalue exclusive as Secretive Solar Start-up Aims for Silicon Production.

This article in REA was a key factor in the accreditations I have received over the past year. I worked with REA again, this time with Sara Parker, News and Contributing Editor, on Cost, Price and Politics: The Growing Photovoltaic Industry.

Next, I want to thank Big Gav at Peak Energy ( for being the first Blogger (and a prominent one) to link to my Blog without preconditions.

Last, I want to thank companies and Friends of the Blog that have opted to dialog and work with a niche PV Blogger. With a little help from my friends, I look forward to an exciting and successful year two.

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Friday, May 18, 2007

AstroPower Saga Continues: Fraud Claims Referred to FBI

Former AstroPower Execs Allen Barnett and Thomas Stiner agreed to pay $1 million USD to settle shareholder lawsuits without admitting culpability

The ever trustworthy Steven Church, now with Bloomberg News, reported on the latest developments in AstroPower fraud claims go to FBI, judge rules reprinted in delawareonline: The News Journal. Typical for this saga, there has been a dearth of press coverage.

In Wilmington, Delaware, U.S. District Judge Joseph J. Farnan Jr. ruled the fraud allegations against AstroPower company founder and CEO Allen M. Barnett and CFO Thomas J. Stiner should be referred to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Attorneys were ordered to supply the names of former AstroPower employees who have accused Barnett and Stiner of misstating AstroPower revenues and inventories to the FBI.

At a Federal court hearing on Wednesday, May 9, 2007, Judge Farnan said:

There are 10 people with information about possible misconduct, and as far as we know there is no law enforcement investigation.

However, Judge Farnan also said he didn't know whether the FBI and the U.S. attorney would pursue an investigation.

Per Jennifer Enck, a plaintiff attorney with Schiffrin Barroway Topaz & Kessler, LLP, about 1500 AstroPower shareholders have filed claims for the settlement. Less attorney fees and expenses of about $335,000, shareholders might net $0.10 (10 cents) per share depending on the final number of claims.

If you need background on the AstroPower Saga, please see my previous posts:

Peter Aschenbrenner under SEC investigation in AstroPower Saga
AstroPower: Decline of a solar photovoltaic star remains an untold tragedy?

So far, I have not seen any updates on the SEC investigation of Mr. Aschenbrenner, nor have I seen any new disclosures in recent SunPower Corporation (NASDAQ:SPWR) SEC filings.

Perhaps the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the FBI need to join investigative efforts in this matter?

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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

GreenVolts CEO Bob Cart addresses California Clean Tech Open 2007 Kick-off Event

[San Francisco, California USA]

I know what you did this summer!

The California Clean Tech Open 2007 held their official Launch Event last night, March 15, 2007, at San Francisco City Hall in the North Light Court.

Bob Cart’s GreenVolts team was the 2006 California Clean Tech Open Renewables Prize Winner and tipped contract announcements for this summer in his speech leading a round of four Closing Speakers.

Among a litany of accomplishments for GreenVolts in the past year, Bob Cart said:

This Summer we plan to announce two contracts with Utilities.

You can watch his address yourself. Apologies for the video (lack of) quality.

Previous posts discussing GreenVolts include:
GreenVolts Concentrates PhotoVoltaics in San Francisco
Solar start ups at the 19th NREL Industry Growth Forum Part 1
California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger addresses Solar Power 2006

I plan a follow up post with more speaker videos. It has taken a while for Google Video to complete Processing the lengthy uploads.

In the meantime, for background on the California Clean Tech Open business plan competition, please see Ideas, Investment & California's Clean Tech Competition at Renewable Energy Access by Sara Parker.

Also, today GUNTHER Portfolio is one year old. Please don’t check out that first post on May 16, 2006. It is not even about Photovoltaics! A retrospective first anniversary post is under construction for the less trafficked weekend.

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Sunday, May 13, 2007

Jasco’s GE Wireless SolarCam Product Trial and Review – Part 1

Configuring the Wireless Color Solar Camera System

Regular blog readers will remember I first wrote about this product after the 2007 International CES in Solar Camera defends Solar Gadget Crown. Prompted by a suggestion from a friend, I requested a SolarCam™ sample from Jasco Products for a product review, and Jasco replied with a same day affirmative.

When I received the SolarCam sample unit back in mid February 2007, Northern California was experiencing a delayed rainy winter, so I waited until a few clear days were forecasted before unpacking and installing the test unit. Although I was geared up to do a full OOBE (out of box experience), the loaner unit components were packed in a boring brown master shipping box encrusted with peanuts.

