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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

22nd EU PVSEC Preview

Photovoltaics converge on Milano for THE PV Conference, Exhibition, and EPIA’s 4th PV Industry Forum

The 22nd European Photovoltaic Solar Energy Conference and Exhibition (EU PVSEC) opens this Monday, September 3, 2007, on the US Labor Day holiday =again= this year and runs for five days through Friday, September 7, 2007, at the FIERA MILANO RHO Fairground and Conference centre.

Sorry, it is too late to register. The conference has been booked to the limit since August 22, 2007. Registered Conference Delegates are invited to read the Welcome Letter for background information.

If you want to determine which Plenary, Oral, and Visual presentations to attend, the Conference Program Outline is online and also segmented by Day and Topic area.

By Days: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday

By Topic:
Topic 1 (T1)
Advanced Photovoltaics
Topic 2 (T2) Wafer-Based Silicon Solar Cells and Materials Technology
Topic 3 (T3) Thin Films
Topic 4 (T4) Components for PV Systems
Topic 5 (T5) PV Systems
Topic 6 (T6) PV Deployment

Visual Presentations: Monday – Tuesday, Wednesday - Thursday

In addition to the extensive Conference Program, the Exhibition covers an area twice as large as Dresden last year with 30,000 square meters (~7.4 acres) and 520 Exhibitors.

While the Conference is booked:

The visit of the Exhibition is free of charge. No pre-registration is required.

Don’t forget the Exhibition closes for the week on Thursday evening at 6PM (18:00). With so many stands to visit, preplanning is essential. Here are the List of Exhibitors and Stand Layout by Hall (Halls 16 and 20 are adjacent):

View the List of Hall 16
View the Layout-Plan of Hall 16

View the List of Hall 20
View the Layout-Plan of Hall 20

View the List of Hall 16 and 20
View the complete Layout-Plan

If the Conference and Exhibition were not enough, there is an ambitious agenda of EPIA Activities at the 22nd EU PVSEC.

Besides the 4th European PV Industry Forum (Agenda) on Wednesday, September 5, 2007, the Schedule of EPIA Events includes two Workshops:

Industry meets Industry I: Optimising interaction between components, material and equipment manufacturers
Industry meets Industry II: Optimising interaction between modules, BOS and systems integrators

The theme of the 4th European PV Industry Forum is “Towards maturity of the PV Industry”. The session topics are: PV Market Development, Industrial Investments, Research and Development, and Sustainability Challenges. Of particular interest is a presentation on PV Cycle:

PV Cycle: PV Industry’s answer to Environmental Challenges
Karsten Wambach, Deutsche Solar

I’ll see you for a free drink at the EPIA OPEN BAR running Tuesday through Thursday from 18:00 (6PM) to 20:00 (8PM) by LEM 3 and 4 in the EPIA Village next to the exhibition area. Ciao!

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Monday, August 27, 2007

Timminco Limited: O Canada! Solar Grade Silicon, Eh? – Part 1

Dr. Heinz C. Schimmelbusch now Chief Executive Officer in addition to Chairman of the Board

Released after the market close on Friday, August 24, 2007, Timminco Initiates Strategic Business Reorganization announced the reorganization of Timminco Limited (TSE:TIM) into separate Magnesium and core Silicon and Solar Silicon businesses and management realignments. Heinz Schimmelbusch was the CEO of Metallgesellschaft AG until an oil forward contracts and hedging scheme went awry in 1993.

For Solar Grade Silicon, the last news was Timminco Announces Ground-breaking for Becancour Solar Silicon Facility on July 30, 2007. Timminco began construction of the Bécancour Solar Silicon Facility consisting of three production lines each yielding an expected minimum of 1,200 metric tons of Solar Grade Silicon per year. The first line should begin operation in the fourth quarter of 2007 with the second and third lines coming online in the first quarter of 2008. Solar Grade Silicon capacity should then ramp to an annual run rate of at least 3,600 metric tons per year by the second quarter of 2008.

Timminco entered the silicon metal (metallurgical silicon) business in earnest with the acquisition of Bécancour Silicon Inc. in September 2004. The Bécancour Silicon Inc. (BSI) subsidiary has 50,000 metric tons of silicon metal and ferrosilicon production capacity per year. BSI’s customers for silicon metal are purported to include five of the largest silicon and polysilicon producers in Western Europe.

