Thin Film Intelligence Brief 11 – 24 April 2012

Thin film powering world’s largest solar park Companies mentioned: Gujarat Solar Project, Golmud Solar Park, First Solar, Azure Power, LG Electronics, Indium, and TÜV Rheinland

Thin Film Intelligence Brief 11 – 24 April 2012

Thin film powering world’s largest solar park

The world’s largest solar power field has been switched on in India’s western state of Gujarat and a large chunk of the solar technology behind the project is thin film.

Gujarat Solar Park is a group of solar parks and some 605 MW was commissioned on April 19, 2012, but this includes sections that were already operational.

Accounting for 214 megawatts of photovoltaic solar capacity and 3,000 acres of mostly wasteland, it becomes larger than China’s 200 MW Golmud Solar Park, which previously held the record, said an report.

One of the solar parks has been constructed with thin film modules and is spread across 2,000 ha near Charanka village in Patan district, northern Gujarat.

Once completed by 2014, the power station will be a 500-megawatt solar power system.  The investment cost for the Charanka solar park is valued at US$280m, according to news and research reports. 

Some of the companies supplying the project include MiaSole, American Capital Energy and SolarWorld California, to name a few.

First Solar says European market ‘deteriorated’

First Solar is restructuring its costs and headcount across its European and some of its Asian operations and is expected to have restructuring charges of between $245m and $370m so that it can make annual savings of $100m and $200m. 

"After a thorough analysis, it is clear the European market has deteriorated to the extent that our operations there are no longer economically sustainable, and maintaining those operations is not in the best long-term interest of our stakeholders," said Mike Ahearn, Chairman and Interim CEO of First Solar. 

First Solar will close its manufacturing operations in Frankfurt (Oder), Germany, in the fourth quarter of 2012.

First Solar Malaysia  is also affected. Its manufacturing facility in Kulim Hi-Tech Park (KHTP), is laying off some 550 workers supporting its four production lines that will be indefinitely left idle starting May 1, according to Malaysia newspaper, The Star. 

Managing director P'ng Soo Hong told StarBizWeek that the workers will be offered a voluntary separation scheme (VSS). However, he said in the news report that they were not selling the plant. 

The thin film panel maker voluntarily paid down approximately $145m of debt ahead of schedule in 2012, which represents repayment in full for outstanding amounts under the Company's German loan agreement. 

These actions, combined with other personnel reductions in Europe and the U.S., will reduce First Solar's global workforce by approximately 2,000 positions, about 30 percent of the total. 

Azure rolls out India’s first 2.5MW rooftop project in Gujarat

India-based Azure Power, an independent power producer in the solar energy sector, has forayed into rooftop solar power generation by announcing its plans to roll out India's first 2.5 megawatt solar power project in Gujarat. 

The project will be set up under Gandhinagar Photovoltaic Rooftop Programme. Last week Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi had mooted a rooftop solar power generation policy under which people can generate their own power and at the same time also earn by selling the surplus to the power grid. 

Modi had said that the city of Gandhinagar in Gujarat is being developed as India's first model solar city by installing solar rooftop systems at more than 150 locations ranging from 1 kilowatt to 150 kilowatt. 

"This way cities can become energy generators and power companies selling in cities can meet their renewable purchase obligations (RPOs). This initiative has the potential of tapping into 1,000 Mw of rooftop solar power across tier 1 and tier 2 cities in India.

LG targets solar storage and a-Si markets

LG Chemical is developing a solar storage battery based on lithium ion technology, which is expected to go into mass production in the fourth quarter of 2013. The battery will be capable of supporting a photovoltaic system of up to six kilowatt hours, it has been reported. 

LG has already been working in the space on a commercial level with carmaker General Motors and sees the potential to achieve cost competitiveness in the energy storage battery market. 

LG’s solar division alongside LG Electronics are working on producing amorphous silicon (a-Si) thin film modules. The target date for the launch of the new product line is next year. 

There could be deal opportunities within the manufacturing supply chain as manufacturing equipment will need to be sourced, according to news and company reports.

Indium invests in new facility 

Indium Corporation, a materials supplier to the global electronics, semiconductor, solar and thermal management markets in New York state’s Oneida County, will invest $10m to expand its manufacturing operations. According to local news reports, the expansion plan will create 24 new full-time jobs and retain 320 employees in Oneida County. 

Indium manufactures advanced assembly materials and supplies them to the solar photovoltaic, thin film, optical fibre, battery, flat-panel display, thermal management, semiconductor and electronics industries around the world. 

TÜV Rheinland has best financial year yet 

TÜV Rheinland, which has dedicated solar testing and research facilities, closed the financial year 2011 with the highest revenues and profits in the group's 140-year history. 

Investments reached new levels, and revenues of the global testing service provider increased in 2011 by 8.8% to €1.417bn.  

The earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) climbed to €124m compared to €112m in 2010.The EBIT margin reached 8.8% after 8.6% the previous year.