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The Solar Thread: Energy from the Sun


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#21 John Doe

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Posted 08 September 2006 - 11:50 AM

I can't see there being any cost advantages from moving to conventional PV cells with bulk substrates other than Silicon, since the manufacturing process will be pretty much the same as for bulk Silicon but with something slightly more esoteric (and expensive) than sand at the input. My expectation is that the cost breakthrough will occur once a suitable thin film technology is in place. The interesting thing about this is that the people best placed to benefit are unlikely to be the incumbent PV manufacturers - it will be the people who're currently experts in manufacturing LCD panels!

Not necessarily, technologies such as nanoparticulate Si and (even though still in early stages) polymer PV will have an increasing role to play (efficiencies at >5% and so cheap you can cover fields with them for pennies, just need to improve lifetimes).

The technical reason I still prefer thermal solar is that in principle a thermal solar solution can be designed which converts all incident light (regardless of wavelength) into energy. With PV cells, you're only ever going to convert the incident light whose wavelength matches the energy bandgap of the material you're using. I know that research is ongoing to develop cells with multiple bandgaps, but I can't see how anyone is going to be able to develop a cell which can absorb all wavelengths from infra-red to ultra-violet the way a black box thermal collector can.

Again, not entirely correct, as Silicons indirect bandgap (and all other SC bandgaps are, in reality, spread over a wavelength range) it generally aborbs a range of wavelengths below the intrinsic bandgap (peak about 1000 - 1100nm as far as I can remember) and most of the solar spectrum lies between about 400 and 1200nm.
I also have colleagues working on intermediate band PV with interesting initial results, although again at early stages and with a few phonon bottleneck problems to overcome. The quantum dot approach can also absorb at multiple wavelengths with theoretical efficiencies near 50%. So far I think about 36% has been shown.

PS I really like thermal solar, and I cannot understand why more use of it isnt made.
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#22 DrBubb

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Posted 10 September 2006 - 12:57 AM

thermal solar is great,
but suffers from being somewhat boring, and in need of alot of messy plumbing
The market is "bipolar", swinging back and forth from a focus on Inflation to Deflation. Bet on swings; and stay flexible. What are bipolar markets? See: http://tinyurl.com/GEI-Manix

#23 John Doe

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Posted 11 September 2006 - 11:16 AM

Dow Corning has been working on a new “solar grade Silicon” production technique and has just reported that it has started shipping the new media with properties that are equivalent to poly-Si. Details are a bit sketchy still, but the PV 1101 is produced in a different way and lends itself to mass production, unlike trad poly Si.

http://optics.org/ar...s/news/12/9/3/1

Another milestone reached :unsure:
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#24 C J

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Posted 11 September 2006 - 08:21 PM

Not necessarily, technologies such as nanoparticulate Si and (even though still in early stages) polymer PV will have an increasing role to play (efficiencies at >5% and so cheap you can cover fields with them for pennies, just need to improve lifetimes).

The point I was trying to make was that I think conventional bulk substrate PV cells are a dead end, and we need the kind of techologies you describe to reach the market ASAP. I should probably have qualified my earlier post by saying I'm not a fan of _current_ PV technology!

Again, not entirely correct, as Silicons indirect bandgap (and all other SC bandgaps are, in reality, spread over a wavelength range) it generally aborbs a range of wavelengths below the intrinsic bandgap (peak about 1000 - 1100nm as far as I can remember) and most of the solar spectrum lies between about 400 and 1200nm.
I also have colleagues working on intermediate band PV with interesting initial results, although again at early stages and with a few phonon bottleneck problems to overcome. The quantum dot approach can also absorb at multiple wavelengths with theoretical efficiencies near 50%. So far I think about 36% has been shown.

It's over ten years since I did any device physics, so I'll admit to being a bit vague there. The fact remains, though, that the currently available technology leaves a lot to be desired in terms of efficiency. Hopefully your colleagues will come up with a solution.

PS I really like thermal solar, and I cannot understand why more use of it isnt made.

