I need to head out to Oregon this summer and sit down with the good folks of SolarWorld.
They are the leaders of the effort to bring the full weight of the U.S. government down on their Chinese competitors for allegedly dumping their solar panels in this country at below cost.
The SolarWorld folks tell me they are confident of winning their trade dispute. So I want to learn their strategies for growing their business and the solar generation complex in America.
I plan to talk to Q-Cells later this week to better understand their recent bankruptcy filing. A friend in Germany who studies the European energy sector emailed me 10 minutes ago that Q-Cells and others did not anticipate the wild success of the Chinese solar makers – many utilizing German-made assembly lines.
My German energy expert expects Q-Cells to become a smaller but more competitive player after its sheds its debt burden.
Meanwhile, today’s Wall Street Journal reports that First Solar, worth more than $20 billion four years ago today is valued at about $2 billion. The Journal reminds us that back in 2008 it seemed likely that a carbon cap would soon descend on the United States. Politics killed that idea. Cheap shale gas has also affected renewables, coal and nuclear.
But solar manufacturing has steadily ramped up. We have the global manufacturing muscle to produce 40,000 megawatts of solar a year – with demand this year expected to be about 24,000 megawatts, writes the Journal. United States domestic demand this year will fall between 2,000 and 3,000 megawatts, according to my friends at the Solar Electric Power Association.
The long-term winners in the solar space will be large players that can compete on price like General Electric, the Journal suggests.
Maybe that is why a senior General Electric executive serving on a panel that I moderated in San Diego last month confidently predicts that in three years solar power in America will be competitive with all other generation – without subsidies.
Solar power’s prospects may seem cloudy today.
But GE and others believe it will soon bask in bright sunshine.