In March 2007, BSI announced their entry into the solar grade silicon market with TIMMINCO LIMITED ANNOUNCES FIRST COMMERCIAL CONTRACT FOR HIGH PURITY SILICON. At this time, BSI disclosed it had developed a patent-pending process to produce 99.999% (5N or 5 nines) pure silicon for solar applications and had 300 metric tons of annual pilot production capacity in place. The contract with an unnamed solar cell manufacturer was for shipments of over 4,000 metric tons of high purity silicon over a 5 year initial term. A few weeks later, TIMMINCO LIMITED ANNOUNCES SECOND COMMERCIAL CONTRACT FOR HIGH PURITY SILICON:

Becancour Silicon Inc.(“BSI”), has reached agreement to sell high purity silicon to a solar cell manufacturer. The agreement provides for a minimum of 1,500 metric tons (“mt”) and up to 5,000 mts over an initial term of 5 years subject to BSI’s increased production capacity and customer agreement.

By May 31, 2007, TIMMINCO LIMITED PROVIDES UPDATE ON ITS SOLAR GRADE SILICON METAL BUSINESS said 20 metric tons of solar grade silicon had been delivered to the two contractual customers and as solar grade silicon samples to potential customers.

I first heard of Timminco Limited at the PV Industry Forum 2007 from Carolina Vargas, a Research Analyst with Clarus Securities Inc. Since then, Ms. Vargas has shared an investment research report on Timminco titled “Here Comes the Silicon” published May 9, 2007. In the report, Clarus initiated coverage on Timminco:

with a BUY recommendation and a 12-month target price of $6.00 [Ed. Note: CAD] per share. We recommend risk-tolerant investors own shares of Timminco to participate in its tremendous growth opportunity as a silicon supplier to the solar industry.

Please note that Clarus Securities helped to underwrite the April 2007 TIMMINCO LIMITED ANNOUNCES COMPLETION OF BOUGHT DEAL FINANCING, and I do not know if follow up client research has been released by Clarus.

In Part 2, I will examine the relationship between Timminco, Safeguard International, and AMG Advanced Metallurgical Group N.V.

I must have had my head in the quartz to have missed this company for so long! René Boisvert (now President and Chief Executive Officer), Bécancour Silicon Inc., presented “The Silbec Process for the production of solar grade silicon” at the PHOTON EXPO 4th Solar Silicon Conference.

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Thursday, August 23, 2007

Solaria Solar Cell Revisited Redux

Solaria Corporation relaunches website with recent Press Releases providing a bounty of new information.

While there was voluminous coverage of recent announcements by Solaria Corporation regarding Solaria Secures Solar Cell Supply Agreement for 1.35 GW, Announces $50M Series C Round and Q-Cells AG increases presence on the US market, there hasn’t been much coverage about the technology. For example, a notable Wall Street Journal article, Solaria Panels Win Backing Of Germany's Q-Cells (read in full here without a subscription), by Leila Abboud, is typical of mainstream media and Press Release editors.

Or at least until the revamped Solaria website is investigated.

The most recent website addition is Plastic surgery - Solaria Corp. fuels high hopes with low-concentration approach by Garrett Hering. This a PHOTON International article reprint about Solaria from the recent July 2007 issue (PI 7/2007, p.76-78). Please note this article predates the recent investment and solar cell sourcing agreement. An old RED HERRING (VIDEO): INTERVIEW WITH SOLARIA CEO SUVI SHARMA from April 2007 reinforces the news in the PHOTON article and from other sources.

Information about Solaria’s Management Team, Board of Directors, and Investors is located at the WHO WE ARE tab. Solaria provides a certain level of detail about their technology, process, and partners. In fact, Solaria will even let you Take a look at photos from our pilot production facility.

On the partner page, I believe the manufacturing services partner logo and link should be to Ionics EMS, Inc. (SIN:I10), not a unit of GE Water Technologies. DISCO CORPORATION (TYO:6146) appears to be the supplier of the customized solar cell strip cutting equipment shown in the PHOTON article. In addition to Q-Cells AG (FRA:QCE), PV Industry value chain partners include BP Solar and S.A.G. Solarstrom AG (FRA:SAG).

For those interested in learning in depth about Solaria’s solar cell and module technology, three key Solaria international patent applications have been published by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).




