California and the Federal Government have recently approved a number of big Solar Thermal Plants totaling around 2800 MW.These plants utilize Concentrated Solar Thermal (CSP) Technology and uses mirrors and towers instead of normal PV panels.The haste with which these plants are being permitted and approved is mainly due to the expiry of the Treasury Grant Scheme by end of 2010.According the the American Stimulus rules,only Green Projects which have broken ground or spent 5% of their costs would be eligible for the 30% Cash Subsidy.6 Huge Solar Thermal Plants have been approved with the biggest Blythe plant being the most recent.The capital costs for these plants are extremely high at around $6/watt which makes me question their economics.PV panels can be installed at around $3-3.5 /watt which is around 40-50% lower.Despite the higher capacity factors for Solar Thermal Plants and their ability to store energy for a short period,the cost difference is too large.

BYD the Chinese battery and electric vehicle producer made famous after Warren Buffet made an investment has been facing rough times recently.Its falling auto growth,problems with land acquisitions in China and an incoherent strategy has hurt its profits and stock price in 2010.The Company has put on too many hats with investment in various green technologies besides its bread and butter car business.The most ambitious plans of BYD undoubtedly lies in the Solar Energy Business though little details have been revealed.The company is planning to spend 22.5 Billion Yuan on Solar Energy over the next 5 years for which it has already secured financing.The company has started a 100 MW cell plant in the Shaanxi province and plans to expand to 5000 MW by 2015.However its recent travails had made one think that they would have put their aside Solar ambitions .However that does not appear so.

Wind Energy Companies in the Developed Markets have taken it on the chin in 2010.Companies dependent on the Wind Energy Markets in the West like Vestas,Gamesa,Suzlon,Iberdola Renewables etc. have had a very bad 2010 as their stocks price keep finding new lows.A Combination of Tough Financing Markets,Low Gas Prices and Declining Electricity Demand has made the livers of Wind Executives hellish in recent times.More competition in terms of Chinese heavyweights like Sinovel,Goldwind and Koean shipbuidlers precludes an easy recovery.Green IPOs in recent times have faced huge volatility with some managing success while others have led to huge losses.China’s Ming Yang Power which is a Chinese Turbine Manufacturer has seen a 30% erosion of its IPO stock price of $14 as it was priced a tad too aggressively.First Wind which is a bit different being a Wind Energy Developer similar to renewable energy developers like Enel Green Power,EDF Novellas might face a frosty reception as well.Its not a good time to be in the wind energy business as increasing competition and declining demand cause problems.Note John Deere sold off its Renewable Energy Arm for a bargain as US Climate Change Legislation seems stuck in an everlasting limbo.Without a Federal RPS and an expiring 30% Treasury Cash Grant for Wind Farms,2011 is very uncertain for Wind Energy in the USA.

Concentrated Photovoltaic (CPV) Technology Gaining Ground

Concentrated Photovoltaic (CPV) Technology has found some favor in 2010 with some major projects and investments coming its way.CPV Technology which is a poorer cousin of its more illustrious PV Technologies like c-Si and Thin Film has found some attention with its low cost and high efficiency.US Startups like Amonix,Solaria have found some traction bagging some big projects backed by financial investors.Concentrix Solar backed by European Specialist Wafer Producer Soitec has recently announced a partnership deal with US Energy Efficiency Leader Johnson Controls.With c-Si Technology fast reaching its Efficiency Limits,CPV is looked upon as the way forward for the Technology to progress.CPV Technology works by concentrating the energy of the sun through optics and has the potential to dramatically cut the costs as it uses much less materials.The Technology slowed down because of the polysilicon price crash but has found increasing attention in the past few days

WTO Defers Chinese Case to 2011

European Union,Mexico and USA had filed a case with WTO in 2009 over the Chinese monopoly and trade resticitions of rare earth minerals.However WTO has failed to resolve the issue despite a time limit of 6 months.The WTO Panel has defered the WTO case to April 2011 without assigning a reason.WTO is more of a negotiatino forum rather than a body which can punish violators .To expect WTO to make China increase it export quota of rare earth minerals is like living in a fool’s paradise.Trade Tensions between China and other world trade powers is already very high.Currency and Global Imbalances are already major issues which threaten to derail the world economic recovery (however faint it maybe).Rare Earth Minerals are proving to be another big thorn in trade relations between China and the West.

Solar Frontier is a subsidiary of Showa Shell Sekiyu and is listed on the Japanese Stock Exchange.The Company has big plans for the Solar Energy Market planning to increase its capacity by more than 10 times in 2011 to around 1 Gw in total.All its 3 plants are located in Miyazaki in Japan and uses previous plasma plant of Hitachi.Solar Frontier claims 11.5% efficiency for its CIS modules which are expected to go upto 14% by 2014.The Company is spending around $1 Billion in Capex for building the 1 GW capacity implying roughly $1 capex/watt which is not exactly cheap though not very expensive either.Note Thin Film Competition is hotting up with Saint Gobain-Hyundai,TSMC,Miasole,Oerlikon Solar,Sharp,Nanosolar all making plans for huge capacity expansion in the next couple of years.Solar Frontier has signed some small deals for supplying 1-3 MW in Thailand,Japan and Australia Recently.However the cost structure of the company is not known till now just like Sharp.While Solar Frontier looks good on the capacity and partnerships front,it has still to prove itself on costs to really push the Chinese Solar Companies which are dominating the Solar Scene right now with their low cost polysilicon panel production.Note 60% of the Solar Panel Production in Q210 was estimated to be done by Chinese based manufacturers.