Here are the main items included with the SolarCam:

  • Solar Camera with Passive Infrared Sensor (PIR) and Solar Panel with Transmitter
  • Audio & Video Receiver
  • Power Adapter for Receiver
  • 3 ft. RCA cable (behind the Receiver in above photo)
  • Remote Control
  • Remote battery, screws, etal.

Configuring the SolarCam main unit takes about seven (7) minutes if you read the User’s Manual first.

After removing the backplate assembly, connect the black and red battery leads to the corresponding lead acid rechargeable battery terminals. Next connect the temporary 9V (Volt) transistor battery. Unscrewing the battery hold down strap is suggested. I did it this way but just removing the plastic seal from the battery might be easier. Two more steps for configuring the backplate include setting slide switches SW3 and SW2. SW3 controls transmission time when detecting motion or remote activation in 10 second increments of 10, 20, 30, or 40 seconds. I set this to 40 seconds for maximum transmission time. SW2 selects one of four channels (CH 1, 2, 3, 4) used by the transmitter to avoid interference from other cameras or transmitters. Without reason, I selected Channel 4 for the trial. The Receiver must be set to the same channel as SW2 above to receive the wireless signal.

At the open rear of the main camera body, set the House Code, SW1, with an 8-bit binary number. I used 33h (hexadecimal) or 00110011b (binary) with SW1-1 as the most significant bit (MSB).

Like the channel above, this SW1 setting must match the remote control unit’s House Code on S1.

The final step of configuring the main unit is plugging the multicolored ribbon cable into the backplate. The manual recommends doing this step after the backplate is mounted to the final mounting surface, but:

Diverging from the procedure in the User’s Manual, I recommend testing the SolarCam with the Receiver and the Remote before closing up the main unit and installing it in the desired surveillance location. This is to confirm the selected transmitter channel, SW2, has the least interference, and the House Code, SW1, on the rear of the main camera body matches the remote control’s S1 DIP switch settings.

I shot a video of the configuration process, but since I am not a hand model and my directorial skills are amateurish at best, I decided this video clip will never premiere.

The receiver has a composite video and mono audio output which can be connected to a TV, DVR/VCR, or STB (Set-top box). And the power adapter needs to be connected and plugged in.

Since I am a renter, I installed the SolarCam on a balcony railing with ever ubiquitous wire ties. A fancier masonry wall mounted installation may require Home Improvement class expertise.

I liken the complexity of the above process to mating a garage door opener with a remote control and hooking up a VCR.

As a formality, I need to state the following:

The GE Wireless SolarCam by Jasco Products Company. $249.99. It is available at or 1-800-654-8483.

In Part 2, this SolarCam Product Trial and Review will continue with a look at operation and my impressions backed by objective evidence.

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Thursday, May 10, 2007

NJCEP Spring 2007 CORE Program and Queues

Includes SREC-only Pilot Status and latest transition Consulting Report

Numerous updates are available on New Jersey's Clean Energy Program™ (NJCEP, website. It has been 90 days since my last post about the New Jersey Clean Energy Program, NJCEP November 2006 Greater Than 10kW CORE QUEUE Analysis.

The CORE Queue > 10kw March 21, 2007 (greater than 10kW) and the CORE Queue <= 10kw March 21, 2007 (less than or equal to 10kW) were released without the pseudo cumulative approach of previous queues. Without detailed analysis, I presume approved, denied, and cancelled applications have been removed. In addition, I have been unable to locate official details about recently-settled litigation alluded to in the title page of each CORE Queue:

The table shows projects' order for rebate processing as of March 21, 2007, and supersedes the table dated November 22, 2006. It also lists projects before the effect of recently-settled litigation. Class participants were sent letters advising the outcome of this settlement and its possible effect on them. They have until April 16, 2007, to decide into which group they prefer to have their projects categorized. The Office of Clean Energy (OCE) will update this web page with an updated queue list reflecting the results of class members' choices soon thereafter.

Per a confidential source, rebate letters from last year (2006) are just being sent now, delayed by legal actions from solar installers. Installers are being offered the choice of waiting in the CORE Program rebate queue or moving to the SREC program. Most installers are unhappy about making this choice, and a few have been driven out of business by this situation.

While an SREC-only Pilot Registration program opened on April 3, 2007, the SREC Pilot Status Report has five (5) registrations from a single registrant, PPL Energy Services. This program provides an option for New Jersey residents and businesses to participate in the SREC market if they forego CORE rebates. Click SREC Trading Statistics through March 2007 for the latest SREC price and volume information.

