Archive

Posts Tagged ‘Indian solar/PV industry’

Dr. Robert Castellano on how to make solar a ‘hot’ sector again – 2

September 7, 2009 2 comments

Friends, this is the concluding part of my conversation with  Dr. Robert N. Castellano, president of  The Information Network, based in New Tripoli, USA.
The question of adding new, additional solar capacity will always arise. Is t certain that no new additional capacity will be brought on board in 2009? Dr. Castellano said: “Actually I said 2010. Solar manufacturers are already losing money this year and the capacity utilization is 27.9 percent. Also, the days of inventory are currently 122, up from 71 days in 2008. If they continue to add new capacity, things will only worsen, exasperating the recession.”
Dr. Robert N. Castellano, president, The Information Network

Dr. Robert N. Castellano, president, The Information Network

Friends, this is the concluding part of my conversation with  Dr. Robert N. Castellano, president of  The Information Network, based in New Tripoli, USA.

The question of adding new, additional solar capacity will always arise. Is it the certain that no new additional capacity will be brought on board in 2009?

Dr. Castellano noted: “Actually I said 2010. Solar manufacturers are already losing money this year and the capacity utilization is 27.9 percent. Also, the days of inventory are currently 122, up from 71 days in 2008. If they continue to add new capacity, things will only worsen, exasperating the recession.”

What lessons for India?
Turning our attention to India, which has lately been witnessing a lot of talks of building new capacity. According to Dr. Castellano, now is a good time to talk, as a plant will take at least a year to get into full production. By that time, prices should be stabilized and increase.

What then are the lessons to learn from all of this for the Indian solar PV industry?

He added: “What has to be weighed is the cost of making the solar panels in India versus buying the outside the country. It can take several years for a plant to be profitable. If the venture was established from money from India’s government through subsidies, it can lessen the impact of potential losses, while the plants ramp and selling prices move up to a level where production becomes profitable.”

I hope this valuable piece of advice is noted by the existing players or those looking to entering the solar photovoltaics segment in India.

Bring solar production cost per watt down
Dr. Castellano had mentioned about First Solar bringing production costs down to $0.93 per watt. How many of the others are capable of matching or bettering this?

He said, for that matter, Oerlikon, expects that its lines will deliver a cost of $0.70 cents per watt by the end of 2010 and has achieved an initial conversion efficiency of 11 percent, which comes out to about 9.5 percent of stabilized efficiency.

How can manufacturers differentiate their solar products?
Another query has been, how should solar manufacturers differentiate their products and how can they do it cheaply?

Certainly, there are new avenues of manufacturing, such as CdTe from First Solar, CIGS from half a dozen manufacturers, multi-junction cells from companies such as Uni-Solar, and building integrated photovoltaics (BIPV) from an increasing number of manufacturers, advised Dr. Castellano.

He said: “These technologies differentiate the companies’ products, but the proportion of wattage manufactured, while growing, is small compared to the majority of solar panels sold using traditional methods of production, i.e., a thin film on a glass substrate.

“Long life and low cost of ownership are of paramount importance if solar is to grow, particularly, if there is to be a large acceptance at the residential level. Manufacturing can introduce defects in solar cells that can result in low electron mobility (EM), electron traps and photo-degradation from UV light. These issues affect the efficiency and lifetime of solar cells and the importance of measuring electron mobility at the wafer and cell stage.

“The lifetime of minority carriers has been widely identified to be the key material parameter determining the conversion efficiency of pn-junctions in silicon solar cells. Defects in the crystal lattice reduce the charge carrier lifetime and thus limit the performance of the solar cells. Another major efficiency loss is due to impurities in the cell. These can be foreign atoms or molecules in the crystal lattice (including the dopant atoms), and provide sites where electrons and holes can recombine, thereby reducing the number of charged particles available to create an electrical current.

