Archive for the ‘Solar News’ Category

by Matt Margolis

Yingli Green Energy reported their Q4 2013 earnings on March 18th.  I wanted to take a closer look at their conference call to understand their solar industry outlook as well as to try to find Merlin.  No I am not talking about “where is Waldo” but where is GTAT’s Merlin technology headed?  GT’s CEO Tom Gutierrez did mention that Merlin would most likely not be named by the PV module makers but that we would be able to recognize Merlin if we saw it.  So my question is, where is Merlin?

 

Yingli Raises $83m of Cash for China Power Plants

Yingli announced plans on Friday to raise $83m via a secondary share offering.  The company indicates that the funds will be used to build solar power plants in China. The shares were offered 17% below Yingli’s closing share price on Thursday and the stock traded down nearly 13% on Friday.

 

Yingli’s Solar Industry Outlook

Looking ahead, we’re optimistic on the state of the solar industry in the U.S., Latin America and the overall region. 2014 is picking up where 2013 left off, demand is strong in our book of businesses filled and well-balanced. The momentum we are witnessing we will be enduring and we believe that we are just getting started in what will be a tremendous end market for years to come. We are confident that with cooperation and support of our customers and other key stakeholders, we will navigate the uncertainty of this new trade petition and soon be able to focus on our key mission, which is drive adoption of solar energy across the continent and the world. (Seeking Alpha)

 

Next Generation PANDA series modules: Bigger, Lighter & Highly Efficient

In 2014, we expect to mass produce a variety of new generation of other PANDA series modules, bigger but lighter weighted and high-efficiency. our proprietary goal is to create differentiated products that provide more value for our customers and accelerated the deployment of solar across the world.

A bigger PV module that weighs less than a smaller module is usually an oxymoron.  GT’s Merlin technology, which removes up to 80% of the silver paste from the traditional PV module design would certainly reduce the weight even if the PV module supplier increased the size of the unit.

 

Is Yingli’s next generation of PANDA series modules, that have been described as being; bigger, lighter, highly efficient and expected to be mass-produced in 2014 the first sign of Marlin?

Merlin Timeline

 

Full Disclosure: I am long GTAT and have no plans to buy or sell any holdings

 

 

 

 

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GT’s Merlin Technology evolved from GT Equipment Technologies’ Patent US 6620645 B2 titled: Masking and connected bus bars on solar cells.
Screenshot - 3_13_2014 , 8_21_42 PM
The abstract and (Images):
A method for fabricating multi-cell solar devices using thermal spray deposition techniques to spray metal powder directly on solar cells and on the backing upon which solar cells are assembled, to form collection grid lines, bus bars, electrodes and interconnections between solar cells.

Screenshot - 3_12_2014 , 8_28_17 PM

The Invention:

The invention relates to the application of bus bars for interconnecting solar cells, and in particular to thermal spray depositing of bus bars across the grid line surfaces and the back surfaces of solar cells to form interconnections for a sequence of solar cells to make a solar panel.

The Issue with today’s Process

In the prior art process, the tabbing machine is very complex, combining mechanical parts that move and cut tabs and electrical parts that heat up the cell surface and solder the tabs. Moreover, for the soldering of tabs on the back side, an extra step is required for screen-printing the silver pads. This adds to the cost of machines and working space, as well as to production time and costs, since extra machines for printing and baking are necessary.

Summary of Benefits

Enables interconnection of cells to be completed in less time and at a lower cost than current methods

  • Allows connections directly to a single- or poly-crystalline silicon solar cell and of interconnections between cells.
  • Enable the interconnection of solar cells by a single apparatus instead of multiple-step, tabbing and stringing equipment as is currently practiced (no more equipment!)

Higher electrical and mechanical quality and improved solar/electric conversion efficiencies

Sprayed metal particles have high velocity and temperature, the coating made by these particles has strong bonding with the substrate materials.The thermal spray system is the only apparatus needed for the whole process.

  • Replaces machines for mechanical handling and electrical soldering of tabs
  • Replaces an extra screen-printing machine and a baking oven for the silver pads
  • Reduces the required investment in processing equipment.

No restriction to the metal that can be used if it is available in the form of a fine powder suitable for spray techniques.

