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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Blue Square Energy also presents at Alternative Energy Innovations 2007

[Redwood City, California, USA]

Further details of Bright Point solar cell business plans and the next $30 Million funding round emerge

Blue Square Energy (BSE) President and CEO Jeff Barnett delivered a capable and informed presentation regarding BSE’s plans and solicitation of venture capital for continued expansion on Wednesday, October 23, 2007, at the Dow Jones VentureWire Alternative Energy Innovations 2007 conference in Redwood City, California.

As mentioned in Blue Square Energy sets the impurity enriched solar cell record straight, BSE was founded in 2004 and generated a profit from recycling semiconductor silicon wafers into solar cells by 2005.

With Bright Point silicon solar cell technology, BSE expects to reach $1.22 per Watt module cost by 2010. BSE claims to have the lowest cost of capital per Watt based on a proprietary production equipment toolset. In fact, Mr. Barnett said Bright Point achieves crystalline silicon efficiency at comparable cost to thin film solar technologies.

Bright Point achieves this lofty goal by depositing a 10um (micrometer) active layer of Solar Grade Silicon on a 4N (four nines) 99.99% pure “boron rich” 200um Bright Point Upgraded Metallurgical Silicon (UMG) substrate. Longer term, Mr. Barnett said the UMG silicon would cost $10 per kilogram (kg) although costing perhaps as much as $25 per kg in 2008. BSE has already received commercial size samples of the boron rich UMG material for qualification. The Solar Grade Silicon layer is supposed to cost a mere $0.01 per Watt per BSE estimates.

BSE expects to deliver Bright Point solar cells with 13-14% efficiency in the second quarter of 2008. Thus far, BSE has obtained 12.3% laboratory efficiency and commercial sized Bright Point solar cells have been confirmed by NREL at 10.9% conversion efficiency. BSE further claims Bright Point can achieve a 23% commercial efficiency potential by leveraging the boron impurities in the UMG substrate. The technique or principle involved here was not discussed. Overview of SAI PV Incubator Awards details the $2,990,000 proceeds used to fund research and development towards the 23% Bright Point silicon solar cell efficiency objective .

BSE plans to build 39MWp (MegaWatt-peak) of Bright Point solar cell capacity in 2008 and another 113MWp in 2009 for a total of 152MWp capacity in 2009 and targets 200MWp Bright Point capacity by 2010. BSE has already lined up exclusive silicon suppliers for their virtual vertical integration strategy. BSE will focus on Bright Point solar cell production using proprietary processes and production equipment while outsourced manufacturers will produce solar modules. In addition, BSE expects to sell 25 to 50% of their production to Bright Point solar cell customers. BSE has no ambitions beyond manufacturing and will not enter the downstream installation business.

In November 2007, BSE will receive prototype production equipment for a 5.5MWp Bright Point solar cell line to prove their scalable solar manufacturing system.

For some reason, BSE skipped the de rigueur slide about the Management Team, a critical Venture Capitalist (VC) judgment metric. Could this be related to the news in Solar Light Flashes: October 22, 2007?

This investment round is open to new investors and is expected to close in the first quarter of 2008.

All things considered, Blue Square Energy earns high marks for executing to the plans they discussed with me earlier this year. However, the production capacity build to the full 200MWp appears to be delayed by over a year. Perhaps this is related to the delivery schedules for their proprietary Bright Point production equipment?

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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

2007 California Clean Tech Open Final Awards Event Gala

[San Francisco, California USA]

1-Solar wins Renewables Prize
GreenVolts, Inc. announces $10 Million Series A Funding

The Academy Awards of Clean Tech, aka the Awards Ceremony for the 2007 CALIFORNIA CLEAN TECH OPEN, took place last night on Monday, October 29, 2007, at the Palace of Fine Arts Theatre in San Francisco, California USA.

In the Renewables Category, 1-Solar was the winner of the Renewables Prize (one of six CCTO Category prizes) and Tahoe Water Systems was the runner up.

1-Solar, Inc. claims to have halved the cost and doubled the life of DC to AC inverters for solar photovoltaic system applications. 1-Solar’s President Tranh Nguyen makes his acceptance speech in the following video clip and said:

Our invertors are designed to last 15 years or more.

The short product life of inverters is one of the dirty little secrets of photovoltaics.

GreenVolts’ $10 Million Series A round of funding was led by Greenlight Energy Resources, Inc., Avista Corporation (NYSE:AVA), and several other investors.

Per GreenVolts:

… its CarouSol tracking system has begun producing energy at Avista¹s Clean Energy Test Site, and that it is on track for deployment of its GV1 plant in late 2008.

See GreenVolts scores Solar Project and Investment from Avista for more details on the demonstration High Concentration PhotoVoltaics (HCPV) project located in Rathdrum, Idaho.

The official press release should be here on the GreenVolts website in the morning.

To honor all the 2007 California Clean Tech Open (CCTO) Finalists, here is a link to the Finalist Directory or Download 2007 Finalist Directory.

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Friday, October 26, 2007

GreenVolts presents at Alternative Energy Innovations 2007

nGVlogo AltEnergyLOGO

[Redwood City, California USA]

CCTO 2007 Alumni Award won by GreenVolts

GreenVolts, Inc. founder and CEO Bob Cart delivered a crisp company Utility Scale Solar presentation on Wednesday, October 24, 2007, at the Dow Jones VentureWire Alternative Energy Innovations 2007 conference in Redwood City, California.