“Lehighton Electronics (Lehighton, PA) is an example of a company that has developed a variety of tools to test and measure solar wafers. One tool can measure sheet resistance and resistivity to see if there is any subsurface damage. Another system can measure minority carrier lifetimes, while a third model can find traps in solar wafers.” Read more…

Dr. Robert Castellano on how to make solar a ‘hot’ sector again – 1


Last week, I was very fortunate enough to be able to get into a conversation with Dr. Robert N. Castellano, president of  The Information Network, based in New Tripoli, USA. It all started with a column, which he writes regularly in “The Street.” One of the recent colums of Dr. Castellano touched upon –- What could make solar hot again?
This first part will touch upon issues such as six reasons for cloudy solar skies and how to rectify the current oversupply situation in solar cell manufacturing, status of a-Si solar cell makers, crystalline vs. thin film capacity, and impact of prices.
<span style=”font-weight:bold;”>How to rectify the solar cell oversupply?</span>
As I’d asked iSuppli too, in one of my recent posts, I also quizzed Dr. Castellano on whether the previously committed capacity expansions have caused solar cell manufacturing oversupply? Also, why had this happened and how could this be corrected?
He said: “The problem will rectify itself when demand catches up with supply, which will take several years.  Until then, suppliers are faced with lower prices and margins. I was the first to point out on March 5 2008, in my blog on Seeking Alpha in an article entitled “Contradictions in the Solar Industry” that “The solar industry is faced with a huge oversupply of solar panels planned for production in 2008, but no one seems to notice… or care. Shares in many solar companies such as Evergreen Solar), First Solar  SunPower, and Suntech Power have surged with the booming solar market.”
<span style=”font-weight:bold;”>Six reasons for cloudy solar skies</span>
He added: “On November 18, 2008, in another blog on Seeking Alpha entitled “Six Reasons for Cloudy Skies on the Solar Energy Industry”  that the problems in the solar industry were the result of the following:
1. With oil at $60 a barrel, who cares about alternative energy? It is a short sighted view, but with the credit market crunch, who can get a loan to build solar plants anyway?”
2. The high price of oil in the past year was a catalyst for the development in other alternative energy sources, and not just solar! Advances in wind, geothermal and hydropower energy are reducing the cost of wind power to a point at which it is becoming competitive with traditional energy sources. Nuclear power plants — smaller than a garden shed and able to power 20,000 homes — will be on sale within five years, say scientists at Los Alamos, the US government laboratory, which developed the first atomic bomb. Among these alternative energy sources, hydropower and nuclear have the lowest carbon footprints (carbon dioxide produced during operation).
3. Spain, a huge buyer of solar, reduced its incentive program to aid buyers in 2009. In California, a seemingly green state, Prop. 7 was defeated in the November election with a whopping 65 percent of the voters saying NO. One reason: electricity consumers would pay 10 percent above the market rates for renewable power forever.
4. The spot market price of six-inch solar-grade wafers have fallen to $9 from a high of $12.50 in September. This bodes poorly for thin film makers and equipment suppliers. The thin film solar panel market and hence, the equipment market grew strongly because of the shortage of polysilicon. Now that polysilicon is abundant and lower priced, why make thin film panels with 8 percent efficiency when you get 16+ percent efficiency with silicon wafers?
5. “Utilization is at only 56 percent. Our analysis of 103 solar manufacturers shows that panel production capacity in 2009 will be 15 GW whereas only 8.3 GW will be sold.
6. The dollar has appreciated strongly against the euro by nearly 25 percent. Germany is the world’s largest PV market. US solar companies have had to adjust selling prices to generate sales, reducing profit margins.”
<span style=”font-weight:bold;”>Have companies been overlooking inventory problems?</span>
In this context, weren’t the solar companies doing enough to check all of these during the downturn of Q4-08? Even the 71 days to 122 days excess supply or inventory is huge!
Dr. Castellano said: “The solar companies were benefiting from the low price of polysilicon as a result of excess inventory in that sector. They were renegotiating contract prices with the poly suppliers and dropping prices. With money in place, they continued to build capacity well into 2009.  All the factors discussed above took everyone by surprise (witness the stock market crash) and the recession has lasted much longer than initially forecast.
<span style=”font-weight:bold;”>Where does this place a-Si solar cell makers?</span>
How is all of this potentially setting the stage for the failure of multiple cell manufacturers, particularly those pursuing a-Si thin film solar cells?
He added that thin film cells are still less expensive to make and companies are working to improve their efficiency.  Also, they appear to work at stated efficiency under lower incident light conditions.
“The issue is the economics in a solar farm where they are installed. The installation price is the same as a polycrystalline panel. Since the efficiency is lower and it takes more panels to reach the same wattage as polycrystalline, it also takes more hook-ups and frames during installation.
“If the panels move, there is another factor in the motors to move them. However, the production cost is lower than the polycrystalline panels. Oerlikon, expects its lines will deliver a cost of 70 cents per watt by the end of 2010 and has achieved an initial conversion efficiency of 11 percent, which comes out to about 9.5 percent of stabilized efficiency.”
<span style=”font-weight:bold;”>Crystalline vs. thin film capacity</span>
There is still a huge amount of solar cell manufacturing capacity in crystalline silicon solar cell, rather than thin film. Are there any chances of that starting to change any time soon?
Dr. Castellano said: “Until last year, Germany had been the world’s largest solar market thanks to its feed-in tariffs, which require utilities to buy all the solar energy produced at premium, government-set prices. As a result, analysts now expect Germany, which doesn’t have an annual cap like the one in Spain, to become the biggest market again in 2009.Germany installed 1.35 gigawatts of solar energy systems in 2008, and it could add another 1.5 gigawatts in 2009.
“Spain took the lead last year, but the government has since reduced the subsidies and capped the amount of energy that could be sold under the subsidy program. The financial market crisis has made it difficult for developers to line up financing for solar power projects. Spain, which added a few gigawatts of solar in 2008 alone, now has a 500-megawatt cap for 2009. All of these forces have led to an oversupply of silicon panels.
“As governments — Germany and Spain were a driving force – in the solar industry’s run-up, they were a factor in the downturn. Once the recession is over and liquidity returns, they will mitigate the overcapacity, particularly as prices are so low and there is pent-up demand for new installations.”
<span style=”font-weight:bold;”>Impact of Q4 on overall prices and industry</span>
Another aspect worth examining is the overall impact of this (Q4) on overall prices and the industry.
Dr. Castellano said that silicon used to sell for more than $300 per kilogram on the spot market and $150 per kilogram for long-term contracts a few years ago. Silicon prices have since fallen significantly over the past year. In fact, the long-term contract price has dropped about 50 percent, close to the spot market price of $67 per kilogram, or about $0.50 per watt.
“Polysilicon panels are selling at $2.25 to $2.50 per watt from $4.17 in Q2 2008. We expect prices to decline further throughout the remainder of the year,” he noted.
In part 2 of this conversation, I will be discussing additional capacity in solar, new capacity in India, and of course, lessons to learn for the Indian solar industry. Watch this space, folks!
Dr. Robert N. Castellano, president, The Information Network