  • Silver, copper, aluminum, nickel, gold or any of their alloys are good candidates and more
  • Suitable thermal spray methods include any form of the commercially available spray deposition techniques, such as arc plasma spray, flame spray, HVOF, and laser spray.

Conclusion:

This technology does sound “magical,” one spray bottle can replace equipment, soldering,  printing and baking equipment.  The technology will reduce weight, reduce costs and take a bite out of the metallization paste providers top and bottom lines (DuPont, Heraus, and Giga Solar Materials).  The thermal spray can utilize any any fine metal powder so the application being showcased today might be for solar, but it could be broadly applied to the electronic devices and minimize the need for soldering all together.  Merlin, reminds me of Willy Wonka’s patented three-course dinner inside of a little piece of gum, because one little bottle of thermal spray certainly packs a heavy punch!

Screenshot - 3_13_2014 , 8_29_59 PM

~Obscure Analyst 3/13/14

Full Disclosure: I am long GTAT and have no plans to buy or sell in the next 72 hours

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Matt Margolis 3/3/14

GT Advanced Technologies’ (GTAT) epitaxial growth on thin lamina patent was published on 2/6/14. Epitaxy is defined as the growth of a thin layer on the surface of a crystal so that the layer of growth has the same structure as the underlying crystal. GT’s patent essentially enables the growth of a semiconductor material on a donor body, by firing GT’s Hyperion’s ion cannon which splits (exfoliates) the semiconductor material from the donor body, to form a super thin lamina (layer) of the semiconductor material. The resulting lamina from the first process can be exfoliated by Hyperion a second time to form an additional semiconductor lamina. The patent can be applied across a broad range of semiconductor materials to epitaxally grow GaN, AlGaN, AN, Ge, Ga(In)As, GaInP, AlGaInP, AlInP, InGaN, SiC, GaAs. The epitaxial layer may be doped as either n-type or p-type while it is being grown. The donor bodies for this patent include germanium, gallium arsenide, silicon carbide, silicon and gallium nitride.

One of the most interesting findings within this patent was related to PV (photovoltaic), specifically the creation of a triple junction PV cell and the ability to incorporate the thin (PV cell) lamina into an electronic device. Not only does GT have the ability to create thin film solar cells but they also have the ability to stack the thin film solar cells to form a triple junction PV cell that is still less than 25 microns thick before it is incorporated into an electronic device all while rocking a 40%+ efficiency rating. Below are some details from the epitaxial growth on thin lamina patent.

For the complete article head over to Seeking Alpha (membership is free)

http://t.co/8j8ZyzDLIk

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Saudi PV Contracts May Deliver Sunshine Either Way?

Posted: March 2, 2014 by mattmargolis24 in Solar News, Uncategorized
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A new article from PV Tech from Author Mark Osborne, who by the way is always on top of his game, made some interesting comments about 5 days ago (link below).

http://www.pv-tech.org/news/gt_advanced_technologies_expects_major_revenue_recovery_with_new_products_i

In reference to the Middle East, GTAT was one of a group of preferred bidders for a major new polysilicon plant in Saudi Arabia, which would be built in phases over several years. The successful bid for that plant was originally expected to have been announced at the end of 2013, which suggests a decision is imminent.

Recently, SunEdison announced it was undertaking a feasibility study with Saudi partners to build a major PV manufacturing complex that would include polysilicon production through to PV module assembly.

Though it is unclear at this time whether the two polysilicon plants are connected or not, GTAT could benefit from both regardless.

He also made one more comment regarding 3/14/14 webcast on new technologies

major new product announcement on March 14 is not related to its Twin Creeks acquired Hyperion wafer technology, nor the HiCz low-cost monocrystalline polysilicon technology, previously touted to enter the market in 2014.

Perhaps a new tool is coming out of GT’s war chest?

Polysilicon Market Headed for a Shortage in 2014?