In a succinct summary of the GreenVolts business model, Mr. Cart said:

We sell energy not solar panels.

GreenVolts and PG&E Corporation (NYSE:PCG) entered into a 20 year Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) for the GV1 High Concentration PhotoVoltaic (HCPV) power plant as I reported in GreenVolts does it again with 2MW Solar Electric Plant deal with PG&E (revised to 2.5MWp) or see the press release, PG&E Adds Utility-Scale Solar Projects to Its Power Mix.

As I have been covering developments at GreenVolts since Solar Power 2006, I will focus on the deltas or what was new in this presentation.

GreenVolts does their own Research and Development (R&D) leveraging contract manufacturers to build their Off-Axis Microdish power units and two-axis tracking platform trademarked the CarouSol™ system. GreenVolts marketing and sales efforts serve two primary channels: 10-20MWp (MegaWatt-peak) direct utility customers and 1-10MWp project partner developers such as MMA Renewable Ventures, SunEdison LLC, or Chevron Energy Solutions for example.

The CarouSol tracker was billed as 3kWp (kiloWatt-peak) again like it was prior to GreenVolts Concentrates PhotoVoltaics in San Francisco. In addition, the CarouSol was positioned as self cleaning, self stowing, easy to install, and achieving the highest energy density compared to the competition.

The integrated self cleaning system utilizes a high pressure air blast and a small amount of water to keep the mirrors dust free. Accumulated dust on the mirrors can reduce the electricity production by about 15%. At night or during high wind conditions, the CarouSol will stow the power units by tipping them downward.

At 2.5 feet (0.76 meters) tall and 19 feet (5.79 meters) in diameter, the modular and light weight CarouSol was touted as simple to install because cranes or ladders are not required and poured concrete isn’t necessary for anchoring. Also, retrofit rooftop applications do not require roof penetration for mounting.

In a revelation regarding energy density, GreenVolts claimed the CarouSol system delivers almost two (2) times the power per unit area measured in MegaWatt-hours (MWh) per acre versus the one-axis SunPower (PowerLight) T20 Tracker and two and one-half (2.5) times the SolFocus HCPV solution at lower cost per kiloWatt-hour (kWh) generated.

GreenVolts is constructing a single shift 12MWp annual capacity pilot production line now with plans to scale to 60MWp by 2010. The pilot line will be used to perfect a copy exact approach for future expansions.

In closing, Bob Cart mentioned data from field testing showed promising results though it was from a brief two month period.

While a number of questions concerned the self cleaning system (cold weather and water in arid, desert locations), Mr. Cart did not tip any vendors for III-V Triple Junction Terrestrial Solar Cells or power plant scale invertors although he did say GV1 will use 500kW sized invertors reducing the potential supplier candidates.

Per the CCTO press release, California Clean Tech Open Awards Event San Francisco October 29, 2007:

A special CCTO "Alumni" award will be presented on October 29th to the 2006 finalist that has made most progress since last year's awards event in terms of investment funding or significant customer wins.

The 2007 Alumni Award will be presented to GreenVolts, a solar startup based in San Francisco. After winning the Renewables prize at the 2006 CCTO, GreenVolts has made enormous progress, recently signing an agreement with PG&E for a two megawatt HCPV (high concentration photovoltaic) power plant that, when completed, will be the largest in the world. To add to this, the company will be making a major announcement at Monday's event.

What could the major announcement from GreenVolts be? Could there be a new customer or round of venture capital funding? Towards the end of his presentation, Mr. Cart hinted GreenVolts will have an announcement regarding the later real soon. It would appear the timing will coincide with the CCTO Awards Ceremony.

For my previous GreenVolts Blog posts, click the Topic label GreenVolts.

I know GUNTHER Portfolio is our special secret, but, please, share it with a friend or colleague.

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Monday, October 22, 2007

Solar Light Flashes: October 22, 2007

Select Photovoltaic News Tidbits

Once again, conferences including Solar Power 2007 and 22nd European Photovoltaic Solar Energy Conference and Exhibition (EU PVSEC) have dominated Blog coverage since September. I have accumulated anecdotes and news about Blog staples and newer companies and topics over this time period.

Advent Solar, Inc.
During Solar Power 2007, I talked to an Advent Solar spokesperson at their Hyatt Regency Ballroom stand. The spokesperson claimed the retooling of Advent’s 25MWp (MegaWatt-peak) line to 156mm (millimeter) silicon wafers would be completed by about November 2007 and ready for production in early 2008. The expectation is laid off workers will be recalled to ramp production on the retooled line.

In contrast, before Solar Power 2007, my request for a reiterative quote from the Advent Solar Management Team about the retooling to dispel anonymous rumors of process issues with Advent’s Emitter Wrap-Through (EWT) solar cells was denied. My subsequent request to meet a member of the Advent Solar Executive Management Team at Solar Power 2007 was also denied. I may be a niche Blogger, but I don’t seem to have trouble getting to talk with Photovoltaic company CEOs. Could there be some shred of truth behind this rumor?