Dr. Robert N. Castellano, president, The Information Network

Last week, I was very fortunate enough to be able to get into a conversation with Dr. Robert N. Castellano, president of  The Information Network, based in New Tripoli, USA. It all started with a column, which he writes regularly in “The Street.” One of the recent colums of Dr. Castellano touched upon –- What could make solar hot again?

This first part of our conversation will touch upon industry issues such as — six reasons for cloudy solar skies and how to rectify the current oversupply situation in solar cell manufacturing, status of a-Si solar cell makers, crystalline vs. thin film capacity, and impact of prices.

How to rectify the solar cell oversupply?
Since I’d asked iSuppli too, in one of my recent posts, I also quizzed Dr. Castellano on whether the previously committed capacity expansions have caused solar cell manufacturing oversupply? Also, why had this happened and how could this be corrected?

He said: “The problem will rectify itself when demand catches up with supply, which will take several years.  Until then, suppliers are faced with lower prices and margins. I was the first to point out on March 5 2008, in my blog on Seeking Alpha in an article entitled “Contradictions in the Solar Industry” that “The solar industry is faced with a huge oversupply of solar panels planned for production in 2008, but no one seems to notice… or care. Shares in many solar companies such as Evergreen Solar), First Solar  SunPower, and Suntech Power have surged with the booming solar market.”

Six reasons for cloudy solar skies

He added: “On November 18, 2008, in another blog on Seeking Alpha entitled “Six Reasons for Cloudy Skies on the Solar Energy Industry”  that the problems in the solar industry were the result of the following:

1.
With oil at $60 a barrel, who cares about alternative energy? It is a short sighted view, but with the credit market crunch, who can get a loan to build solar plants anyway?”
2. The high price of oil in the past year was a catalyst for the development in other alternative energy sources, and not just solar! Advances in wind, geothermal and hydropower energy are reducing the cost of wind power to a point at which it is becoming competitive with traditional energy sources. Nuclear power plants — smaller than a garden shed and able to power 20,000 homes — will be on sale within five years, say scientists at Los Alamos, the US government laboratory, which developed the first atomic bomb. Among these alternative energy sources, hydropower and nuclear have the lowest carbon footprints (carbon dioxide produced during operation).
3. Spain, a huge buyer of solar, reduced its incentive program to aid buyers in 2009. In California, a seemingly green state, Prop. 7 was defeated in the November election with a whopping 65 percent of the voters saying NO. One reason: electricity consumers would pay 10 percent above the market rates for renewable power forever.
4. The spot market price of six-inch solar-grade wafers have fallen to $9 from a high of $12.50 in September. This bodes poorly for thin film makers and equipment suppliers. The thin film solar panel market and hence, the equipment market grew strongly because of the shortage of polysilicon. Now that polysilicon is abundant and lower priced, why make thin film panels with 8 percent efficiency when you get 16+ percent efficiency with silicon wafers?
5. “Utilization is at only 56 percent. Our analysis of 103 solar manufacturers shows that panel production capacity in 2009 will be 15 GW whereas only 8.3 GW will be sold.
6. The dollar has appreciated strongly against the euro by nearly 25 percent. Germany is the world’s largest PV market. US solar companies have had to adjust selling prices to generate sales, reducing profit margins.”

Have companies been overlooking inventory problems?
In this context, weren’t the solar companies doing enough to check all of these during the downturn of Q4-08? Even the 71 days to 122 days excess supply or inventory is huge!

Dr. Castellano said: “The solar companies were benefiting from the low price of polysilicon as a result of excess inventory in that sector. They were renegotiating contract prices with the poly suppliers and dropping prices. With money in place, they continued to build capacity well into 2009.  All the factors discussed above took everyone by surprise (witness the stock market crash) and the recession has lasted much longer than initially forecast.

Where does this place a-Si solar cell makers?

How is all of this potentially setting the stage for the failure of multiple cell manufacturers, particularly those pursuing a-Si thin film solar cells?
He added that thin film cells are still less expensive to make and companies are working to improve their efficiency.  Also, they appear to work at stated efficiency under lower incident light conditions.

“The issue is the economics in a solar farm where they are installed. The installation price is the same as a polycrystalline panel. Since the efficiency is lower and it takes more panels to reach the same wattage as polycrystalline, it also takes more hook-ups and frames during installation.

“If the panels move, there is another factor in the motors to move them. However, the production cost is lower than the polycrystalline panels. Oerlikon, expects its lines will deliver a cost of 70 cents per watt by the end of 2010 and has achieved an initial conversion efficiency of 11 percent, which comes out to about 9.5 percent of stabilized efficiency.”

Crystalline vs. thin film capacity

There is still a huge amount of solar cell manufacturing capacity in crystalline silicon solar cell, rather than thin film. Are there any chances of that starting to change any time soon?

Dr. Castellano said: “Until last year, Germany had been the world’s largest solar market thanks to its feed-in tariffs, which require utilities to buy all the solar energy produced at premium, government-set prices. As a result, analysts now expect Germany, which doesn’t have an annual cap like the one in Spain, to become the biggest market again in 2009.Germany installed 1.35 gigawatts of solar energy systems in 2008, and it could add another 1.5 gigawatts in 2009.

“Spain took the lead last year, but the government has since reduced the subsidies and capped the amount of energy that could be sold under the subsidy program. The financial market crisis has made it difficult for developers to line up financing for solar power projects. Spain, which added a few gigawatts of solar in 2008 alone, now has a 500-megawatt cap for 2009. All of these forces have led to an oversupply of silicon panels.

“As governments — Germany and Spain were a driving force – in the solar industry’s run-up, they were a factor in the downturn. Once the recession is over and liquidity returns, they will mitigate the overcapacity, particularly as prices are so low and there is pent-up demand for new installations.”

Impact of Q4 on overall prices and industry

Another aspect worth examining is the overall impact of this (Q4) on overall prices and the industry.

Dr. Castellano said that silicon used to sell for more than $300 per kilogram on the spot market and $150 per kilogram for long-term contracts a few years ago. Silicon prices have since fallen significantly over the past year. In fact, the long-term contract price has dropped about 50 percent, close to the spot market price of $67 per kilogram, or about $0.50 per watt.

“Polysilicon panels are selling at $2.25 to $2.50 per watt from $4.17 in Q2 2008. We expect prices to decline further throughout the remainder of the year,” he noted.

In part 2 of this conversation, I will be discussing additional capacity in solar, new capacity in India, and of course, lessons to learn for the Indian solar industry. Watch this space, folks!

Busy period ahead for Indian semicon, solar! While, TI bids for Qimonda’s tools!!


