A debate emerges: are solar panels a commodity yet?

Solar panels have been described as commodities, but are they? A solar project investor says that is not quite true given the uneven quality of solar panels he has seen. And that begs the question: is solar really a low-risk investment?

Disappointing solar earnings across the board

Solar makers continue to struggle in 2011 with weak third quarter earnings, as the price of solar panels has dropped by 40 percent and important European markets have cut subsidies. Solar companies Suntech, JA Solar, LDK Solar and Canadian Solar all issued disappointing earnings.

DuPont buys solar ink maker Innovalight

DuPont announced on Monday that it has bought Innovalight, a Silicon Valley startup that makes silicon ink that solar-cell makers can use to improve the amount of electricity that the cells can squeeze out of sunlight. DuPont declined to disclose the purchase price.

China’s role in 2nd quarter greentech figures

The common thread in greentech is: China. The country, which has been the world’s key growth engine for clean energy and green technology over the past few years, has begun to see some weakness, and that’s causing ripple effects through the global green economy.

A Tough Sell: SpectraWatt to Shut Down Solar Factory, Lay Offs

Silicon solar cell maker SpectraWatt has been trying to compete with a growing number of competitors who can also make and mostly likely can do more cheaply. That effort might prove futile: SpectraWatt plans to lay off people and closing its factory.

Ditch Solar Manufacturing, Look to Software, Services

Where can solar startups find opportunities when their playground is increasingly dominated by giants from other industries? That’s a question that some Silicon Valley solar company executives and investors have pondered for some time now. The answers are software and services.

Solar in 2010: Better or Worse?

Is the solar industry heading into a recovery in 2010? Or will the oversupply of solar modules that helped make 2009 such a challenging year for most solar companies drag on another year? As the new year approaches, the outlook seems as unclear as ever.

On Monday, the bull camp won over a few more converts. JA Solar (s jaso) raised its guidance for the fourth quarter of 2009, expecting solar shipments to exceed 210 megawatts, compared with its previous estimate of shipments between 170 megawatts and 200 megawatts, thanks to “robust orders” from new and existing customers.

For all of 2010, JA said shipments would increase more than 60 percent to between 750 megawatts and 800 megawatts. JA Solar’s stock, which rose 16 percent during market hours (before the announcement), was up another 6 percent in after hours trading to $5.64.
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Daily Sprout

Solar Swing and a Miss: JA Solar (s JASO) has reported a net loss of $23.3 million on $33 million in revenue for the first quarter of this year, missing analyst estimates “by a mile and a half.” — Business Insider’s Green Sheet

A123Systems Update: Battery developer A123Systems said at a DOE merit review that it’s developing a full portfolio of prismatic, or flat, cells for vehicle car batteries, and working on what it calls a nanocomposite separator, “essentially a cell without a separator…It’s not a conventional approach.” — Green Car Congress

Energy Bill Markup Slog Begins: The GOP will likely focus on 150 possible amendments to the energy and climate bill during markup sessions this week in the House Energy and Commerce Committee. First up: Tweaking the definition of “renewable” for the renewable electricity standard. — ClimateWire via NYT

Ford Fires Up EcoBoost Plant: Ford plans to kick off production of its new fuel-efficient “EcoBoost” engine, which combines turbocharging with the direct injection of gas, today at a plant in Ohio. — Detroit Free Press

Greener by Design: The second annual Greener By Design conference starts today, and host Joel Makower asks how “relocalizing, reprioritizing and reconnecting” are changing how companies are thinking about their next generation of products and services. — GreenBiz.com

Suntech Reaches 1GW of Solar Manufacturing Capacity

China’s Suntech Power Holdings (s STP) announced a big milestone today, hitting 1 gigawatt (GW) of photovoltaic cell and module production capacity in Wuxi, nearly doubling the firm’s 2007 output of 540 megawatts.

suntech_headquarters

Today’s news comes after a tough year for solar stocks, with shares of Suntech, Yingli Green Energy (s YGE), JA Solar (s JASO) and Evergreen Solar (s ESLR) all losing more than 80 percent of their value in 2008. But Suntech’s big production capacity could help it ride out the economic storm; the larger output could help push prices down for the company’s solar cells and modules, which could attract more buyers. Suntech CEO Zhengrong Shi said last month that an expected oversupply of polysilicon this year could cut the company’s prices event further — 20-30 percent compared with the third quarter of 2008.
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