Blue Square Energy
After seeing my post, Select Videos from the 22nd EU PVSEC, Joe Babin from Blue Square Energy (BSE) wanted to clarify Dr. Allen Barnett’s relationship with the company. Dr. Allen Barnett sits on the Board of Directors and has a technology consulting contract with BSE. BSE President and CEO Jeffrey Barnett will present this week at VentureWire’s Alternative Energy Innovations Conference.

ersol Thin Film
I noticed ersol Solar Energy AG (FRA:ES6) CEO Dr. Claus Beneking at the ersol Solar Power 2007 stand. Dr. Beneking was willing to answer a few questions about the recent developments at ersol Thin Film. He confirmed the basic facts I got from ersol reported in Oerlikon solar (almost) at work: ersol Thin Film delays production. ersol Thin Film plans to solidify their production toolset before further expansions to or by 100MWp in the 2009/2010 timeframe. ersol Thin Film expects to be the first company in production with micromorph tandem modules by adding Oerlikon’s KAI 1200M2 deposition system to their existing production line.

GreenVolts Inc.
GreenVolts has been expanding the management team by hiring Joseph “Chip” Krauskopf as Chief Operating Officer, Stephen Smith as Director of Project Operations, Shaun Ferguson as Vice President of Global Supply Chain, and Craig Lewis as Vice President of Government Relations. Of most interest, Mr. Smith defected from SolFocus where he was the Director of Field Operations leading the ISFOC installations. Please see GreenVolts Continues Momentum With Addition Of Technology And Solar Power Veterans and GreenVolts Positions For Worldwide Expansion With Addition Of Experienced Executives for the respective press releases.

GreenVolts will also present at VentureWire’s Alternative Energy Innovations 2007 and again at the 20th NREL Industry Growth Forum.

Inside Greentech
Since Inside Greentech (was) acquired by the Cleantech Network™, LLC to become, the online publication seems to have lost its charm and gone corporate. Even The Greentech Avenger has renamed himself The Cleantech Avenger. I can’t imagine Spiderman going with a name change.

M.SETEK Co.,Ltd.
M.SETEK President Ritsuo Matsumiya delivers an Opening Ceremony speech in Japanese (with English subtitles, on May 24, 2007, at their Polysilicon Plant located in Soma City, Fukushima Prefecture, Japan.

Sol3g, S.L.
In a press release titled SOLÚCAR TRUSTS IN SOL3G from September 13, 2007, Sol3g announced Solúcar Energia, S.A. obtained a 25% stake in Sol3g by contributing 50% of the capital in a follow on financing round. The balance of the funding is a participative credit from ENISA, a government capital investment arm part of the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Tourism. The proceeds will be used to execute Sol3g’s business plan and complete the production capacity expansion to 5MWp by the end of 2007. The exact Euro sums of these investments were not disclosed.

As an Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) supporter, I appreciated this post, Bloggers should be allowed to join the journalist party, by Don Reisinger on his CNET The Digital Home Blog.

Speaking of Blogs, Madan’s Blog asks the question, Solar Energy - Heat or Hype?

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Thursday, October 18, 2007

6N Silicon: Solar Grade Silicon from Ontario

Canadian Startup targeting six nines (6N) or 99.9999% pure Solar Grade Silicon

6N Silicon Inc. first hit my radar screen with 6N Silicon Raises $6 Million in Venture Capital Financing led by Ventures West and Yaletown Venture Partners announced on July 10, 2007. At the same time, Sustainable Development Technology Canada contributed CDN $4 Million to a project to develop a pilot line to demonstrate 6N Silicon’s technology as one of their Round 10 Funded Projects.

At Solar Power 2007, I had a chance to sit down and talk with David Dunnison, 6N Silicon’s Vice President, Business Development.

Founder Scott Nichol started 6N Silicon on a credit card budget in 2006 and began developing a proprietary, low cost, metallurgical silicon purification process in 200 pound lab scale batches. With limited resources, 6N Silicon often acquired the cheapest and dirtiest silicon metal from sources such as China. This disadvantage challenged and improved their proprietary process so it does not require special silicon metal produced with high purity quartz and carbon material.

The 6N Silicon process produces a true solar grade material in contrast to both upgraded metallurgical grade silicon (UMG-Si) and downgraded electronics grade or near-electronics grade silicon. Improvement of the 6N Silicon process has been rapid and tracking ahead of the company’s aggressive development plans for high purity quality and process yield. In response to near term photovoltaic market demand, 6N Silicon plans to release an early stage solar grade material that can be mixed with electronics grade polysilicon for either multicrystalline or monocrystalline silicon solar cell manufacturing. By 2009, 6N Silicon expects to produce a solar grade silicon material suitable for the direct manufacture of multicrystalline and monocrystalline silicon ingots without mixing.

6N Silicon’s SDTC consortium members include McMaster University and Solar Power Industries, Inc. The Materials Science and Engineering Department of McMaster University is conducting research on segregation for this project leveraging their expertise in metallurgy. Scott Nichol obtained his degree in Materials Engineering from McMaster University. Belle Vernon, Pennsylvania USA based Solar Power Industries is a solar cell, module, and system manufacturer testing 6N Silicon’s solar grade material for the SDTC project.

6N Silicon has used the venture capital financing and SDTC project funding to construct a single shift 70 MT (metric ton) annual capacity pilot line in Mississauga, Ontario Canada near Toronto.