Posted: February 28, 2014 by mattmargolis24 in Solar News
Tags: , , ,

Matt Margolis – 2/27/14

 

Courtesy of greentechmedia  it appears as though polysilicon shortage may arrive before the end of 2014.  The magic number mentioned by various sources is that a polysilicon spot price of $25 per kilogram will trigger expansions.    One other interesting point is greentech is coming up with a base forecast of 42 GW for demand versus Solarbuzz at 49GW.  Greentech, however does have a high supply estimate of 50GW, which will lead to a “market would be grossly undersupplied, and significantly more manufacturing capacity than we currently forecast would have to be added to meet demand”.  If you believe Solarbuzz current forecast of 49GW and greentech’s high demand case of 50GW.  It does sound like polysilicon orders will be flying in before the end of 2014

Some key excerpts are below from greentechmedia.

2014 Supply-Demand: The Base Case

After having accounted for likely expansions in 2014, a clearer picture of supply-demand for 2014 emerges, as shown in the chart below, where additional supply comes on-line to meet expectations of strong demand growth. Under this scenario, available supply for wafers, cells and module exceeds demand by 30 percent to 45 percent, implying a stable and balanced market. It is only in the case of polysilicon, where excess supply is just 13 percent, that we appear to be headed for a real supply shortage: this is the driving factor behind GTM’s previously expressed view that polysilicon pricing will climb back to levels of $25 per kilogram by the end of the year.

Screenshot - 2_27_2014 , 9_14_39 PM

2014 Supply-Demand: The High Case

Before rushing to conclusions, it is worth remembering a final point. Much of the analysis above ultimately comes down to our 2014 end-demand estimate of 42 gigawatts. But time and time again, early-year PV market sizing forecasts have proven to be conservative in the final analysis.

As with previous years, the forecast risk for 2014 seems to lie very much on the upside, with GTM’s high-case installation estimate for 2014 in the neighborhood of 50 gigawatts. In this case, the market would be grossly undersupplied, and significantly more manufacturing capacity than we currently forecast would have to be added to meet demand. Given China’s new PV regulations, still-prevailing constraints on capital spending and equipment lead times, it is unclear if suppliers would be able to react in time to meet such an upswing in demand, especially in the case of polysilicon.

Source: GTM Research Global PV Competitive Intelligence Tracker

In conclusion, there are definite signs that at long last, balance between supply and demand in the PV market has not just been restored, but is beginning to trend in the opposite direction from the past few years — with the very real possibility of a supply shortage in the offing. Once again, it is a reminder that when it comes to the PV market, the winds of change can blow very quickly.

 

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A recent article titled “Solar Equipment to rise by more than 5 fold in 3 years” was published on February 19th courtesy of Wall Street Sector Selector.  The article’s source, Solarbuzz is projecting capital spending will reach $13B by 2017, which exceed the “solar boom” of 2011 that registered $11B in solar equipment spending.

The reasons for the predicted boom are fairly simple:

The main reasons for this optimism lies in the fact that:

a) Tier 1 companies have become stronger over the last one year due to consolidation and are profitable

b) Increased spending will have to be made on solar cell efficiencies

c) Demand catch-up to supply.

The biggest beneficiaries of the solar capital upgrade cycle will be thin film solar technology, which is sometimes referred to as CIGs (Copper indium gallium selenide).  Project scale, costs, and profitability will be extremely important for solar companies moving forward. As noted in the article, “CIGs technology has one of the best potential amongst PV technologies for improving efficiency and reducing costs”.  The article also points out that Tier 1 suppliers (Trina Solar (TSL) and Jinko Solar (JKS) have been increasing capacity by scooping up bankrupt Tier 2 suppliers.   The article recommends 3 solar equipment players to look at to take advantage of the upcoming solar equipment boom (Centrotherm, Applied Materials (AMAT) and GT Advanced Technologies (GTAT).

The Obscure Analyst’s takeaway:  This time is different.  The solar boom of 2011 and bust of 2013 as it relates to solar equipment has naturally corrected itself.  The supply side of the equation has regulated itself by reducing the amount of players, which will lead to a steady and more predictable supply of PV.   Oversupply that was created in 2011 will correct itself over the course of 2014 and the capital equipment upgrade cycle will begin in earnest by late 2H2014 as utilization rates are pushed to their limits.  Furthermore, after analyzing the Solarbuzz growth projections it appears as though the global solar installations will grow more evenly over the next several years.  The relationship between solar installs and solar equipment purchases should become more elastic and predictable.  The solar marketplace is beginning to resemble the memory space after the weakest hands went bankrupt and the strongest hands purchased several bankrupt supplier’s for pennies on the dollar.  Micron Technology’s 12-18 month chart represents just how quickly the memory space income statements improved after supply and pricing were under control after industry consolidation.

