2017 Will Be A Pragmatic Year For Solar
Just over a year ago, more than 190 nations came together to finalize the COP21 agreement, which culminated decades of disparate negotiations to embrace clean energy sources as the most practical means to reduce carbon emissions.

For solar, one might expect such an event to be the catalyst for growth, yet there are other factors at work.
We’ve seen a meteoric rise in solar adoption over the past five years largely due to a combination of free-market forces, sensible public policies and private-sector innovation. This progress is an example of how government can play a supportive role, but also let the market do what it does best.

I’ve always believed that solar is a non-partisan energy source. At the core, it is largely an issue of consumer choice, customization and economics, not unlike high-tech or automotive innovation.

In 2017, we need to focus on three key areas to ensure that solar is well positioned for the future.

Dec-12-2016 12:00:00 PM
New Australian big solar fund adds SunPower plants to portfolio
Recently launched Australian sustainable investment fund, New Energy Solar, has made two new investments in the US big solar market, taking a majority interest in two California solar farms, developed by US PV giant, SunPower.

The two new US investments – which take the fund’s solar assets to a total of four since it was established in November 2015 – were announced by New Energy Solar and SunPower on Thursday.

New Energy Solar, headed up by property and investment executive Tom Kline, is just the latest in a number of new funds set up in Australia – and abroad – to capitalise on the booming global large-scale renewable energy industry.

The fund hasn’t made made any investments in Australia, as yet, but according to its September Quarterly Update, had 300MW of potential local solar projects under review and expected opportunities to “ramp up” in 2017-2018, off the back of ARENA’s latest large-scale funding round.

“Australia’s excellent natural solar resources, coupled with a domestic solar industry that is still in a state of relative infancy compared with other markets, supports the Fund’s optimistic outlook for future domestic investment opportunities,” the September update said.

The new US SunPower projects, both located in Kern County, California, will each have a capacity of 67.4MW once completed – construction began in mid-2015, with full commercial operation expected to be achieved later this month.

SunPower will retain an ownership interest in the two projects and provide ongoing operation and maintenance services. And both have secured long-term power purchase agreements – one with Stanford University and one with Turlock Irrigation District.

New Energy Solar, which has also acquired shares in two North Carolina solar farms, one 43MW and one 47.6MW, said the SunPower projects were “excellent additions” to the fund’s portfolio.

“We are proud to partner with SunPower, one of the most experienced and leading developers and operators of utility-scale solar power,” said Kline in a statement.

Indeed, as the two companies note in their joint announcement, both the Kern County projects will serve electricity demand nearly 500km away.

“Projects like these demonstrate the flexibility with which organisations can now take advantage of cost-effective solar power by using larger capacity off-site solar resources to reliably serve a greater percentage of demand,” the media statement said.

Nam Nguyen, SunPower’s senior vice president noted that off-site solar allows for land-constrained organisations to benefit from the economies of scale achieved with larger solar installations.

“We congratulate New Energy Solar on their leadership in recognizing the value of this model and thank them for their partnership,” Nguyen said.

For New Energy Solar, the two projects are expected to generate a five-year average yield of approximately 6.5 per cent per annum.

Oct-16-2016 06:00:00 PM
SunPower CEO expects solar panel prices decline to stop next year
The freefall in solar panel prices would likely stop next year and the industry would improve in the latter half of 2017, the chief executive of SunPower Corp (SPWR.O), the No. 2 U.S. solar panel maker, said on Wednesday.

SunPower said it would lay off an additional 25 percent of its workforce, or 2,500 employees, and close one plant as part of a cost-cutting plan announced last month to counter slumping prices.

Solar companies have been hard hit as stiff competition pushed prices lower and customers held off purchases in the hope of a further decline in prices, especially as Chinese companies boosted production levels.

"We are planning for (price) stability, meaning they won't materially decrease or impair," SunPower CEO Tom Werner told Reuters.

"They might be plus or minus a few percent, maybe 5 percent, on a high side 10 percent, so we expect stabilization, not necessarily price increase."

SunPower, which is expected to post its sixth consecutive loss in the current quarter, said average selling prices had tumbled 25 percent in the previous quarter.

The company's shares rose as much as 6.3 percent to $7.40 and also pulled up the stocks of other solar companies.

SunPower, majority owned by French energy giant Total SA (TOTF.PA), said in November it would lower operating costs in 2017 to about $350 million, compared with $450.9 million in 2015, and more than halved its 2017 capital budget to about $100 million.

SunPower on Wednesday said the plan also includes closing a 700-megawatt (MW) solar cell fabrication facility in the Philippines, which would account for most of the job cuts.

The company forecast 2017 revenue, excluding certain items, of $2.10-$2.60 billion, well below analysts average estimate of $2.70 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

SunPower said it expects to incur restructuring and other charges totaling about $200 million in the current quarter and restructuring charges of $225-$275 million through the end of 2017.

The company reiterated that it expects to generate positive cash flow from operations through the end of 2017 and exit the year with about $300 million in cash.

SunPower, which said in August it would slash about 15 percent of its workforce, will be left with about 7,000 employees after the latest round of job cuts, Werner said.

The San Jose, California-based company's stock had fallen more than 76 percent this year up to Tuesday's close.

(Reporting by Arathy S Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Savio D'Souza)

Apr-9-2016 12:50:33 PM