A blast of solar news is already hitting the wires in advance of the Solar Power International conference in San Diego next week. Organizers expect the event to draw more than 15,000 attendees from at least 70 countries.
Here are just a few of the announcements from the last few days:
Schott Solar, which Wednesday called off its plans to go public, expects to unveil a new solar panel based on multiple silicon crystals at the show. The company plans to make the panels at its factory in Albuquerque, N.M.
SkyFuel Inc. on Friday announced it had unveiled a glass-free concentrating-solar technology that could cost 35 percent less than competing parabolic-trough concentrators, which look like rows of curved mirrors shaped like a water or feeding trough.
Concentrators such as SkyFuel's SkyTrough magnify sunlight and direct it into solar-thermal systems that use heat to generate electricity.
Most use mirrors or lenses to concentrate the sun's light and heat. The 375-foot-long, 20-foot-tall SkyTrough uses thin aluminum sheets laminated with a reflective silver-polymer film instead, with the aim of making the film lighter, cheaper and less fragile.
According to the company, the film cuts mirror costs by approximately 50 percent and is easier to manufacture at high volumes. SkyFuel also uses an all-aluminum tubular frame –which it claims is 30 percent lighter, consists of 40 percent fewer parts and requires no welding in the field, resulting in quicker and cheaper construction – to support the troughs.
German solar company Asola has created a joint venture with Moroccan firm Majdaline Holding to bring solar panels to Morocco, according to an announcement Thursday.
The joint venture plans to build a 30-megawatt solar-panel factory in Casablanca, which it expects could generate revenue of up to $100 million annually. Asola will own a majority stake in the venture.
Canadian Solar Inc. (NSDQ: CSIQ) on Thursday announced a contract to sell 60 megawatts worth of solar panels to Germany's Systaic AG next year.
The deal – the 10th contract for 2009 that the company has signed in the past month, according to CEO Shawn Qu - brings its European sales contracts to 226 megawatts, with options for customers to buy 80 megawatts more, out of the company's planned capacity of 500 to 550 megawatts in 2009.
The news comes the same month as Canadian Solar announced it has completed the first phase of its silicon ingot and wafer plant on schedule, bringing the company to an annual capacity of 60 megawatts of ingots and wafers, which are building blocks for solar cells and panels.
The information about European deals is likely meant to reassure investors who have experienced plunging solar shares this week, alongside dismal financial markets.
Goldman Sachs downgraded thin-film darling First Solar earlier this week, citing the risk of an oversupply of solar equipment compared to demand and the possibility that Germany and Spain could reduce their generous solar subsidies. Incentive programs in those countries have driven much of the growth in the solar industry.
Lazard Capital Markets also has reduced price targets for solar stocks (see Energy Biz Boosts GE, Solar Stocks Still Battered).
Canadian Solar shares grew 10.8 percent Friday after falling as much as 25 percent earlier this week, closing at $12.69 per share. To compare, thin-film darling First Solar (NSDQ: FSLR) fell 28 percent this week to close at $117.45 per share Friday, and SunPower Corp. (NSDQ: SPWRA) fell 36.4 percent this week to close at $43.01 per share Friday.