Like the good Doctor said, it suffers from being somewhat boring. Unfortunately, the VCs and funding agencies like their technology new, shiny, high risk and exciting (and preferably either nano-this or quantum-that). Leaves no place in the portfolio for ideas which rely on good old thermodynamics and control theory (and plumbing!).

C J

#25 John Doe

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Posted 11 September 2006 - 08:55 PM

The point I was trying to make was that I think conventional bulk substrate PV cells are a dead end, and we need the kind of techologies you describe to reach the market ASAP. I should probably have qualified my earlier post by saying I'm not a fan of _current_ PV technology!

Perhaps it is me that should qualify as I wasn’t actually disagreeing and didn’t mean it to come across like that. The PV cells that use bulk Si substrates (single crystal Si) have indeed reached their best performance and any further cost reduction will only come about from mass production.
The use of poly Si, however, should be able to take advantage of the progress made in the LCD TV market, where it is deposited using SiH4 (silane gas) producing polycrystalline Si on Glass. (In conjunction with ITO a transparent Oxide). I'm not sure what stage this research is at but will check.

As for solar thermal I really am amazed how unpopular it is and can only believe it is down to a lack of understanding. It and geothermal (garden variety where a good mile or so of piping is buried a foot or two deep in you garden) used in conjunction with a heat pump offers huge potential for heating etc.

Perhaps it is because when people hear there is only a 5 degree difference (before the heat pump) they think it’s not worth it. Either way, I think that with the correct advertising (and possibly grants, planning concessions) that they could really become popular.

As for trendy names for it, I'm sure that with a little thought we could come up with a new "added value business speak" name for it, together with an equally important TLA (three latter acronym). Perhaps something like “Photonic Energy Exchanger” otherwise known as Pee :o , or perhaps not :unsure: .
"Hey - don't worry, don't be afraid, ever, because, this is just a ride..." Bill Hicks

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#26 C J

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Posted 11 September 2006 - 11:37 PM

As for solar thermal I really am amazed how unpopular it is and can only believe it is down to a lack of understanding.

I'm sure part of it stems from the cost of keeping all those parabolic mirrors clean and all the hassle involved in keeping them pointing at the sun, plus the fact that they're no use when it's overcast. To be honest, I'm not sure why everyone insists on using mirrors, since apparently unconcentrated collectors are only 20% less productive than ideal concentrators. FWIW I just found this figure in 'Advanced Engineering Thermodynamics' by Adrian Bejan, but haven't had time to read his analysis in detail so am not sure what the practical implications are.

C J

#27 John Doe

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Posted 13 September 2006 - 01:39 PM

I'm guessing the solar thermal people must be looking into adding a "self cleaning glass" panel to their products.

http://www.pilkingto...ingglass.co.uk/

If not, maybe they should consider it.
The small increase in cost (as percentage of overall cost) is surely covered by the reduced maintenance?

PS found this company which doesnt use mirrors either.
http://www.solheat.co.uk/Domestic1.htm
"Hey - don't worry, don't be afraid, ever, because, this is just a ride..." Bill Hicks

Just as I start getting my head together, my body starts falling apart (anon).

#28 C J

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Posted 15 September 2006 - 09:14 PM

PS found this company which doesnt use mirrors either.
http://www.solheat.co.uk/Domestic1.htm

I believe that heaters of that nature are in fairly common use for water heating purposes, but as far as I know nobody is using them for power generation. That's probably because they don't generate sufficient temperature differentials to run a conventional engine, and explains why companies like Stirling Energy are using parabolic mirrors to generate a 'hot spot' for their engines to operate in.

The Stirling Energy generators are an impressive piece of engineering, but you can see what I mean about needing to keep the mirrors clean! They also need clear skies, which means we're unlikely to see any of them deployed in the UK.

C J

#29 John Doe

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Posted 17 September 2006 - 04:36 PM

The Stirling Energy generators are an impressive piece of engineering, but you can see what I mean about needing to keep the mirrors clean! They also need clear skies, which means we're unlikely to see any of them deployed in the UK.

