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UL certified the product last week, which should allow Elon Musk to keep his promise to roll the product out this summer. Receiving UL’s Class A certifications should allow Solar Roof installations to face fewer objections from local permitting bodies in the United States, allowing easier deployment in more locations. Tesla started taking orders for the Solar Roofs earlier this month. Thanks to his cagey phrasing, non-solar specific analysts have argued that the Solar Roof will cost less than a traditional roof installation. A close reading of Musk’s promise, however, reveals that it will be less expensive over time because of the savings homeowners will have on electricity. Musk also claims to have the best warranty in the industry, saying that the Solar Roof will last “the lifetime of your house, or infinity, whichever comes first.” The Solar Roof system includes a Tesla Powerwall battery, which costs around $5,000. The first Solar Roof tiles will be gray smooth glass and black textured glass and installations will be done on a first-ordered, first-installed basis in the United States. According to Tesla, customers will have a worry-free installation process, with the company removing the existing roof and then designing, permitting, installing and maintaining the Solar Roof. Based on this snippet from a PV Magazine article, I would be interested to hear from you on whether this will take a large slice of the residential fixed module market.
Energy Secretary Rick Perry is cooking up a case to stifle further federal support of renewable wind and solar energy. He’s ordered a suspiciously sourced staff study that is aimed to paint renewables as an unreliable source for the nation’s electric grid.
The study, due June 23, seeks to determine whether federal tax and subsidy policies favoring renewable energy have burdened “baseload” coal-fired generation, putting power grid reliability at risk. It is being spearheaded by Energy Department political appointee Travis Fisher, who’s associated with a Washington policy group that opposes almost any government aid for renewable energy. This is the same person who in 2015 report for the Institute for Energy Research that called clean energy policies “the single greatest emerging threat” to the nation’s electric power grid, and a greater threat to electric reliability than cyber attacks, terrorism or extreme weather.
Please go ahead and read the article and let me know your take. . Here is my two cents, why is the DOE, through Perry so keen to understand the view points of how renewables is threatening coal base load? Has anyone seen a research study commissioned by the DOE on how renewables enhances grid reliability, decreases co2 emissions and has brought 200k plus jobs?
The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) claims an estimated 88,000 jobs, about one-third of the current U.S. solar workforce, would be lost next year if Suniva gets trade protections the company proposed in its petition with the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC). The Georgia-based manufacturer asked the ITC to place a tariff on imported solar cells and set a price floor for virtually all imported panels, arguing that the company cannot compete with cheap foreign imports. Suniva, which, ironically is majority owned by a Chinese firm, filed the petition after declaring bankruptcy in April, and SEIA vowed to lead the fight against the case. In its petition, Suniva has proposed an initial import tariff of $0.40/W per cell and a minimum import price of $0.78/W per module. SolarWorld Americas joined Suniva as a co-petitioner in the case in late May, but it is unclear what trade remedy the Oregon-based company is seeking. Both companies have argued that new trade actions are necessary to protect domestic manufacturing.
I am unclear who are we protecting as most PV assembly plants are automated. As stated in the first sentence, the blowback of 88,000 jobs in jeopardy far outweighs the erosion of PV manufacturing in the USA. Would be interested to hear your thoughts on this.
The second link shows the announcement of BASF also at the IBS 2015. BASF is another Strategic Partner of EcoSmart introducing the HP+ Wall System. The BASF announcement was presented in front of the BASF show house for 10 times at each show day. Please use this link to watch the announcement:
Please forward this Email to your business partner and colleagues.
Use the first link to watch an interview of Ron James, President of Green Builder Media with Mike Mansuetti, President of Robert Bosch USA and Prof. Lorenz Reibling, Chairman and Co-founder of Taurus Investment Holdings, at the IBS 2015 in Las Vegas. Bosch is one of the Strategic Partner of the EcoSmart program which will be launched at the Taurus development Whisper Valley in Austin, TX. Please use this link to watch the interview:
CASE (Coalition for Affordable Solar Energy) Responds to Department of Commerce Proposed Solar Tariff Rate Adjustment
This is for the 2012 trade tariff which now most Chinese companies will prefer to pay. Thanks CASE for fighting the good fight here. Now Taiwan cell manufacturers have been involved in round 2 of this battle which is damaging the wafer/cell supply chain globally. Have your say; please add your comments to this post.
Dear Friend of CASE:
On Friday, the Department of Commerce announced the results of its administrative review of the 2012 solar tariff case for imports of solar cells from China. The Department proposed new rates lower than those currently in effect. If these are upheld in a final determination expected in mid-2015, the cash deposit rates applied to most imports of modules containing Chinese cells will decline from the current rates of approximately 23-31% to new rates of approximately 15%. Follow these links to read the decision memorandum, AD orders and CVD orders from the Department of Commerce.