As of April 10, 2007, the Updated 2007 CORE Budget indicates about $8,431,995 in funds are available for public sector projects. However, the CORE Queue <= 10kw (less than or equal to 10kW) is under funded by $21,179,849 while the CORE Queue > 10kw (greater than 10kW) suffers from a $76,792,301 shortfall in fiscal 2007 year to date.

Another revised consulting report, ACP/SACP Analysis Report, has been issued by Summit Blue on transitioning the New Jersey Solar Market from rebates to performance based incentives. The Proposed Solar Stakeholder Schedule delays the transition decision process until August 2007, almost one year after it began.

Perhaps it would have been easier and cheaper to adopt a feed-in tariff approach modeled after the German Renewable Energy Act (EEG) instead of paying all those consultants for endless analysis reports?

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Sunday, May 06, 2007

Invest in Germany Spring 2007 Update

Industrial Investment Council (IIC) integration continues

Since I first mentioned the merger of the IIC with Invest in Germany (IiG) in the Christmas Eve Claudia Schiffer post, both organizations completed their merger on January 1, 2007, creating a common web landing page.

Two versions of the newsletter Spring 2007 FAST TRACK News from Germany – Photovoltaics are available for download; the earlier IIC version has a story about Novaled AG and Heliatek GmbH titled New Developments in Top Emitting OLEDs.

An updated Industry Overview: Photovoltaics is also available providing a one page summary of German photovoltaic production and new manufacturing ventures. Alas, the Photovoltaic Tooling overview has not been updated on the IIC website since December 2006.

In the Spring 2007 FAST TRACK newsletter, I learned Nanosolar, Inc. has secured their new solar panel manufacturing site in Luckenwalde, Germany, southwest of Berlin and a 45 minute drive to Schoenefeld Airport where the Berlin Brandenburg International (BBI) airport is being built. This was of personal interest to me because my aunt and cousin live just outside of Luckenwalde. Luckenwalde was part of East Germany and the local economy remains depressed with high unemployment. I can recommend a few good restaurants to the Nanosolar folks if they need some tips!

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Thursday, May 03, 2007

Clean Energy Venture Summit

Ideas. Investments. Austin.
May 14-16 Austin, Texas USA 2007

Later this month, the first annual Clean Energy Venture Summit (CEVS) will convene in The Live Music Capital of the World, Austin, Texas USA, to explore “The Utility of the Future”. The three day summit is hosted by Austin Energy and The Clean Energy Incubator with additional sponsorship by the Clean Energy Alliance and National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). NREL has ranked Austin Energy as having the best green power program on a renewable energy sales basis in 2006.

Per Kurt Faulhaber, Clean Energy Venture Summit Organizer,

The Clean Energy Venture Summit is a world-class investment conference promoting “The Utility of the Future" by connecting national thought leaders, clean energy entrepreneurs, investors, industry experts and government officials through keynote addresses, discussion panels and presentations by the hottest clean-tech ventures and emerging technologies in green buildings, clean transportation and the smart grid. The Clean Energy Incubator and Austin Energy have created the first test-bed environment in the United States for alternative energy companies to prepare their technologies for commercialization, and we are extending an invitation to companies to come to Austin and participate in this unique partnership. Several of the companies in the conference will be extended invitations to take part in the test-bed partnership.

The CEVS has an ambitious Agenda including Pre-Conference workshops for start-up clean tech companies, numerous well known national keynote speakers and panelists including Dick Gephardt and James Woolsley.

Highlighting this summit, start-up companies will present their clean energy business plans to a panel of diverse judges in a format similar to the NREL Industry Growth Forums. These presentations will address the summit’s three key themes for the Utility of the Future:

Green Building: energy efficiency and generation
Clean Transportation: plugging into the grid
Smart Grid: energy management infrastructure

I first met Kurt Faulhaber at the 19th NREL Industry Growth Forum. When I wrote the Photovoltaic Conference and Exhibition Preview 2007, I viewed this event as a regional conference, but Mr. Faulhaber has expanded the CEVS to a national scope.

In other event news, the date for the 20th NREL Industry Growth Forum, Financing the Path to a Clean Energy Future, has now been set for November 6-8, 2007, in Denver, Colorado USA. See also the Results of the 19th NREL Industry Growth Forum for details about last year’s event.

And the website is now live for the 8. Forum Solarpraxis (Deutsch) this November 15-16, 2007, in Berlin, Germany.

Since I missed the Photovoltaic Technology Show 2007, I have changed my view on attending Intersolar 2007 from June 21-23, 2007, in Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany. I am waiting to receive accreditation for this and the Solar Promotion sponsored PV Industry Forum. I have fond memories of Intersolar 2006 as the genesis of this Blog.

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