China using its massive foreign exchange horde to buy commodity assets around the world is an old story by now.It is now also getting into the act in the Green Energy area as China’s state owned chemical group Blue Star has bought Norwegian environment chemical company Elkem from the Orkla conglomerate.Elkem is one of the largest silicon metal producers in the world and makes a solar grade polysilicon through a specialized low cost process.Orkla which is also the 40% owner of one of the world’s largest silane and polysilicon producers Renewable Energy Corporation (REC) had been looking out for some time to sell Elkem.China has not been a big producer of polysilicon which is the main raw material for producing silicon based semiconductors and silcion based solar panels.The massive demand for polycrstalline modules has resulted in it being the main demand driver for polysilicon.

About 800 jobs in the Solar Industry will be lost directly to China as the USA administration has failed to support its established solar companies.Massachusetts had supported Evergreen with $58 million in subsidies but it was not enough for Evergreen to compete against the ongoing subsidies received by the strong Chinese players who have captured almost 70% of the global market in a few short years.The other US solar companies like Sunpower and First Solar are surviving by manufacturing most of their solar panels in Malaysia and other places.The recent “Buy American” Pentagon Law may not help all that much as module making is a low value add activity already being done by European and Chinese players in the USA.In the complicated supply chain of global manufacturing its difficult to understand who ultimately benefits and loses from such provisions.Note most of the polysilicon going inside the wafers and cells made in Asia are imported from USA and Europe.

France recently halted its solar subsidy program for 3 months for solar installations under 3 kw as it was deluged with a large number of applications.Solar Feed in Tariffs are quite generous for certain type of solar panel installations like BIPV and greenhouses.This combined with rapidly falling solar panel prices primarly due to low cost Chinese manufacturing has made the business extremely lucrative.Note France is not the first country to see a massive flood of solar applications.Spain,Czech,Germany,Australia have faced problems with solar feed in tariff programs mainly because of poor design by slow moving bureaucrats.However most of these countries have never blamed cheap Chinese panel imports for their badly designed programs.Germany which is the undisputed solar market leader did for a while raise the Chinese bogey but it was for a short while.Anyone with a little understanding of the solar industry would know that almost 50% of the value is created in installation which is all done locally.Also most of the polysilicon raw material is made in the West as also most of the equipment used in producing panels in China.

Germany is almost certain to cut the solar feed in tariff in 2011 on top of the regular 13% decrease.Note Germany is the largest solar market in the world by far and installed an astounding 8 GW of solar panels in 2010.With almost 18 GW of total solar installations,the German solar energy capacity is almost half of the world’s capacity despite bad conditions for solar energy.Germany had set a target of around 4-5 GW of solar energy this year in the upper case and this has been vastly exceeded as solar module price cuts have made it attractive to install solar panels.

USA has opposed India’s Local Content Requirements for the Federal Solar Energy JNNSM program.Note according to the JNNSM rules,solar panels will have to be produced in India for the first year and solar cells will also have to produced from the second year.There is also a proposal that the local content requirements may be extended […]

Posco,one of world’s largest steel producers has been trying to enter the solar market like its other Korean brethren.Note South Korea has been really pushing the Green Industry in the country giving all sorts of incentives to Wind Energy,Electric Vehicles,Solar Energy etc.Korean conglomerates have responded by making huge investments into all sorts of Green Sectors.LG and Samsung have already established crystalline solar cells lines alongwith Hyundai.Hanwha has made a big bang acquisition of the 4th largest Chinese module producer Solarfun while OCI Polysilicon is on its way to become the 2nd largest producer of polysilicon in the world.Posco made its intention known about entering the solar market when it made a play for the Norwegian poly producer Elkem.This was a surprising decision considering that Posco’s core strenght of steel making has little to do with production of polysilicon.