Please also see below for a press release that was distributed to the media this morning.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 5, 2014
CASE Responds to Department of Commerce Proposed Solar Tariff Rate Adjustment
Lower rates are a step in the right direction, but U.S. market remains unfairly penalized by tariffs
Washington, DC –The U.S. Department of Commerce recently completed an administrative review of the 2012 solar tariff case affecting imports of solar cells from China. Overall, the Department of Commerce proposed new rates lower than those currently in effect.
In response to this news, Jigar Shah, President of the Coalition for Affordable Solar Energy (CASE) released the following statement:
“The proposed lower tariff rates are a step in the right direction for the U.S. solar industry, and we applaud the Department of Commerce for reviewing competitive information and adjusting the tariffs downward.
“Lowering the tariff import tax means more American consumers will be able to afford solar power and more American solar companies will be able to expand their hiring.
“While this is positive news, it does not solve the underlying problem. The U.S. solar industry remains unfairly penalized by a trade policy that inflates the cost of solar power and has already expanded to include imports from Taiwan.
“We continue to urge the governments of the United States and China to negotiate an end to the trade war for the benefit of all countries involved.”
The pyramid below, by Pike Research, lays out its version how it differentiates the 3 tier rankings of solar panels manufacturers from one another. Although most of these metrics are true, selling and integrating PV panels within the US market gives us a different view in evaluating the ubiquitous tiered designation.
Although Pike’s research is important, there are several points we have issues with or would like to comment on:
- · We believe their Tier analysis is correct but would be surprised if only 2% of total volume being sold was in the Tier 1 category as they define it. We work with a significant amount of manufacturers that are not on purchaser’s radars that would fit their seemingly broad classification.
- · The tier system sets solid and fundamental parameters but we see many manufacturers that could be classified as a tier 2 however make wonderful product that exceed EPC as well as independent 3rd party expectations.
- · The research assumes those who are vertical integrated, invest in R&D, have advanced robotics and have been in the business for 5 + years, therefore produce solid and “bankable” product.
- · It is our belief that a successful module provider would need to be totally vertically integrated, stay ahead of the quality curve with 1000v and other necessary enhancements and use of durable cost effective high efficiency cells as another offering within their product line. Also, offering true black on black modules signifies that manufacturers understand and desire to cater to all aspects of the market.
- · A panel manufacturer should be totally robotic in meeting inventory needs and uniform production. Timely deliveries are a must. This point should also serve as a requirement for US based manufacturers that are having a difficult time delivering product on time.
- · We see some 2nd tier providers being in the picture for some time provided module prices keep at the current levels or rise by 5%. These companies can make a presence in select markets by selling or investing in a large to medium utility scale project(s). Moreover, Chinese provincial support will provide access to local and regional projects.
- · The key to Tier 2 success will be in making equity investments into projects for the short and long term. Companies that can provide this will continue to grow for sure. Creativity in attracting new customers and projects is imperative.
I started in the solar industry about 12 years ago after being trained by a company called AstroPower. Back then, technology was new and pretty simple. There weren’t many regulations to govern us and most inspectors were just starting to become aware of what we were doing.
During those formative years, some manufacturers would often ask integrators different questions such as “did you have any problems with our product” or “do you have ay suggestions for improvement” and so on. In other words, the guys in the labs, which we referred to as “the guys with the white coats,” wanted input from the guys in the field. They knew where to get ideas for new and better product development.
Recently I contacted a rep for a company that makes PV DC connectors which I was interested in using because I needed their disconnect tool to separate the – from the + of the samples I was given. I was told none were available as they felt no tools were necessary and we should simply squeeze our fingers into that tiny opening, on the – connector, and pinch the two locking tabs together to disconnect the connectors. Wanting to offer my opinion, I explained that the men I work with in the field, as well as myself, found it difficult to disconnect them the way that manufacturer recommends; probably because integrators constantly use hand tools and their fingers tend to be a little larger than those who don’t do manual labor, like the guys in the white coats back in the lab that design these things, and that the small available space provided did not make it easy or sometimes even possible. There are other manufacturers, who obviously feel differently on this issue, that offer disconnect tools to separate their respective PV DC connectors with speed and ease which, as we all know, speed and ease directly effects cost in labor.
I sent my critique to the manufacture’s rep as I thought to offer a view from the field.
The response that I got from that company rep was “In my experience, separating the DC connectors is not a common occurrence.” Well that may be so but it does happen. I have personally experienced, in the last couple of years, on two different projects where I had a run of bad cabling at a time when we did not have the correct tool to separate those particular connectors. Our only recourse was to start cutting off connectors before we could troubleshoot to find what was obviously a bad connection and then, start remaking cables.