C J

Yes, a technology that had almost been forgotten about, but used in conjunction with solar would probably not be the best optiion in the UK (he says looking out his window at the perma-drizzle).

There is a company that will fit your home with a stirling engine that runs off your gas supply in order to generate electricity. In turn, the excess heat that it generated goes to your central heating/hot water supply and excess electricity is sold back to the grid.

I think they’re called whispergen, and also do portable units for canal barges and boats/caravans.

They claim they pay for themselves quite quickly.
"Hey - don't worry, don't be afraid, ever, because, this is just a ride..." Bill Hicks

Just as I start getting my head together, my body starts falling apart (anon).

#30 DrBubb

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Posted 18 September 2006 - 08:44 AM

JD,

If I twisted you arm, which type of solar cell tehnology would you buy now?

Might you change your opinion if your were buying in South China or Hong kong- a warmer, sunnier place?

= =

MORE from that Sol Heat site:
Even in the UK we can harvest solar energy and reduce your water heating costs by up to 70% over the course of a year, regardless of your existing heating system.

We have solutions for all common types of existing water heating systems including combi boilers and under floor heating systems.

A Sol Heat solar water-heating system will reduce your impact on the environment, our domestic systems can reduce carbon dioxide emissions by over one tonne per year.

Most of our domestic systems use a solar powered pump and control system, and are truly 100% green.

We provide a full design and installation service, our solar panels and installations are of the highest quality and most efficient available.

A Sol Heat system will enhance the value of your property, help to protect you from increasing energy cost and even energy shortages.

Sol Heat is an independent company and offers only solar collectors and components of the highest quality.

Our systems have a life expectancy of at least 35 years and require almost no maintenance.
The market is "bipolar", swinging back and forth from a focus on Inflation to Deflation. Bet on swings; and stay flexible. What are bipolar markets? See: http://tinyurl.com/GEI-Manix

#31 John Doe

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Posted 18 September 2006 - 02:13 PM

At present I’d have to opt for Silicon photovoltaic in a climate like that. Commercial systems give 20-25% efficiency. (In Spain the government will now guarantee a fixed energy price for PV produced electricity if you want to fill a field with them! Apparently it's a 25 year guarantee!).

In the future, GaAs (higher efficiency / more cost) will become useful as they are beginning to fit collectors (concentrating lenses) to these devices. Early stages yet mind. Also, over the mid term, the polymer PV should begin to yield better results.

There would be no real need for the hot water advantage of the type of solar thermal we have discussed (suited nicely for the UK), as I guess cooling is more of a problem in a hotter climate.

However, for solar thermal, in conjunction with a Stirling engine, described by C J, the solar concentrators/mirrors need also to have tracking devices for best efficiency, substantially increasing complexity and costs. I don’t know the figures for these devices, but will keep an eye open.
"Hey - don't worry, don't be afraid, ever, because, this is just a ride..." Bill Hicks

Just as I start getting my head together, my body starts falling apart (anon).

#32 DrBubb

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Posted 19 September 2006 - 11:52 PM

CONVERSATION-- With the Inventor of Solar Cells

Solar? MIT’s Technology Review talks to the inventor of the most efficient solar cell, who says:

A very reputable journal [Photon Consulting] just published predictions for module prices for silicon for the next 10 years, and they go up the first few years. In 10 years, they still will be above three dollars, and that’s not competitive.

Yes, people are trying to make silicon in a different way, but there’s another issue: energy payback. It takes a lot of energy to make silicon out of sand, because sand is very stable. If you want to sustain growth at 40-50 percent, and it takes four or five years to pay all of the energy back [from the solar cells], then all of the energy the silicon cells produce, and more, will be used to fuel the growth.

And mankind doesn’t gain anything. Actually, there’s a negative balance. If the technology needs a long payback, then it will deplete the world of energy resources. Unless you can bring that payback time down to where it is with dye-cells and thin-film cells, then you cannot sustain that big growth. And if you cannot sustain that growth, then the whole technology cannot make a contribution.

