Solar Stocks have made their investors suicidal with drops of of 80-90% from the top common even amongst the biggest solar companies. A number of solar companies like Q-Cells, Solar Millenium, Solon which used to be amongst the 10 biggest ones have gone bankrupt. In fact most of the German solar companies have either gone [...]
This may be a dramatic statement to make about the world’s most valued solar company but there are several reasons which I will explain below to illustrate this point. Note the solar industry is in a league of its own in the astonishing drop it solar panel prices (80% price drop over the last 3-4 years) and the rapid increase in demand (60% CAGR over the last 10 years).So the comparison and analysis by your usual stock hacks on financial portals like Motley and Seeking Alpha is way off the mark. First Solar had the worst 2 quarters in its history in 2011 as it went from a record breaking profit company into the red. Many issues which were hidden by its past success came out in the open and some of them are life threatening. Here are these problems
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.
Solar Panel Manufacturers in USA are facing a torrid time from the falling prices of Chinese solar panels.This has caused the bankruptcies of some big solar panel companies in recent times like Solyndra,Spectrawatt and Evergreen Solar.Only those solar panel companies with the lowest cost and good quality will manage to survive the price war in solar panels that is currently on.Most companies are running losses as the prices of solar panels have decreased by 40% in 6 months.This would cause any industry to see massive bankruptcies and this is the case with the solar panel industry as well.Note Solar Industry is a new one with rapid technology and cost changes which makes startups with bad business models go bust.This is a natural effect of capitalism and nothing to be afraid of .However you have to be careful of which solar panel manufacturer to buy from as your 25 year solar panel warranty will become useless if the solar panel manufacturer from which you brought the solar panel goes out of business.On the Bright Side the sharply declining costs of solar has made it the biggest advantage of using solar power.
First Solar is going to the biggest producer of solar panels in the world despite having a solar panel technology which differs from almost all of its competitors.First Solar Solar Panels use Cadmium-Tellurium Thin Film Solar Technology while the majority of the Solar Industry uses Crystalline Silicon Technology.Despite the difference First Solar is the most valued solar stock in the world and has been for a long time.Despite stiff competition from the silicon technology and most of the thin film companies going bankrupt,First Solar has managed to hold on cutting costs and improving yields continuously.In fact First Solar Solar Panels have the lowest cost of production in the world.First Solar Solar Panels efficiency has also increased in the last few years such that First Solar is now targeting commercial segments of the market.Note First Solar earlier used to sell solar panels mostly to developers and utilities to build ground mounted solar panel farms where the lower efficiency of the Cd-Te solar panels did not matter.The reason is that in large solar farms space and area constraints are not there unlike in rooftops where the space is a major issue.
Huge Solar Panel Projects are being planned in the USA by solar developers and utilities as solar panel prices have fallen by 20-30% in the second quarter of 2011 as solar panel manufacturers are faced with oversupply and inventory issues.Note building both coal and nuclear power plants in the US has become increasingly difficult with pollution and climate change issues coming to the fore.While natural gas is getting a boost due to cheap shale gas discoveries,solar energy is picking up pace due to the government support in the form of DOE Loan guarantees and Treasury Grant programs like 1705.Recently two very large solar panel projects have been announced or are in the process over the next 3-4 years.