Since I wrote Solaria Supercell Revisited, it appears the “Super” part of the cell moniker has been dropped, but I still classify this as a follow up post.

And Valleywag has the latest Red Herring news including a link to a parody publication, Dead Herring.


Monday, August 20, 2007

Solarvalue AG: Why has the stock declined?

Shares continue slide from intraday high of 90.90 on July 20, 2007

Ever since Solarvalue goes “Back to the Future” with Moser Baer Photo Voltaic partnership, Solarvalue shares have been driven upward by occasional news and over enthusiastic speculation. Reports like this one from April 10, 2007, Solarvalue keine Stücke aus der Hand geben (Solarvalue don’t sell a single share) helped fuel the stock, but I doubt this was intended to prevent shareholders from selling at €90!

Both an investment from Gartmore in Solarvalue pulls a Secondary and Solarvalue secures TDR Facility for Solar Grade Silicon Production were the latest news moving the stock to its all time high. In other company news, Solarvalue’s offering of 210,000 shares at €64 completed August 10, 2007, (see Solarvalue AG places first tranche of shares for capital increase successfully Total accrual of liquid funds of EUR 13 million expected), was one factor weighing the stock down to the €60’s range. And the subprime lending mess in the US and resulting credit crunch appear to have pushed shares in proportion to its speculative beta to just below €40. The shares of established solar industry players were also hammered last week.

I have been expecting a summer correction of Solarvalue shares before the announcement of Solar Grade Silicon samples or production. But, I didn’t think the shares would fall quite this way. Solarvalue is exhibiting at the 22nd Photovoltaic Solar Energy and Conference Exhibition. In my mind, this would be the perfect venue for Solarvalue to make significant announcements regarding their progress towards production or new customers. Please recall the Moser Baer partnership was announced just before PHOTON’s Photovoltaic Technology Show 2007.

If you favor charts, the above Solarvalue share chart shows a retracement back to €40 (after a Blow-Off top?). Will the stock retest €30 or even €20? The investment by Gartmore should provide support at €40 if world markets stabilize after the recent injections of liquidity. I am considering a small, speculative investment if the stock price becomes attractive. Expect a disclosure statement on my Solarvalue posts if this occurs.

And NEWS FROM RUSE - THE BLOG (Deutsch) has been busy with four (4) new short posts from John Mott since I last checked.

This is the third post in the adverb series: What, Where, and now Why.

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Thursday, August 16, 2007

Photovoltaics at SEMICON West 2007

Photovoltaics outshine the semi biz

Although SEMICON West 2007 wound down on July 20, 2007, I am just getting to pointing out presentations and providing multimedia about the programs, events, and exhibition. Here is the official SEMICON West 2007 Post-Show Report.

When I was looking for presentations from the keynotes and TechXPOTs from SEMICON West to be placed online based on a tip from an organizer, I stumbled upon this post Nano, MEMS and Energy Presentations Available on! on the lublog.

Instead of linking to the abstracts, the titles now link to the presentations. There is great information ranging from SunPower Public Relations type hype to thin film manufacturing equipment and solar grade silicon. This is the next best thing to attending SEMICON West 2007 and seeing all the presentations. I noticed official videos recorded at each session, but I have not seen any of these surface yet.

How Silicon Valley is Helping to Solve the Energy Dependence Problem
T.J. Rodgers, Chairman, SunPower Corporation

Solar Energy: The Next Great Growth Opportunity for the Semiconductor Industry
Rhone Resch, President, Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA)

TechXPOT - Emerging Technologies - Nanoelectronic and Nanoenergy Applications:
Advances in Flexible Thin-Film Solar Cells
David Pearce, President and CEO, Miasolé

TechXPOT - Emerging Technologies - Renewable Energy: Solar and Fuel Cells:
Issues of Going to Gigawatt-scale Solar Manufacturing
Charlie Gay, VP and general manager, Solar Business Group, Applied Materials

Thin Film Silicon- Key to Photovoltaics
Hans Brändle, Head of Oerlikon Balzers Coating, executive VP Oerlikon

I apologize for not giving Oerlikon equal time. I misjudged my video recording capacity, and I was struggling to free space for photos throughout the TechXPOT. Dr. Brändle was very gracious and acknowledged Charlie Gay’s opening presentation. Even though Oerlikon sponsored this TechXPOT, the moderator made a mistake in allowing too many questions for Applied Materials to the detriment of Oerlikon and the following presenters.