6N Silicon President and Chief Technology Officer (CTO) Scott Nichol said:

With the successful commissioning of our pilot line, 6N Silicon is well ahead of schedule. The construction and commissioning of our pilot line was completed faster than we had anticipated. We have gone from having no facility in April to production in September. This exercise has confirmed that 6N Silicon’s production capacity can be expanded in a fraction of the time of conventional processes. We are very excited about the early results from our pilot line. Our purity levels are better than we had experienced and our chemistries are well ahead of plan.

Mr. Dunnison mentioned the gating item for the pilot line construction was not equipment related but upgrading the 12,000 square foot (1115 square meter) warehouse building’s electrical connection to handle loads beyond lighting. To put these energy requirements in context, the 6N Silicon process has a key advantage over the conventional Siemens process for polysilicon production. At pilot scale production, 6N Silicon claims their process requires much less than 25% of the typical energy consumption of the Siemens process. 6N Silicon expects further improvements in energy consumption, capital expenditures (CAPEX) efficiency, and cost optimizations as they scale their process to full production.

Although the pilot line has a three shift potential of 200 MTs of solar grade silicon production per year, 6N Silicon is focused on refining their process and qualifying their solar grade silicon with identified, select partners. For example, about 250 Kg (Kilograms) of solar grade silicon are required to cast a single multicrystalline ingot for qualification in solar cell production.

6N Silicon has been on a roll garnering the Canada's Hottest Startups honor from Red Herring and, even more important, being one of the inaugural 2007 Deloitte Technology Green 15 Award winners. Here are links about 6N Silicon that may be of interest:

Clean tech cluster emerging around GTA
6N Raises Capital For Pilot Of Its Silicon Production Method
Cleantech 2.0

For solar photovoltaic companies desperately seeking silicon, Mr. Dunnison cautioned:

6N’s current plans are to work with a select group of solar cell manufacturers and potential partners to validate the 6N material. While the company appreciates the considerable interest that has been generated, it has chosen this route in order to stay focused on its rapid development path and produce a true solar grade silicon solution in the shortest time possible.

And I have to applaud 6N Silicon’s fine taste in Blogs.


Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Ruše Surprise: Solarvalue delays Solar Grade Silicon production

Mass Production slips to first half of 2008

As I mentioned in Solarvalue AG: Why has the stock declined?, I have been expecting a major announcement from Solarvalue AG (XETRA:SV7) regarding full scale production, new customers, or sample material qualification. Given the plan of record has been 850 MT (metric tons) of Solar Grade Silicon production by the end of 2007, today’s announcement represents a production delay of up to three quarters. Here is the press release, Solarvalue AG to launch mass production in the first term of 2008 – First samples in progress (Deutsch). A revised Solar Grade Silicon production target for 2008 is not mentioned in this press release.

I found this tidbit of interest:

As previously announced, Solarvalue will purchase metallurgical silicon in the first instance to accelerate production start of high-grade solar silicon.

Announced when? Did I miss this or was this mentioned last week in passing during Solarvalue CEO Claudia Boehringer’s presentation at the Taiwan International Photovoltaic Forum & Exhibition? Three arc furnaces and no metallurgical silicon for production? At least one of these arc furnaces, M5, has been known to be operational and capable of producing silicon metal. The other two arc furnaces, M1 and M6, required retrofitting for silicon metal production. See Solarvalue: What ever happened to the M5 arc furnace? In addition, Solarvalue has always said producing high quality silicon metal is an important part of their process, so it is interesting to see them purchase silicon metal on the open market.

Looks like I got it right earlier this year in Solar Grade Silicon roads lead to Ruše - Part 3.


Sunday, October 14, 2007

Jasco’s GE Wireless SolarCam Product Trial and Review – Part 2

Finishing the review of the SolarCam™ Wireless System

In a Blog personal worst for lethargy, I am just now getting to Part 2 even though Jasco’s GE Wireless SolarCam Product Trial and Review – Part 1 was posted almost five months ago in May of this year. I got an email from one reader asking about this review, and they flagged me down at Solar Power 2007 to get the condensed verbal version.

After giving the SolarCam a running start with a few clear sunny days, the unit’s 110 by 160mm (millimeter) string of solar cells charged up and maintained the integrated 6V (Volt) rechargeable battery throughout the one month trial. Over this period, about fifty so percent of the days were overcast or cloudy, and I never observed the Low Battery Indicator alert from the Receiver unit. I am comfortable saying the solar cell and rechargeable battery combination in this product is rock solid. Of course, to achieve these results, the SolarCam needs to be located in an area without solar cell shading.

The integrated passive infrared sensor (PIR) responsible for motion activating camera transmissions functioned with rare false triggers at trial period temperatures ranging from about 3 to 18 degrees Celsius (38 to 64 degrees Fahrenheit). Jasco notes the PIR is sensitive to an object’s motion and the object’s heat, body heat is the typical trigger, and is less sensitive when the moving object and surroundings have similar temperatures. PIR Detection Distance and Angle are specified at 8 meters and 90 degrees for temperatures below 28 degrees Celsius (82 degrees Fahrenheit). With the trial camera pointed at a busy elevator and near a complex exit, there was plenty of people traffic moving across the PIR throughout the day peaking in the morning and evening. This steady traffic led to numerous camera motion activation events and the minimum 40 second transmission time gave the camera a steady workout reinforcing the robust performance of the solar cell and battery combination.