Micron Technology

Courtesy of PV Magazine, they expect PV  “demand for 2014 is expected to be higher than last year, the industry expects that the main driver for investment in polysilicon production tools and innovation will be increased demand for high-efficiency solar cells in 2015”.  What this translates into is that yes PV growth will be outstanding with PV demand for solar panels to grow from 3 GW in 2013 to 49 GW in 2014.  The main issue plaguing the industry is over supply of polysilicon and low prices.  As demand catches up with supply Tier-1 poly silicon producers will see higher utilization and polysilicon prices rise which will signal trigger the next capital cycle for PV equipment which is expected the 2H of 2014 or beginning of 2015.  The article also highlights that some plants in China are considering expansion but need access to funding before they can expand.  Investors should watch polysilicon prices closely as prices above $25/kg or more are needed for sustained (capital) investment.

PV magazine reached out to GT Advanced Technologies (GTAT) for an update on where they see the market going. GTAT expects further polysilicon equipment production orders especially from the Middle East.

According to GT Advanced Technologies (GTAT), a supplier of equipment for all stages of polysilicon production, regions that are responsible for investments in polysilicon production equipment include South Korea, China, especially in the northern and western regions, Malaysia, Germany – because of Wacker, the U.S., the Middle East and Taiwan. However, South Korea and Taiwan could lose some market share for new investment because of rising electricity prices. The U.S. is being affected by tariffs. “The market in the Middle East has been slow to develop, but we do expect further investment in this region,” states Chad Fero, Senior Director of Worldwide Service at GTAT.

GTAT also provided an update on their HicZ for n-type solar cells.

GTAT is continuing to develop its HiCz furnace, ideal for n-type PV cells. It has achieved some important milestones in the development of this technology and is aligning the furnace’s launch with the emergence of the n-type PV cell market, which could see the next capital equipment cycle begin in 2015 or even as early as the second half of 2014.

Matt Margolis

PV Magazine recently outlined a new study published in the academic journal Energy Policy  that makes the case for photovoltaic systems themselves to be used as collateral for loans aimed at financing solar installations.  Photovoltaic systems (PV system) is an arrangement of components designed to supply usable electric power for a variety of purposes.

This is no different than a bank taking a security interest in your car when you receive your auto loan.  If there is a liquid market for PV systems it makes sense for the financing companies to accept PV systems as collateral.  Using PV systems as collateral could potentially require less money down, as well as drive down the cost of financing.  If this financing method is embraced by US financial institutions it may just add some sunshine and additional profits for US Solar installers.  As profits rise and balance sheets improve, US Solar companies will buy more efficient equipment to help drive down solar power costs further for you and me.

Renewable Energy Is Winning the Battle Versus Fossil Fuels

Posted: February 10, 2014 by mattmargolis24 in Solar News
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A great article on how Solar is winning out over other energy sources.   A quick highlight from the article on Solar’s potential is below.

Drivers of renewable energy growth
While electricity generated from wind is much larger than solar today, it’s not the future of renewable installations. Most of the easily and economically developable wind resources in the U.S. have been exploited and costs aren’t falling as rapidly as they are in solar.

The solar industry is where there’s high potential because solar power has the potential to provide enough electricity for the entire country and costs are still falling rapidly. You can see below that utility scale projects are less than half of what they cost in 2010 and residential projects are about one-third cheaper. If we go back even further, the cost of a solar panel 35 years ago was more than $100 per watt and today you can get one for around $0.65 per watt, a cost reduction of more than 99%.

 

 

SunEdison Inks Solar Deal in Saudi Arabia

Posted: February 9, 2014 by mattmargolis24 in Solar News
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SunEdison inks deal for $6.4B solar factory in Saudia Arabia.  Full coverage can be found below

CBS Marketwatch 

UPI News

Seeking Alpha