Alternative Silicon Materials for Solar
Gaetan Borgers, Director Dow Corning Solar Solutions

Manufacturing High Efficiency Solar Cells
Nasreen Chopra, Director of Equipment R&D, SunPower Corporation

I am starting to see a pattern in SunPower presentations. Over half of this time slot was another SunPower hype flashback. No Public Relations minders were there to prevent Dr. Chopra from making a political correctness faux pas concerning the professionalism and quality of small specialty solar equipment manufacturers located in remote European alpine locations. Dr. Chopra, have you heard about globalization? You do realize your cells and modules are manufactured in a remote location in the Philippines and might travel down congested and infrastructure challenged highways to Manila for shipment all over the world?

Of course, you can expect further commentary on the various presentations and the exhibition to follow. I am under pressure to post or perish today.

If you haven’t seen them, I suggest checking out these posts over at the Cleantech Blog by Neal Dikeman:
When it Comes to Solar - Lest We Forget
Rising Solar Prices - Where is the Shakeout?
Is IBM Going Solar?

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Monday, August 13, 2007

Sunways goes its own Silicon ways – Part 2

Interview with CEO Roland Burkhardt at Intersolar 2007

In Sunways goes its own Silicon ways – Part 1, I examined the basic facts regarding Sunways’ entry into polysilicon production. While trichlorosilane (TCS) sourcing and co-location may seem like the biggest challenges facing Sunways AG (FRA:SWW), obtaining expertise to design, construct, and operate their polysilicon deposition production facility is the single most critical factor to success.

Thus far, Sunways has disclosed SolMic GmbH as a lone firm among other suppliers. Who is SolMic and why is it straight forward to conclude SolMic is the primary consulting firm to Sunways on this project?

SolMic was founded by Dr. Albrecht Mozer and Dr. Peter Fath in 2005

to offer various consulting and engineering services related to photovoltaics and microelectronics industry with a special focus on polysilicon production facilities

after Dr. Mozer was removed on November 5, 2004, from the executive management of Siltronic AG (Siltronic stärkt Marktausrichtung auf 300 mm Wafer), a Wacker Chemie AG (FRA:WCH) subsidiary, under the pretext of focusing corporate strategy on 300mm semiconductor wafers.

SolMic is in turn a 50% subsidiary of GP Solar GmbH, a company Dr. Fath cofounded in 1999 for solar cell processing and characterization consulting and technology transfer. GP Solar partnered with system manufacturer Centrotherm to commercialize solar cell processing technologies developed by the PV (Photovoltaic) research team at the University of Konstanz. GP Solar has consulting References with a Who’s Who list of photovoltaic companies in Germany, Europe, and around the world including Sunways.

So what are SolMic’s polysilicon project credentials to date?

In this PHOTON EXPO 4th Solar Silicon Conference abstract, Silicon factory planning based on Siemens reactors: Status and future challenges, SolMic claimed to have signed contracts to built 5000 metric tons per year of Siemens process polysilicon production capacity. In addition, SolMic has a consulting contract to build a MG-SoG (Metallurgical to Solar Grade) polysilicon plant per Scheuten Solar moves into own production of solar silicon. As a result, Scheuten SolarWorld Solizium GmbH is a joint venture formed between Scheuten Solar and SolarWorld AG to produce Solar Grade Silicon at a location in Freiberg, Germany, near the Deutsche Solar AG Business Unit SolarMaterial. A PHOTON International article reprint (PI 9/2006, p. 58-60 +61 missing?) about SolMic, Robin Hoods of PV, is available from the Scheuten website.

The next point concerns the formation of Centrotherm SiQ GmbH by SolMic and Centrotherm to produce Siemens process reactors and converters. Could Centrotherm be the supplier of these reactors to Sunways? I thought I had read about this connection somewhere, but this may be pure conjecture as I cannot find a corroborating source. If you want to learn more about polysilicon production equipment, the Poly Plant Project, Inc. has background information about Polysilicon Deposition Reactors and Thermal Converters.

Having explored the SolMic connection in digressive detail, Sunways’ strategy to purchase TCS simplifies their polysilicon project by lowering capital expenditures but adds risk in terms of steady supply and complicates the recycling of gas byproducts from the decomposition of TCS in the polysilicon deposition reactors. Recycling these gas byproducts is crucial to produce low cost polysilicon. Perhaps TCS recycling or the pilot scale 300 metric ton production capacity or both are contributing factors to the high estimate of polysilicon production costs below €45 per kilogram.