Before jumping into the question of video quality, let’s examine the specifications of the SolarCam camera and optics. The system and video output is standard NTSC based on the 510x492 pixel array size of the camera’s CMOS imaging chip. I do not believe Jasco offers a PAL version of this product, but I need to double check on this. The camera features a fixed focus 4.3mm F2.0 lens sporting a 78 degree lens angle. Also, the camera requires the viewing area to be illuminated at night, and Jasco claims the camera’s sensitivity is 3 Lux @ F1.2.

Instead of judging the video and audio capture and transmission quality by imposing my own subjective impressions, I decided to use an objective approach. Below are top and bottom paired videos taken by the SolarCam and my Canon Powershot SD800 IS digital camera during the day and at night. The SolarCam videos were digitized from the composite video and mono audio output of the Receiver unit at 320x240 resolution and 30 frames per second. Canon SD800 IS videos were shot at 320x240 pixel resolution and 30 frames per second straight to an SD Card. Uploading to YouTube added comparable degradation to both the SolarCam and Canon videos. The transmission distance between the SolarCam and the Receiver was less than 6 meters (about 20 feet).

Jasco’s GE Wireless SolarCam Day Video (40 second capture)

Canon Powershot SD800 IS Day Video

Jasco’s GE Wireless SolarCam Night Video (40 second capture)

Canon Powershot SD800 IS Night Video

I had interference issues with my transmitter channel selection and regretted not optimizing this at the intended installation location before the unit was mounted as I recommended afterwards in Part 1. My Silicon Valley neighborhood has over 25 Wi-Fi networks active in the same frequency band most of the time, and I am certain there are plenty of other devices sharing this ISM band. In an email response to my questions about transmission interference, Jasco said:

The wireless system can experience outside interference on a specific channel. To assist with outside disturbances from other 2.4 GHz products, the user can select one of four channels. The additional channels could be used to view the signal from more than one SolarCam, however Jasco has not developed an add-on camera configuration at this time.

I conducted an informal Transmission Range test of the SolarCam by capturing the video as I walked away from the Receiver. In the noisy environment described above, I measured a range of about 27 meters (89 feet) before the video signal lost sync and went to static. Achieving the specified up to 50 meter (150 feet) range will require minimal transmission interference sources and line of sight between the SolarCam and the Receiver. However, many natural applications of the SolarCam are not line of sight oriented.

While I liked the industrial design of the SolarCam, I found the practical mechanical design of the backplate deficient. Because the solar cells and antenna are mounted at the top of the unit, there are just two screws fastening the SolarCam to the bottom of the backplate. This arrangement makes handling the unit before mounting awkward as the backplate with the heavy rechargeable battery tends to fall off. Again, I recommend complete configuration of the unit before mounting to minimize further handling. Beside the transmitter channel selection mentioned above, Jasco said in the User’s Manual:

The “9V” battery is only intended for temporary use to get the SolarCam™ System running. Remove the battery after a month.

Given my trial was one month long, I did not have to mess with this, but I think many installers will prefer to shake the unit out for one month, remove the 9V battery, and then mount the SolarCam in its permanent location.

I didn’t have a VCR or DVR to test the Trigger output of the Receiver unit, and the User’s Manual I got with the SolarCam did not mention how to use this Trigger port or the “Ethernet like” AUX port RJ-45 for VCR Controller. The Jasco folks said:

The AUX port was initially designed for a future add-on device. Jasco currently does not have an add-on device in development.

Last, the motion detect feature is cool and performed well, but I observe there is a few second delay from activation until the video transmission can be viewed. This is fine for sanity check, vandal, or thief security, but this represents a security hole in a professional system.

In summary, the SolarCam Wireless System is great for sanity check security applications in a residential environment to observe a blind side of your home or provide an additional viewing angle on your front porch, back deck, garage, pool, shed, or driveway. The lack of wires eases installation and maintains home aesthetics while an old television gathering dust in the garage or attic would make a perfect dedicated viewing monitor.

Again, to keep the Jasco folks happy, I am supposed to state the following:

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

The SolarCam may not be appropriate for apartment dwellers. Although the SolarCam does not support remote panning or zoom capability, nosy neighbors fear the worst when a video surveillance camera is in plain site even when it is pointed at a common public area. I received a THREE DAY NOTICE TO PERFORM COVENANT OR QUIT from my rental community accelerating a swift end to the SolarCam trial. When the time is right, I plan to post a scathing flame of my rental community in my personal Blog, Ed Gunther's Licht Blog.

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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Solar Power 2007: Discussion Panels Aplenty – Part 3

Cost Competitiveness, CEO Panel, and Solar Stocks

To recap, Solar Power 2007: Discussion Panels Aplenty – Part 2 covered the CEO Panel Discussion with topics ranging from the Photovoltaic (PV) Industry Outlook to Silicon.

Part 3, the last installment of this series, tackles the Investing in Solar Stocks: What You Need to Know session moderated by Rob Stone, Cowen and Company with speakers:

Joe McNay, Chairman, Chief Investment Officer and Managing Principal, Essex Investment Management Company
Jesse Pichel, Vice President and Sr. Research Analyst, PiperJaffray
Sanjay Shrestha, Managing Director and Senior Alternative Energy Analyst, Lazard Capital Markets

I arrived late to this session from an interview and missed an opening presentation by a speaker who was not listed in the program. For some reason, the room lights were left dimmed for the rest of the session as you will observe in the video clips.