With regard to the dye-cells [he invented], silicon has a much higher efficiency; it’s about twice [as much]. But when it comes to real pickup of solar power, our cell has two advantages: it picks up [light] earlier in the morning and later in the evening. And also the temperature effect isn’t there–our cell is as efficient at 65 degrees [Celsius] as it is at 25 degrees, and silicon loses about 20 percent, at least.

If you put all of this together, silicon still has an advantage, but maybe a 20 or 30 percent advantage, not a factor of two. [Meanwhile] a factor of 4 or 5 [lower cost than silicon] is realistic. If it’s building integrated, you get additional advantages because, say you have glass, and replace it [with our cells], you would have had the glass cost anyway.

So realistic solar cell production that are cost-effective without subsidies are still a few years away. In the meantime, we’ll have to dig deeper and deeper for new energy sources.

...more : http://biz.yahoo.com...18_id.html?.v=1
The market is "bipolar", swinging back and forth from a focus on Inflation to Deflation. Bet on swings; and stay flexible. What are bipolar markets? See: http://tinyurl.com/GEI-Manix

#33 John Doe

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Posted 20 September 2006 - 12:39 AM

CONVERSATION-- With the Inventor of Solar Cells

MIT’s Technology Review talks to the inventor of the most efficient solar cell,

They're talking about Prof Gratezel (Lausanne, Switzerland)

This is his company

http://www.dyesol.co.....20consulting"

Although to be honest, the last I heard was that their efficiency was only fairly small (about 10 or 11%, definitely not the best in the world) and that they had a short operational lifetime.

It would be great if they had managed to increase the dye solar cell efficiency. I will check with my colleagues, they’re far more up to date than me with such things.
"Hey - don't worry, don't be afraid, ever, because, this is just a ride..." Bill Hicks

Just as I start getting my head together, my body starts falling apart (anon).

#34 DrBubb

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Posted 20 September 2006 - 09:51 AM

have you heard about a new plant in switzerland?

cuts silicon cells.
highly automated. starts up soon. shud bring costs down somewhat

i heard about the swiss plant from one of the investors. it will ipo soon

= =

slightly off topic:
have you any comments on the factory project, JD?
The market is "bipolar", swinging back and forth from a focus on Inflation to Deflation. Bet on swings; and stay flexible. What are bipolar markets? See: http://tinyurl.com/GEI-Manix

#35 John Doe

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Posted 20 September 2006 - 01:19 PM

have you heard about a new plant in switzerland?

cuts silicon cells.
highly automated. starts up soon. shud bring costs down somewhat

i heard about the swiss plant from one of the investors. it will ipo soon

= =

slightly off topic:
have you any comments on the factory project, JD?

Haven't heard of the plant but will ask around.

Have put factory project response on thread
http://www.greenener.......gopid=9154
"Hey - don't worry, don't be afraid, ever, because, this is just a ride..." Bill Hicks

Just as I start getting my head together, my body starts falling apart (anon).

#36 DrBubb

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Posted 20 September 2006 - 03:55 PM

INTERVIEW - China Suntech Sees Solar Cell Prices Peaking
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

CHINA: August 21, 2006

SHANGHAI - China's Suntech Power Holdings Co. Ltd. said on Friday it expects rising prices for solar power cells will start to decline as soon as next year, fuelling demand for solar energy.


"Several major manufacturers, including Suntech, consider that in the next year we need to cut the price ... to bring this industry into a healthier type of situation," said Zhengrong Shi, chief executive of one of the world's 10 biggest makers of solar cells.
Solar cell use had been growing rapidly in China, but that was mainly because of government incentives, Shi said.

Price cuts would allow the industry to flourish without artificial supports, increasing its transparency, he said in an interview.

Prices may fall by 5 to 10 percent in 2007, said China-born Shi, who spent 14 years working and studying in Sydney and became a dollar billionaire after Suntech's initial public offer in New York last December.