With SolMic, Sunways has the right technology partner to succeed at polysilicon production once the TCS sourcing and plant location issues are resolved. I admire Herr Burkhardt’s determination to enter polysilicon production in a staged manner without lining up every aspect of the project in advance.

But, I believe Sunways must plan for success and build their facility to accommodate 1000 metric tons of polysilicon production per year from the start with allowances for future expansion. Sunways should exercise the option on five more reactors to expand polysilicon production once the pilot process is proven. Although I am sure Herr Burkhardt is favoring plant locations in Germany with eastern Germany leading because of government incentives, I recommend he also consider sites outside of Germany, perhaps in southwestern or eastern Europe. A viable option outside of Germany is the best way to insure any German TCS negotiations are competitive.

Alas, the efforts of Sunways in the automotive space will have to wait for a follow up post.

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Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Sunways goes its own Silicon ways – Part 1

Interview with CEO Roland Burkhardt at Intersolar 2007

I wasn’t planning to visit Intersolar 2007 on Saturday, June 23, 2007, the last day of the tradeshow. Although I thought there would be throngs of consumers looking for home solar solutions, there was lighter foot traffic than the first two days. And, since the business meetings were almost complete, there was improved access to upper management at the individual companies.

As I stood at the Sunways AG (FRA:SWW) stand main desk waiting to ask questions about Sunways will be supplied with two reactors for the production of high-purity silicon (Deutsch), I noticed a gentleman from Sunways taking photos of the stand. I thought I recognized him from the 7. Forum Solarpraxis as Sunways CEO Roland Burkhardt. As it turns out, Herr Burkhardt took a photo of me (right front) at the main desk before I noticed him at the stand!

After introducing myself, I managed to establish my solar and polysilicon credentials to obtain Herr Burkhardt’s attention and coax the following quotes about Sunway’s silicon plans:

We want to develop a secured long-term procurement strategy of high-purity silicon with better terms than long period contracts with prepayment.

Wir wollen uns eine Absicherung von Reinstsilizium aufbauen, die uns besere Bedingungen bietet als Langfristverträge mit Prepayment.

The two Siemens process reactors will be ramped to 300 metric tons of electronic grade polysilicon production capacity per year by 2009. Sunways has partnered with SolMic GmbH and other suppliers to obtain all the required production equipment. Sunways is in discussions with three potential locations (partners) for essential trichlorosilane (TCS) supply and co-location of polysilicon production. Selection criteria beyond TCS include skilled employees, energy costs, and economic incentives.

The 300 metric tons of polysilicon capacity translates to about 30MWp (MegaWatts-peak) of monocrystalline or polycrystalline silicon solar cell production depending on silicon utilization in grams per Watt. Sunways produced 28MWp of solar cells in 2006. Sunways’ nominal solar cell production capacity is 30MWp in Arnstadt, Germany, for traditional modules and 16MWp in Constance, Germany, for automotive and architectural applications.

Given existing sources of wafer supply and recent deals (see Sunways AG enters into a contract on the supply of wafers with Deutsche Solar AG), Sunways decided to sign a long term polysilicon supply deal with an unnamed cooperation partner and received an up front payment of €10 million for future polysilicon shipments.

Alas, fair disclosure regulations and competitive considerations don’t allow even CEO’s to disclose new information on a selective basis. But in a report titled Own silicon production, equinet AG has compiled additional details and analysis perhaps with inputs from a conference call. Polysilicon production volumes are expected to reach about 200 metric tons in 2008 at a production cost below €45 per kilogram. equinet estimates capex (capital expenditures) totaling €20 million for the project, and Sunways has stated most of this investment will occur in 2007. equinet has helped underwrite securities for Sunways in the past.

I was able to confirm a report in Photon International (PI 6/2007, p. 50-51) with a Sunways spokesperson. Sunways does have an option to buy five additional reactors with the potential of expanding production capacity to about 1000 metric tons of polysilicon per year.

In Part 2, I will continue examining this polysilicon project and delve into Sunways’ automotive efforts.

Things have been quiet on the Blog this past week. Although my pipeline is overflowing, I had to drop everything because of family visiting the Bay for the last two weeks.