I thought the session got going with Jesse Pichel’s PV Industry Forecast for 2010. Mr. Pichel predicted a market size of 8 to 10GW (GigaWatts) with 7 to 8GW crystalline silicon and 2GW thin film solar modules depending on US market development.

In 2010, Mr. Pichel predicts overcapacity will drive solar module prices down to a clearing price of $2 per Watt translating to a $3.50 to $4.00 per Watt installed price and driving “unlimited demand for a few years”.

In this scenario, Mr. Pichel recommends avoiding pure commodity solar module suppliers and instead investing in companies with competitive advantages such as low cost manufacturing (China), vertically integrated manufacturing, or owning their own polysilicon supply. Later in the video clip, Sanjay Shrestha discusses unsustainable silicon prices, volatility, demand, price, the cost curve, turnkey suppliers, and downstream companies.

Here (, Mr. Shrestha talks about the importance of retail grid parity to reduce the PV Industry’s dependence on subsidies and cautions the chance of passing a new US Energy Bill this year is 50/50 at best. However, Mr. Shrestha also believes “the US is a natural market for solar” and with the right policies the US could be a 1GW solar market by 2010.

High Concentration PhotoVoltaics (HCPV)
Mr. Shrestha says HCPV has potential if it gets to less than $1 per Watt, but he believes it may compete against wind and other renewables in centralized applications and lose the traditional solar electric benefit of distributed generation (

Mr. Pichel suggests playing an upstream option on HCPV by investing in EMCORE Corporation (NASDAQ:EMKR) or Boeing Spectrolab. While Emcore may be a reasonable play, an investment in Boeing is more about the 787 Dreamliner and their defense business than photovoltaics (

Solar Incentive Programs
Jesse Pichel sides with a Feed-in Tariff approach over capex (i.e. rebate) programs because of the “Stop and go policy” issue and the long term returns provided to Photovoltaic system investors. Mr. Shrestha believes the key is to have a policy that gets the PV Industry to retail grid parity and will incentivize utilities to embrace distributed generation (

Focus versus Vertical Integration
Mr. Shrestha points out how varying strategies can lead to long term sustainable competitive advantage for solar companies, but this will depend on the market environment tipping Q-Cells, Suntech Power, and SunPower as having favorable positions while pointing out pitfalls for SunEdison and Conergy (

Solar Stock Valuations

Jesse Pichel chimes in on First Solar, and Sanjay Shrestha covers SunPower.

Although Mr. Shrestha claims SunPower has a reasonable valuation, I believe SunPower is priced to perfection with a Price to Earning (P/E) multiple of over 393 at post time, and SunPower is my choice for the most overpriced stock in the solar PV space.

By contrast, since the stock correction in August 2007, First Solar’s stock has been relaunched to a high multiple P/E of about 164 by plans to almost triple their production capacity. First Solar has achieved the lowest PV Industry variable production cost per Watt, $1.29 in Q1 2007, at 104MWp (MegaWatt-peak) production scale, and has a below multicrystalline silicon solar module pricing model to accelerate sell through. I have noticed a pattern of jealousy, contempt, and fear of First Solar from competitors across all the conferences and tradeshows I have attended over the summer and fall of 2007.

What about LDK Solar Co., Ltd.? I haven’t followed this company and only wrote about them because of the recent Sunways deal (Sunways Reactor-Wafer reversal deal with LDK Solar). I believe a company building a Polysilicon Production Plant is worth watching, but the question remains what is the proper valuation of the stock? Greentech Media has been on top of this unfolding story since the beginning. See New Details Surface as LDK's Stock Continues to Plunge and LDK Steps Up 3Q Guidance for the latest coverage.

Before Solar Power 2007 began, I intended to write a preview article detailing my topics of concern for the conference. These concerns were three fold: the R-Word (Recession), revisionist Solar Incentive Policies, and the most overheated solar stock (SunPower).

Of these three, I was listening for hints of concern about a US recession or economic slowdown (Just Don't Say the R-Word). My fear is the US housing bubble and its liquidity crunch aftermath will result in a slowdown or recession in 2008 later impacting the world economy. I observe the PV Industry and Renewable Energy boom has coincided with a robust long term expansion of the global economy, and I wonder if concerns about global warming will continue to drive high PV Industry growth rates through a global recession.

Worldwide stock markets have recovered from the August 2007 correction, and the claim is things are different because global economic growth does not depend on the US but is driven by BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) nations. Here are some links for further reading:

Double Warning That a Recession May Be on the Way
Don’t mention the R-word, but prepare for a slowdown

As an optimist, I will be happy if my R-word concerns are proven unfounded.

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Sunday, October 07, 2007

German International School of Silicon Valley goes Phoenix Solar

[Mountain View, CA USA]

German Parliamentary State Secretary Ulrich Kasparick inaugurates donated 18kWp Photovoltaic system

On Thursday, October 4, 2007, the German International School of Silicon Valley (GISSV) celebrated the inauguration of their new roof mounted and grid connected 18kWp (kiloWatt-peak) Photovoltaic (PV) system together with Invest in Germany, Mr. Ulrich Kasparick, the German Parliamentary State Secretary of Transport, Building, and Urban Development, Manfred Stolpe, former Premier of Brandenburg and Federal Minister, the GISSV community, Friends of GISSV, and invited guests.