In February, Suntech said its average selling prices would rise 5 to 7 percent this year.

Another threat to the company's margins is the cost of the silicon used to make solar cells. Silicon prices rose nearly 50 percent last year, partly because of competing demand from the computer industry.


...MORE : http://www.planetark...37743/story.htm
The market is "bipolar", swinging back and forth from a focus on Inflation to Deflation. Bet on swings; and stay flexible. What are bipolar markets? See: http://tinyurl.com/GEI-Manix

#37 DrBubb

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Posted 08 October 2006 - 01:58 PM

(Soon available in Uk, Europe)

Renewable Capital to License Konarka's
Dye-Sensitized Solar Cell Technology

Relationship to focus on manufacturing scale-up in Europe and commercialization of
Konarka's dye cell technology

Lowell, Mass. and London, UK – July 31, 2006 – Konarka Technologies, Inc., an innovator i
developing and commercializing Power Plastic™ that converts light to energy, and Renewable
Capital Ltd, an investment firm that identifies and invests in renewable technologies, today
announced the licensing and joint development of Konarka's dye-sensitized solar cell technology
for large-scale production. The agreement will further the commercialization of Konarka's dye
cell technology by bringing on large-scale production capabilities. Renewable Capital has
committed resources, capital and equipment to their development activities. This includes the
enlistment of services from Coatema, a world-renowned manufacturer of first-of-kind coating
equipment.

"This is a key milestone in that Renewable Capital's investment validates the progress we have
made in the development of high volume manufacturing methods for the dye sensitized
process," commented Howard Berke, chairman and CEO for Konarka. "The non-exclusive
relationship with Renewable Capital will enable for the large-scale manufacturing production and
scale-up of Konarka's dye-sensitized solar cell technology. With this partnership, we are
continuing to execute on our strategy to partner with leading global companies."


@: http://www.renewable...a_7_31_2006.pdf
The market is "bipolar", swinging back and forth from a focus on Inflation to Deflation. Bet on swings; and stay flexible. What are bipolar markets? See: http://tinyurl.com/GEI-Manix

#38 DrBubb

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Posted 09 October 2006 - 05:24 AM

(from Hornet Renewables' comment):

Solar stocks were down hard as rumours and worries about future growth prospects as well as talk of falling margins ballasted the solar market. The bell -wethers:

QCells, Solarworld, Evergreen Solar and Conergy were all down by over 10%.

Most of the problem was caused by the Spanish Energy Ministry which published a draft bill during the week which proposed reducing the feed in tariff for PV systems to €0.33 per kWh, down from €0.44. We believe that these changes have been largely misunderstood by the market and are of the opinion that they will not have a significant effect on the growth prospects in the Spanish markets as the resulting changes will
still mean that solar projects will have yields of 30% or more. We used this softness as an opportunity to buy select names at good prices.
The market is "bipolar", swinging back and forth from a focus on Inflation to Deflation. Bet on swings; and stay flexible. What are bipolar markets? See: http://tinyurl.com/GEI-Manix

#39 DrBubb

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Posted 21 October 2006 - 07:30 AM

Riding the ups and downs of alternative energy
A long-term investment with plenty of volatility, analysts say

Stephanie I. Cohen ... Sept. 27, 2006


WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) -- If filling up at the pump has you cursing big oil companies, investing in alternative energy companies may offer some sweet revenge. Picture the upside: Advancing alternative energies while turning a profit.
The downside? Volatility in the underlying energy markets, where a steep drop in oil or gas prices can smother profit forecasts, investor enthusiasm and even regulatory support just as quickly as they are ignited by a spike in prices at the pump.

Meanwhile, companies with names like SunPower, SunTech Power, and Powerlight are among those fetching headlines and investment dollars the likes of which haven't been seen since the Arab Oil Embargo of the early 1970s.
They are also drawing in such luminaries as Sir Richard Branson, who announced last week that his Virgin Group is pumping up to $400 million into alternative fuels via an investment fund dubbed Virgin Fuels with an initial investment in California-based ethanol producer Cilion, a privately held company.

