USA Solar Companies surviving the Downturn
The Solar Industry has seen a massive shakedown with hundreds of bankruptcies and thousands of jobs lost. There has been no solar energy company which has been left unaffected by this brutal consolidation. Even the biggest solar panel manufacturers have seen huge losses and restructuring. The biggest solar companies are now trading in pennies and some like Q-Cells have become footnotes. USA too has seen its share of tragic shutdowns like Solyndra, Abound Solar, Evergreen Solar etc. Some others like Sunpower, Ascent Solar, Miasole have been bought by foreign companies. The companies which have thrived under the Chinese panel oversupply condition are the solar installers and integrators who have benefited from falling PV system prices. Solar City has been the fastest growing big solar company in the US thanks to aggressive expansion and good management. Here we list out the top.
1. Sungevity - Sungevity is a California company targeting the residential market through a solar leasing plan. It extensively uses the Internet to design the system and has a JV with US Bank to provide financing to its customers.
2. SolarCity - SolarCity is a full-service solar provider for commercial and residential customers and does solar power system design, financing, installation and monitoring services from a single source. SolarCity is introduced a new solar lease option, called SolarLease. It also has other options like PPA. The company’s footprint extends to Arizona, California, Colorado, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas and Washington D.C.
3. SunRun – SunRun is one of the newer solar installation and solar financing companies that target the residential market mainly. The company is present mainly in the Western part of USA operating in 7 states Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. The company uses a PPA model to sell solar systems and has partnered with a number of pure play solar installers.
4. Verengo Solar - The company also provides solar financing solutions and is present in the California market.
5. Borrego Solar - The company is similar to Verengo Solar but mainly concentrates on the commercial market. The company signed a deal with Chinese solar panel producer Yingli for procuring solar panels. The company is headquartered in California like most others.
Solar Raw Material Companies
1. MEMC/ Sunedison- The only big American solar wafer producer left is also one of the biggest manufacturers of semi wafers. The company has sharply reduced its wafer production despite a new factory in Malaysia as prices are below costs. The company’s majority sales now come from the solar installation/ development division of Sunedison now. The company has also closed down most of its polysilicon production due to low prices. MEMC is strongly expanding the system installation business not only in the US but other parts of the world like India, Europe, Korea, Canada and other places. The company recently installed one of the biggest solar plants in the world in Rovigo, Italy.
2. Hemlock Semiconductor (HSG) - This a a privately held company which is a JV between Shin-Etsu Handotai, Dow Corning and Mitsubishi. Hemlock has the largest poly production capacity in the world and has been trying to rapidly raise capacity to meet growing solar demands. However it has not grown fast enough.
Solar Panel Manufacturers
1. First Solar – First Solar is the only Solar Thin Film Manufacturer in the world and a benchmark for other thin film companies thinking of making it big. The company was promoted by Wal-Mart promoters and has seen remarkable growth in the last few. This US based company uses Cadmium Tellurium (Cd-Te) Technology and is the lowest cost panel producer in the world today if you don’t include any penalty for low efficiency. Even if you penalize the Cd-Te Technology for its lower efficiency vis-a-vis the higher efficiency crystalline technology, First Solar is clearly the leader with a core cost of 74c/watt. The company has a roadmap of reducing the cost to 52c/watt by 2014 and given its track record it seems quite achievable. There is little doubt about First Solar’s ability to survive and flourish due to its massive first mover advantage.
2. Sunpower – Sunpower is a vertically integrated solar energy company known more for its highest efficiency solar panels. The company bought Powerlight a few years ago to enter the solar systems market and has bolstered the business constantly to become a major global installer. Sunpower is present in all 3 segments of the solar systems business namely a) residential b) commercial and c) utility. It is one of the largest US installers and has recently won a number of large utility contracts for building solar farms.
Solar Thermal / CSP Company
1. Brightsource Energy - Solar Thermal Startup Brightsource Energy has managed to raise $500 million in multiple rounds of financing from top PE firms as well as Alstom.The company is building its first plant at Ivanpah which has got the backing of the US government. The Ivanpah plant got a further boost when NRG Energy,USA’s largest renewable energy utility invested $300 million of its money into the plant.Brightsource Energy seems to have a brighter future with its unique CSP technology. Also with backers like Alstom and Bechtel,it has the heavy engineering support to construct the massive 392 MW plant.
2. eSolar – eSolar is one of the most exciting startups in the US Solar Technology.The company uses a unique Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) Technology which utilizes small, flat mirrors which track the sun with high precision and reflect the sun’s heat to a tower-mounted receiver, which boils water to create steam. This steam powers a traditional turbine and generator to produce solar electricity.The comany has won contracts to build its CSP plants in USA,Greece and China.
Solar Inverter Companies
Power-One - The US power management company has shown the fastest growth in 2012 and has increased its marketshare to around 13% to become the No.2 global player. Power-One is mainly concentrated in Europe and is now expanding to Asia and its home market of USA.The company despite job losses looks a survivor despite strong completion from China. One of the few big inverter players left after Satcon bankruptcy.Google+