Solar 2009 Met With Conflicting Expectations, Lots Of Layoffs

by David Heyerman on January 14, 2009


  • Since I wrapped up the Solar Sector in 2008, there’s been a a steady stream of new 2009 announcements coming out of the same companies covered before.  The wires have been, for the most part, unfortunately flooded with negative expectations from research analysts pushing to sell, plants shutting down, and workers being laid off.
  • First Solar, SunPower, Yingli Green Energy, Suntech Power, JA Solar, and Evergreen Solar all saw quick share price increases early last week.  Now, they’re all down to below where they were on the 1st.  Some analysts are pushing the sell because of an expected lowering of solar panel and module prices over the next year.  In fact, Christopher Blansett, from JP Morgan was unapologetically urging investors to sell solar stocks because of this expectation.
  • Evergreen Solar announced the closing of their Marlboro, Mass. plant.  Although, they expect “continued progress” at another plant, they’ll be hit pretty hard as shutting down the plant will have cost the company upwards of $30 million from Q4 2008, into 2009.
  • Suntech Power had some mixed news with a huge milestone, raising their Wuxi factory production capacity of photovoltaic cells and modules to 1 GW.  This is a huge achievement, considering 2007′s output of 540 MW.  CEO of Suntech, Zhengrong Shi, is expecting an oversupply of polysilicon this year, which could potentially cut their prices 20-30 percent from 3rd quarter 2008.  On the other side of things, Steve Chadima, vice president of external affairs has announced that 800 people or 10% of their workforce were cut in the fourth quarter of 2008.
  • Workforce cuts have seemingly been widespread in the solar industry, with layoff announcements from Day4Energy, GT Solar, Emcore, Ausra, and Advanced Energy.  Even OptiSolar laid off 300 employees because of a lack of funding.
  • On the positive side of things, the Federal Bureau of Land Management has seen a huge jump in the amount of applications they’re receiving for solar energy projects. The number of applications rose from 125 to 223, a 78% increase since July.  All the applications were for projects over 10MW in capacity and were located in California, Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Colorado.
  • So on one hand, we have this industry that is experiencing such incredibly growth as far as technology and necessity goes, but on the other hand we have this pesky little thing called the economy which likes to sway industry at it’s, sometime unjustified, hand.  The only thing us investors and cleantech enthusiasts can trust is that we, as a world, need renewable energy and solar is at the forefront of that effort.  It is an unfortunate and as I mentioned before, ironic situation, but I’m still confident the future for solar is bright.  How bout you guys?

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