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Oldest US Solar Panel Producer Uni-Solar Ovonic goes Belly up

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While US Solar Installers are making Hay while the Chinese Solar Panel Companies flood the world with super cheap solar modules,Western solar manufacturers are being killed at an astounding rate.The second biggest thin film solar panel company in the US United Solar Ovonic has gone belly up.The company was fighting a losing batter as the more efficient crystalline solar panel prices went below its production cost.The company had tried to fight in a the niche of BIPV solar panel market but could not survive. After First Solar,Energy Conversion Devices seemed the mostly likely viable company in Thin Film Technology.After a few quarters of profits in 2008,the company went into the red as its flexible a-Si modules failed to cut costs as fast as others.It has been shutting factories in the US and shifting to low cost locations.

Energy Conversion Devices also cuts down US production and increases Manufacturing in Mexico

All US Solar Companies have majority of their  production being manufactured outside of the USA except for Energy Conversion Devices (ENER).Now ENER is also joining the rest of its peers as it cuts down jobs in the USA and increases production in Mexico.This should have come much earlier as ENER continues to lose loads of money due to its high cost operations.Note the other major companies like First Solar and Sunpower have almost 90-100% of their solar modules being made in Asia while Evergreen Solar has also recently outsourced production to China

The company has sold off its battery operations and has filed for Chapter 11 bankrutpcy.Other smaller thin film companies like Nanosolar,Miasole too look on their way out.Stion and Heliovolts have found foreign partners to survive which means that First Solar might be the only thin film solar company in the US to survive.The Chinese solar industry continues to bankrupt non-Chinese solar companies across the world.

The Chinese Dominance of the Solar Industry in the last 2 years have seen numerous Western companies go bust . This has accelerated sharply in 2011 with companies like Evergreen Solar,Spectrawatt, Solar Millenium, Solon, Photowatt etc. either gone for good or in various stages of bankruptcy. Other US Solar Panel Manufacturers like First Solar, Sunpower have fired thousands and some are continuing with large losses. European Solar Companies are the worst off given their high cost structure and lack of differentiation. Solland Solar recently killed its solar module line while some like Schott have killed their solar wafer lines.

Solar Jobs have been cut in the tens of thousands this year by a number of European Solar Companies including marquee names such as REC, Q-Cells, Solarworld ,SMA Solar besides many of the smaller names. Some of the solar companies like Solon have completely shut down. 5000 solar companies have downed shutters in 2011 according to German association BSW. This is despite global solar demand in 2011 increasing by around 30-40% compared to 2010. The reason is that massive overcapacity has been created in China and other parts of Asia. Backed by cheap loans and massive subsidies, around 50 GW of solar panel capacity has been created . This has led to a crashing of solar panel prices by 60% which has decimated the higher cost companies in Europe.

Thin Film Solar

Solar Thin Film Technology has been growing rapidly despite falling costs of the mainstream Photovoltaic Crystalline Silicon Technology.While the current solar supply glut has resulted in some of the thin film solar film companies going out of business,big thin  film suppliers continue with their growth plan.Solar Thin Film Technology is supposed to be  the 2nd Generation successor to the mainstream Crystalline Silicon (c-Si) Technology which accounts for around 85% of world production.While a number of Weaker Hands in Thin Film have downed shutters,Thin Film Producers continue to grow and expand.The massive growth potential of Solar Energy makes it possible for both of these PV technologies to flourish.Thin Film Technology unlike c-Si has a number of variants.Amorphous Silicon (a-Si),Copper Indium Gallium Sulphide (CIGs) and Cadmium Tellurium (Cd-Te) are the 3 main types of Thin Film Technology.There are a number of manufacturers of all of these 3 types of Technology.CIGs Technology is said to have the most potential in improving efficiency and competing with c-Si,however Cd-Te is currently the top dog as the world’s biggest solar producer First Solar currently uses this technology.a-Si Technology is not that hot with low efficiencies however Oerlikon and Sharp are pushing ahead with developing this technology.

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Abhishek Shah

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