Branson has plenty of company. According to PricewaterhouseCoopers and the National Venture Capital Association, investments by venture capitalists in alternative energy deals jumped 69% in the second quarter from a year ago.
In 2005, $1.6 billion in venture capital went toward developing clean technology in North America, up 34.9% from 2004, according to Cleantech Venture Network.
"There's a raft of IPO's coming," said New Energy Fund Managing Partner Mark Townsend Cox. When evaluating where to place a bet in the burgeoning field, Cox said an investor must always ask "does the technology work and is it economical?"

But no amount of due diligence will shield investors from big risks and big swings in stock prices.
"As is often the case with emerging markets, these stocks have been volatile," said Rob Stone, managing director of equity research at Cowen & Co. Investors should see the alternative energy sector as long-term commitment, he added.
In the past two months, solar stocks have dipped 40% to 50%, said Jeffrey Bencik, senior analyst at Jeffries & Co.

Dave Edwards, managing director and head of the merging growth group at Think Equity Partners, warns "there will be more losers than winners" in this dynamic new arena.

Solar isn't the only green energy card to play. Companies that deliver fuel cells, wind power, and biofuel technology are also seen as contenders in the fight against higher prices and the need to nurture more domestic sources of energy.
While there are plenty of mainstream and multinational companies undertaking green ventures -- FPL Group. Inc. (FPL : FPL Group, Inc.: 47.90+0.43+0.91%) , Sharp Corp. (SHCAF) , and General Electric (GE : General Electric Company
: 35.47+0.19+0.54%) -- investors have a myriad of lesser-known options.

Solar Photovoltaics, after lurking for decades in the dark recesses of government labs, is suddenly sexy again amid swelling commercial demand and alluring government tax credits at home and abroad, where many of the biggest players are based. And since solar accounts for less than one percent of the electricity generated worldwide, analysts see plenty of room for growth.

Last year, solar upstarts made up the three biggest initial public offerings in the technology sector: Q-Cells Ag, SunPower Corp., and Suntech Power Holdings Co., Ltd., according to a CleanEdge Inc. report on trends in the alternative energy market. These companies remain analysts' top picks today.

Ron Pernick, co-founder and principle of CleanEdge calls the solar market a "pure technology play." He points to solar cell and panel manufacturer SunPower (SPWR : 31.60-0.34-1.06%) as a prime example, noting that the Silicon Valley firm is a spin-off of Cypress Semiconductor that makes high efficiency solar cells that convert sunlight into electricity.

Shares of SunPower priced between $12 and $14 at the company's initial offering last year. Shares were recently trading at $27.10 after tumbling from $44 in March to a low of $24 in mid-July. Piper Jaffray's 12-month price target for SunPower is $39.

The overall solar market is seen expanding from $7.2 billion in 2004 to $39.2 billion by 2014, according to CleanEdge. There are investment opportunities at "every step of the solar food chain," Stone said.


@: http://www.marketwat...amp;sid=1950277
The market is "bipolar", swinging back and forth from a focus on Inflation to Deflation. Bet on swings; and stay flexible. What are bipolar markets? See: http://tinyurl.com/GEI-Manix

#40 HollandPark

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Posted 25 October 2006 - 02:23 AM

MORE solar ipos...

Canadian Solar is going public : for $13-15, raising maybe $115 million on Nasdaq

Money to go towards buying raw materials, such as silicon.

Apparently, prices for a kilogram of raw material for solar chips
have jumped to as much as US$200 from as low as $20 at teh beginning of last year

Who is collecting all those excess profits??

Can-Solar started in 2002, and had profits of US$3.8mn last yr, up from $1.5mn in 2004.

OTHER IPOS in the works:

- Yingli Solar : to raise $400mn
- LDK Solar HiTech : to raise $300mn
and:
- Trina Solar,
- Linyang Solar

...according to an article in today's SCMP




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