Report: Mobile hardware will be a $500-billion industry by 2015

Global mobile device and infrastructure revenues are growing at an annual rate of 11 percent per year, which will make wireless communications equipment a half-trillion-dollar industry in 2015, according to IHS iSuppli. The driving factor? LTE.

The new year brings continued solar strife

The turning of the new year didn’t make the solar industry any easier for solar manufacturers. Power electronics maker, Satcon Technology, announced Wednesday that it’s laying off 35 percent of its workers and shutting down its factory in Canada.

Solar thin-film maker ECD shutters production

A glut of solar panels and crushing prices have made life difficult for solar manufacturers this year, and bad news keeps coming. Longtime solar thin-film maker Energy Conversion Devices, which has factories in Michigan, Canada and Mexico, has suspended manufacturing and will furlough 400 workers.

The Pirate Bay Being Acquired, Going Straight

In what sounds like an elaborate April Fool’s prank, the Swedish software company Global Gaming Factory X (GGF) says it’s in the process of acquiring The Pirate Bay, the world’s largest BitTorrent tracker, for 60 million Swedish kronor ($7.8 million), 30 million Swedish kronor ($3.8 million) of which will be in cash. And if that wasn’t enough, GGF says that after the acquisition is completed in August, it “intends to launch new business models that allow compensation to the content providers and copyright owners.”

In addition to The Pirate Bay acquisition, GGF also said it would be acquiring file-sharing technology company, Peeralism, for 100 million Swedish kronor, at least 50 million Swedish kronor of which will be in cash. From the press release:

“Peerialism has developed a new data distribution technology which now can be introduced on the best known file – sharing site, The Pirate Bay. Since the technology is compatible with the existing it will quickly allow for new values to be created for all key stakeholders and facilitate new business opportunities”, says Johan Ljungberg, CEO Peerialism.

According to its web site, Global Gaming Factory X AB has the biggest network of Internet cafés and gaming centers in the world.

The Pirate Bay was on the losing end of a court case earlier this year. The founders were found guilty of infringing copyright law, sentenced to a year in jail each, and ordered to pay $4.5 million in damages to 17 entertainment companies.

Needless to say, this is huge news and creates a tectonic shift in the world of online piracy. We’ll have more throughout the day.

Update: Janko Roettgers’ analysis: 5 Things to Know About The Pirate Bay Sale

Wednesday update: So What Will Become of The Pirate Bay?

Energy Conversion Looks for Revenue in Solar Project Development

Hit by a double whammy of oversupply and a worldwide recession, solar panel installations are forecast to slow by as much as 32 percent this year, according to market research firm iSuppli. So solar panel maker Energy Conversion Devices (s ENER) is trying a new strategy to drive demand for its products: it’s jumping into the solar project development business. The Rochester Hills, Mich.-based firm said today it will partner with Belgium’s Enfinity to co-develop a portfolio of about 10 MW of rooftop solar installations in the U.S. and several European nations.

Energy Conversion, through its subsidiary United Solar Ovonic, will contribute thin-film panels in exchange for equity in the projects. Enfinity, which is currently developing more than 120 MW of photovoltaic projects around the world, will oversee project management and financing. The companies declined to put a value on the deal, saying only that they don’t expect to keep the projects on their balance sheets for long, but plan to sell them to third-party investors within 12 months of the start of commercial operation.

The partnership is part of what Energy Conversion CEO Mark Morelli is calling the firm’s “demand-creation strategy.” The company, a leader in making thin films for the building-integrated and commercial rooftop markets, said today its profits fell to $1.3 million in the most recent quarter from $7 million during the same period last year. Morelli blamed the drop on widespread pressures on the industry, primarily customers’ difficulty in accessing project financing. So the company is looking for creative ways to create demand, and the deal with Enfinity is one of them.
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Is It a Solar Bottom? Analysts Say No

So which is it: Are solar stocks turning a long-awaited corner, or was the rally that lasted much of the last month before reversing course on Monday as part of a broad market sell-off just another dead-cat bounce?
That debate has taken place amid a volatile period in the solar sector. The Claymore/MAC Global Solar Energy ETF (s TAN), an index dedicated to solar firms, dropped 8 percent Monday. In the previous four weeks, the TAN rose 50 percent, more than tripling the 16-percent rally in the S&P 500.
Some are suggesting it’s time to buy beaten-down solar stocks, while others are arguing there’s value because the bad news is priced in and good news is starting to emerge. Wall Street analysts, often criticized for being blindly bullish on stocks, are this time among the sector’s staunchest bears.
Take China’s announcement late last week that it would offer subsidies equivalent to as much as 60 percent of the cost of installation, and boost demand by as much as 200 megawatts. The news sent solar stocks soaring — even those that don’t have a strong market in China. But analysts were quick to point out that details of the spending were vague and that benefits would only emerge over the long term.
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Energy Conversion Devices Helps Customers Raise Money

Mark Morelli, CEO of Energy Conversion Devices, sees a lot of new customers lining up for his company’s thin-film solar laminates in the next few years. That’s not the problem. The problem is, how are they going to be able to pay? So Energy Conversion has started to help them find money.

Energy Conversion, whose proprietary thin-film technology has long been cheaper than the more-efficient crystalline silicon embraced by many solar companies, reported earnings for the last three months of 2008. Overall, investors like the news: Revenue grew 83 percent from the same quarter a year earlier to $103.1 million. The company also swung to a 33 cents a share profit, versus a 14 cent loss. Both were slightly above analyst expectations, and the stock rallied 9 percent on Monday to $28.16. Read More about Energy Conversion Devices Helps Customers Raise Money

Revision3 Views Up 140% Despite Self-Imposed Standards

Online video studio Revision3 said today its program views are up 140 percent, with 46 million views in 2008 as compared to 19 million views in 2007.

revision3Last year Revision3 reported it had delivered 25 million videos (and 103 million “clips”). The startup later revised that number to 19 million, it told us today, as it became more stringent about its statistics. Now Revision3 counts only a full episode play or download, as opposed to a stream simply being started. Most other video sites are far more liberal. Revision3 CEO Jim Louderback has become a militant advocate of stricter viewership numbers (see his recent blog post titled “The Lies Must Stop“).

While that’s an admirable cause, it doesn’t make Revision3 — which was forced to cut some of its programming and staff in Oct. 2007 — look that good compared to its competitors. Next New Networks claimed 300 million views in 2008. Yesterday Break reported 35 million plays of its branded content productions “in the past few months.”

Revision3 does tend to run longer content than its competitors. To account for that, it also now reports the number of views for each “segment” of a show — for instance, Diggnation is divided into six segments. The network had 129 million segment views in ’08. All told, that amounts to nearly 1 billion minutes of content watched.

Will the Economy Slow Utilities Entering Solar?

When Congress passed $18 billion in national renewable-energy tax credits in October, it also approved a provision allowing utilities to take advantage of the credits for the first time. That led to wide speculation among solar insiders that utilities would be entering the industry en masse (also see stories here and here).

“A lot of utilities do want to operate and own and they have the tax appetite [to take advantage of the tax breaks,” Julia Hamm, executive director of the Solar Electric Power Association, told me then. Now, the economic slowdown is leading some insiders to wonder whether that trend is also slowing, in spite of an announcement last week that Southern California Edison completed the first of its planned 150 commercial rooftop installations, albeit four months later than originally expected.

“Utilities are taking a step back,” Michael Butler, CEO of investment bank Cascadia Capital, told me. “Not completely, but they’re being smarter with their cash.” Read More about Will the Economy Slow Utilities Entering Solar?