I now, always, carry a couple of sets of the red and the blue disconnect tools, for PV DC connectors, on every job site. It’s one of those things you learn in the field…...
There have been a whole bunch of articles circulating around recently talking about upcoming consolidation in the solar industry and the woes of solar manufacturers. Since I am passionately committed to growing my company’s bottom line through solar sales, I try to pay attention to what other people are saying. There’s a pretty consistent narrative now that describes the path that manufacturers took in the industry and explains why we are at our current position. And from here everyone tries their best to predict what will happen in the future; a very important skill if this is your business!
The essential narrative goes something like this. During the financial crisis, nations tried to shore up their economies and drive growth and investment. One of China’s reactions was a play to boost exports by easing the availability of financing to manufacturers. The USA ran a similar play with the DOE loan guarantees, but at a much smaller scale. The cheap money fueled an investment bubble where manufacturers raced to increase capacity, each trying to outdo the other in scale. This was pushed along by a solar supply crunch that, at the peak, drove polysilicon prices to over $400/kg. Poly now sits at $15/kg. Clearly there were nice profit margins for some manufacturers at that time and the general sentiment was ‘just make more stuff’.
In many ways today we are feeling the consequences of those decisions, and will likely be feeling them for quite a while. In this kind of free-wheeling environment of plentiful cheap capital and oversize margins it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to see how large sums of money could have been borrowed and then spent unwisely. Now we see that global demand hasn’t kept up with supply, the US & Europe are erecting trade barriers, and large stockpiles of inventory have accumulated around the globe. Spot prices for materials may be below cost and the debt collector is knocking. In today’s environment the reckless spendthrift manufacturers from a few years ago are finding themselves in an untenable position. I ask you, what does ‘Bankable’ and ‘Tier 1’ mean now? Have we now entered a phase where the biggest and most well-known brands are equivalent to the most over-levered and most in need of life support?
One of the most common questions I get asked about the manufacturers we represent is, “are they vertically-integrated?" with the implication being that bigger capacity is always better and more vertical integration is always better. Why is this supposed to be better? Some people may mention improved quality or R&D, but really the number one reason is cost-control. The thinking is that if you make everything, the poly, wafers, cells & modules, then you can make your panels cheaper than other people and retain a larger margin. Same idea goes with scale, if you can build the biggest solar factory in the world then you have the greatest efficiencies of scale, and you win! So what did all the solar manufacturers start saying about themselves? We’ve got gigawatts of panel, cell and silicon production. At a time when demand outstripped supply and global capacity was a fraction of what we have today, I’m sure the race to be the biggest seemed like a good idea. The thing is, China is the King of Overcapacity and once someone finds a good business model, everyone tries to do the same exact thing.
Today there’s just too much silicon, cell & panel capacity around and no one can make a dollar selling the stuff. You’ve got companies with a core poly business that have ventured into modules, cell guys that are pulling ingots and panel guys that do everything. And this was all done with borrowed money. The whole vertical integration & scale idea is being flipped on its head. No one is able to run at full capacity now, and so the bigger you are, the more money-losing capacity you have sitting idle. And if you’ve vertically integrated yourself then not only are you in danger of idle capacity at all the different stages of the value-chain, but you also have to balance the contradiction between purchasing cheaper materials on the spot market against making that stuff yourself just for the sake of keeping the line running. Turns out that some of the most viable companies out there are now able to be more nimble and take advantage of the spot market where the big ‘Tier 1’ players only have bad choices to make.
I’m sure you’ve seen news about ‘bailouts’ of certain companies already. Thing is these cash infusions are in the tens of millions of dollars, while the actual debt obligations for these companies are in the billions of dollars! These aren’t real bailouts yet; these cash infusions are on the scale needed to make up the interest on the real debt obligations. This really drives home just how over-levered these companies are and you have to wonder how many zombie solar manufacturers governments will be willing or able to maintain.
This industry is incredibly strategic because solar power is obviously going to be a huge way that we power our civilization going forward. That fact that solar is so much less than 1% of our current energy budget means that there’s tremendous room to grow and no one wants to give up a piece of something this important. And yet what is the cost of maintaining companies that grew big in an unsustainable credit boom? Is being a zombie manufacturer the new sign of bankability? I’m happy taking advantage of the spot market for materials and riding out the storm with no debt burden. The long-term is very attractive and I’ll be watching closely to see how things unfold over the next year or so; this is certainly one industry that never stops changing!
I would love to hear your thoughts when you have a chance; I always enjoy talking about the industry. Have a great and profitable 2013!