The GISSV students and staff scooped the story, Photovoltaic system has been initiated with a photo slideshow, and Phoenix Solar covered the press release angle with Phoenix Solar AG builds a photovoltaic plant for the German school in California (Deutsch). In this German language video clip with Bernd Kohlstruck, Vice President Wind Business, Xantrex Technology, speaking, the PV system is initiated in a ceremonial “switch on” by dignitaries, company representatives, GISSV Principal Maja Oelschlägel, and GISSV President Christian Buchbauer.

Phoenix Solar AG (FRA:PS4) ($80,000) and Xantrex Technology Inc. (TSE:XTX) ($10,000) led a company consortium to donate the Photovoltaic system to the GISSV. First Solar, Inc. (NASDAQ:FSLR) supported Phoenix Solar perhaps by assuring swift module supply or did they also donate modules? Blue Oak Energy, Inc. provided consulting services, and I think Borrego Solar Systems, Inc. provided licensed California installation services.

Dr. Murray Cameron, Chief Operating Officer, Phoenix Solar AG, said:

With the support of the German International School, we have been able to gather experience in the turnkey construction of PV systems in the US which we are using to prepare our entry into the attractive US market.

After musical performances by two age groups of GISSV students, Mr. Kasparick addressed the reception in a speech (Deutsch) about climate change, renewable energy, and Eastern Germany as a center of excellence for solar and photovoltaics research, development, and production.

This PV project was kicked off 5 weeks ago on August 29, 2007, when German Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs Dr. Frank-Walter Steinmeier visited GISSV and, along with other school initiatives, witnessed the donation of the PV system by Phoenix Solar and Xantrex.

The PV system is expected to produce 28,000 kWh (kiloWatt-hours) of annual electricity or about one third of the school's annual demand and consists of 250 First Solar FS Series PV Modules and four (4) Xantrex inverters (GT 5.0 Grid Tie Solar Inverters?). Looking at the spec table for the First Solar FS modules, I get a theoretical system capacity of 17.5kWp for 250 FS-270 70Wp (Watt-peak) modules and 18.125kWp for 250 FS-272 72.5Wp. Was this system capacity rounded or are different power modules on separate strings in the implementation?

I ribbed Phoenix Solar earlier this year in Solar Photovoltaic company Rebrandings hit new High after they announced the name change from Phönix SonnenStrom AG to Phoenix Solar AG. I praise them for giving back to the world community with the PV system donation to GISSV.

This was a unique event for me since I attended in the dual role of Photovoltaic Blogger and dual US citizen (by birth) and German citizen (Deutscher seit 2001) putting those German language skills, at least listening, to good use.

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Friday, October 05, 2007

Solar Power 2007: Second Golden Meter Award Winner

Colorado Public Utilities Commission honored with the 2007 Golden Meter Award

Wednesday evening in the Press Room at Solar Power 2007, Ron Binz, Chairman of the Colorado Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), was presented the second Golden Meter Award For Excellence in Net Metering Rules by Claudine Schneider, President of the Solar Alliance. See the official press release from the Network for New Energy Choices in Golden Meter Awarded at Solar Power 2007.

The authors of the Freeing the Grid 2007 report (download the summary), the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC), the Network for New Energy Choices (NNEC), the Solar Alliance, and The Vote Solar Initiative, selected Colorado for crafting a best practice net metering policy.

In his acceptance speech, CPUC Chairman Ron Binz said:

We think we're doing things right in Colorado and it's great to have our hard work cited by these groups. With the leadership of Governor Ritter and the Legislature, we're creating a good environment for solar and wind power.

Colorado Governor Ritter has delivered on his New Energy Economy vision by building upon Amendment 37 and doubling the Renewable Energy Portfolio standard for investor owned utilities to 20% by the year 2020. No longer exempt, municipal utilities and rural electric providers are required to generate 10% of their electricity from renewable sources by 2020.

Colorado has vaulted from an NNEC net metering grade of “F” to an “A” tying New Jersey for the top spot in the US. Please review State Report Cards & Profiles for your state’s ranking.

For the first time ever, GUNTHER Portfolio is ranked number one (#1) on the regional TOP 50 Solar United Kingdom index. This has been a long journey, but the tougher part will be staying there.

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Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Solar Power 2007: Discussion Panels Aplenty – Part 2

Cost Competitiveness, CEO Panel, and Solar Stocks

Solar Power 2007: Discussion Panels Aplenty – Part 1 covered the German American Business Association (GABA) Solar Power: Achieving Cost Competitiveness event. GABA just posted a video of the event here.

Next up is the CEO Panel Discussion. Jordan Goodman, America's Money Answer Man, acted as Moderator of the CEO Panel including:

Anton Milner, CEO, Q-Cells AG
Steve Hill, President, Kyocera Solar
Dr. Zhengrong Shi, Chairman and CEO, Suntech Power Holdings Co., Ltd.
Thomas Werner, CEO, SunPower Corporation
Ron Kenedi, Vice President, Sharp Corporation’s Solar Energy Solutions Group
Hans-Martin Rüter, CEO, Conergy AG

The photo left is from the press conference following the CEO Panel.

