The last week was interesting for the solar industry with
companies expanding into new markets, supply deals being forged and
countries taking their first steps with solar power
projects. Here is a quick summary of the news that mattered in
the solar sector.
US Solar Firms In China
US manufacturers First Solar (
) and SunPower (
) announced two separate deals in China as the firms look
to cash in on the country's growing utility scale solar
market. First Solar will supply 2 MW of its thin-film panels
to a demonstration project in China while SunPower will invest
about $15 million for a 25% stake in a joint venture with three
Chinese firms to manufacture and deploy its
solar concentrator technology in the Chinese market.
China is set to become the largest solar panel market by next
year on attractive government subsidies and growing energy needs.
However, US firms could face headwinds as they navigate the Chinese
market given the competition they face from China's massive solar
industry which enjoys the full backing of the government. The firms
also face the risk of repercussions of the solar trade
war between China and the US.
Solar Project In Qatar
The Persian Gulf emirate of Qatar has taken its first step into
the solar power space, with plans to construct a 200 MW solar
farm beginning in the first quarter of 2013. About 2% of
the nation's electricity is expected to come from this
Qatar to Tender 200 Megawatt of Solar-Power
Projects in 2013
, Bloomberg)) The country eventually plans to expand capacity to
about 1,800 MW by 2020.
The Middle Eastern countries are fast becoming a hot bed for
solar power projects despite the fact that the region boasts of the
world's largest hydrocarbon reserves. Oil and natural gas are sold
at deeply subsidized rates in domestic markets, while they garner
much better rates in export markets. This is encouraging countries
to replace gas and oil powered generation with renewable sources.
Saudi Arabia, for instance, has a target of deriving up to a
third of its electricity needs from solar power by 2032.
Despite the growth opportunities in the Middle East,
it remains to be seen how large a role international firms like
First Solar and Suntech Power will play in these markets given that
these countries have been investing in developing their own solar
panel manufacturing capacity.
SunPower's Japanese Contract
Sunpower has extended its long-standing supply agreement with
Toshiba through 2018 and also agreed to supply the firm with its
highest efficiency (20.1%) solar panels for sale in the Japanese
market. The move will give SunPower deeper access into the
promising Japanese market as the government plans to phase out the
country's nuclear power capacity and replacing it with other
generation sources including solar power.
The Japanese government has been providing
feed-in-tariffs that are among the best in the world to incentivize
solar power installations. While foreign manufacturers have
made significant headway into the market, with the country's panel
imports tripling since last year, SunPower seems the best
positioned given its portfolio of high efficiency panels
which are well suited for the space constrained Japanese
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