I will focus on interesting statements from the CEO Panel grouped by topic with my own commentary.

Photovoltaic (PV) Industry Outlook (Forecast)
Kyocera Solar President Steve Hill expects a 3GW (GigaWatt) market size in 2008 and 9GW in 2010 factoring in positive development with US solar policies.

Q-Cells CEO Anton Milner left the panel in the dust with an aggressive 5GW worldwide production estimate (4GW installed) for 2008 growing to 14-15GW (12GW installed) by 2010 (

As the key determinants of PV Industry growth, Suntech Power CEO Dr. Shi asked: “How fast we can reduce the price? How fast we can have a lot of cheap silicon?”

SunPower CEO Tom Werner cited a wide center point forecast of 5-10GW by 2010.

At the recent 4th European PV Industry Forum in Milan, Michael Schmela, PHOTON International, Editor in Chief, presented the 2007 PHOTON Consulting PV Industry Forecast with 6.1GW in 2008, 15.1GW in 2010, and 20.5GW by 2011.

A number of the panelists slipped and said MegaWatt instead of GigaWatt since the large unit is still new to the PV Industry.

These forecasts are up almost 50% since last year (see Cost, Price and Politics: The Growing Photovoltaic Industry or my Blog version), but I continue to favor the aggressive, successful track record of Q-Cells and PHOTON although I have near term concerns I will discuss at the end of this series.

Grid Parity
Conergy CEO Hans-Martin Rüter discussed the converging trends of rising retail electricity rates of about 4+% per year while PV prices decline on average 5-7% leading to grid parity in high solar radiation areas of the US and the European Mediterranean by around 2011 given a balanced supply demand market.

Suntech Power CEO Dr. Shi said, “Still the most limiting factor here is Silicon Prices still fairly high.” Dwelling on his silicon theme, Dr. Shi thought USD $0.15 per kWh (kiloWatt-hour) generation costs were possible 5-7 years from now in California.

Solar Potential
As is his habit, Q-Cells CEO Anton Milner stole the spotlight with a compelling vision of solar’s future contribution to worldwide electricity generation. Mr. Milner quoted top line worldwide electricity demand growth from 18,000 TWh (TeraWatt-hours) in 2006 to 26,000 TWh by 2020 leading to 11,000 TWh of new and replacement electricity generation capacity investments by 2020. He extrapolated that 4-9% of this 11,000 TWh of capacity investment would be solar.

By 2020, Mr. Milner concluded 12%-33% of new installed electricity generation capacity would be solar resulting in a transformation of the energy industry from centralized large power stations to decentralized solar systems.

Government Incentive Policies
There was a basic disagreement between American panelists and the rest of the world on incentives for photovoltaics in the US market.

SunPower CEO Tom Werner represented the myopic US Solar Industry line on the critical importance of the current Energy Bill in the US Congress with the ITC (Investment Tax Credit) extensions to maintain the PV market status quo.

Again, Q-Cells CEO Milner best articulated how the Feed-in Tariff (FiT) engages return oriented investors to purchase and install PV systems instead of just environmentalists provided there is unlimited guaranteed access to the grid.

Mr. Milner stated a US Feed-in Tariff could turbo charge the PV Industry here until grid parity is achieved, and said “This should be a no brainer,” for US politicians but cautioned about “Stop and go policy” creating uncertainty and killing market development. Does the New Jersey Clean Energy Program or the bad start for the residential California Solar Initiative come to mind?

Last year, I thought the US could develop our own unique American program to spur PV Industry market development. Since then I have dropped my NIH (Not Invented Here) attitude and agree the German Feed-In Tariff rate payer model is superior to the budget constrained and unfair rebate approach. Watching the Stop and go policy for solar in New Jersey convinced me on the power of the Feed-In Tariff model. Spain and Italy have adopted similar Feed-In Tariff models so let’s just admit imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

Is overcapacity looming for the PV Industry?

Again with the silicon, Suntech Power CEO Dr. Shi said:

If our Silicon people can be more considerate, can be part of the team, because in a way we are the same team, this industry is going to continue to grow.

The key risk for the PV Industry is continuing support from government subsidies until grid parity is achieved in each local market.

When will the silicon shortage be ending?
SunPower: Next year to three years perhaps sooner
Suntech Power: Two years time
Conergy: Not easy to say
Q-Cells: Normalization of the silicon markets Mid 2009
Sharp: Next two years. Exploring Thin Film and Concentrators
Kyocera: Next 24-36 months should ease up

When asked about metallurgical silicon, CEO Milner promoted Q-Cells supply deal with Elkem Solar, though not by name, for refined metallurgical silicon. This material was said to be as good as polysilicon resulting in equivalent performance multicrystalline silicon solar cells at 100% mix. Mr. Milner also mentioned this at the GABA event, but I didn’t get a video clip.

Covering the CEO Panel wasn’t as brief as I anticipated. Part 3 will tackle the Investing in Solar Stocks: What You Need to Know session.

The Awards Ceremony for the 2007 CALIFORNIA CLEAN TECH OPEN will be on Monday, October 29, 2007, at the Palace of Fine Arts Theatre in San Francisco, California USA, with registration and exhibits beginning at 4:30PM. I suggest early pre-registration.

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