Yes, looks like it!

First, on August 31, the India Semiconductor Association and the UK-TI would be signing an MoU. The next day, September 1, there is a presentation by Ministry of New and Renewable Energy and key officials on the government of India’s policies to the industry!

Next, on September 4, the DIT Secretary R. Chandrasekhar and the Additional Secretary, will be interacting with semiconductor companies in Bangalore.

Further on, September 16 is the day when the Union Minister for New and Renewable Energy, Dr Farooq Abdullah, will be interacting with a small group of industry leaders at a solar PV conclave in Hyderabad!

That’s quite a lot, within a span of 15-odd days! Must say, this augurs well for the Indian semicon and solar/photovoltaics industry.

Interestingly, a lot of the big events are focusing on solar. So, my hunch is that the Indian solar industry may have some serious announcements to make in the coming weeks. Should that happen, I hope to bring those to you, time permitting.

TI bids for Qimonda’s tools
Oh, by the way, there’s news all over the Internet about Texas Instruments (TI) placing a bid of $172.5 million for Qimonda’s 300mm production tools from its closed DRAM fab. While this highlights TI’s focus on building the world’s first 300mm analog fab, I can’t stop wondering, what would have happened had an Indian investor really bought Qimonda!

Consolidation likely in solar cell manufacturing to control oversupply, and, lessons for India!


Thanks to Jon Cassell and Debra Jaramilla, I was able to get in a conversation with Stefan de Haan, senior analyst, iSuppli Corp., regarding the global solar PV industry. Recently, iSuppli had provided guidance on how “Half of all solar panels made this year won’t be installed in 2009!”

Correcting solar cell manufacturing oversupply
Previously committed capacity expansions have caused solar cell manufacturing oversupply. Why and how can this be corrected?

According to Stefan de Hann, the cell suppliers are already reacting, i.e., cutting back on production and delaying expansion plans. Nevertheless, a consolidation will take place, since prices won’t recover. Production cost is the key to be among the survivors. However, 2009 will see the peak of the cell/module oversupply. From 2010 on, the situation will ease slowly.

If that were the case, weren’t the companies doing enough to check all of this during the downturn of Q4-08?

de Haan added that at the end of last year (record year 2008!), everybody still expected continuous strong demand. “It took most companies longer to realize that their enormous growth expectations were not realistic. We were the first to predict the current scenario already in summer 2008, but the nearly all the companies I talked to at the PVSEC in September 2008 didn’t share this view at all.”

So, therefore, they probably weren’t checking their market carefully enough, after all!

Failure of a-Si thin film solar cell makers?
Is all of this setting the stage for the failure of multiple cell manufacturers, particularly those pursuing a-Si thin film solar cells?

According to the iSuppli analyst, those suppliers relying on standard a-Si thin film lines [AMAT/Oerlikon] will definitely face problems for several quarters. “Collapsing polysilicon prices incease the pressure on these manufacturers. There will be not only excess crystalline cell production, but also excess a-Si production,” he added.

There is also a huge amount of solar cell manufacturing capacity in crystalline silicon solar cell, rather than thin film. When will this start changing and why?

de Haan advised that both crystalline and thin film production (and installation) will continue to grow for the next years. Due to lower production costs, thin film will increase its market share gradually. In iSuppli’s current projection, it sees a thin film market share of 35-40 percent in 2013, up from 15 percent in 2008.

Lessons for India?
With consolidation likely to happen in the global solar cell manufacturing industry to control or combat oversupply, where would it all leave the the talk of building new capacity in India? As we know, back home in India, various companies are betting big on this sector.

In this regard, what are the lessons to learn for the Indian solar PV industry? Bear in mind that India is a “wild card” as far as solar demand is concerned.

According to de Haan, Companies hope for huge investments in the coming years and want to be prepared. However, in the current oversupply situation, the comparatively new Indian cell and module manufacturers will suffer from dropping prices.

He advised: “For them it is important to stay flexible with regard to polysilicon and wafer purchase. These prices won’t recover either, no need for long-term commitments. Most importantly, they need to develop their domestic market. If I was an Indian module manufacturer, I would integrate downstream and enter the installation business.”

Union budget 2009: Nothing much to speak about on tech front, barring UIDAI!


The Union Budget 2009, detailed today by Honourable Pranab Mukherjee, Minister of Finance, Government of India, really has nothing much to speak about for the Indian technology sector, or what many would like to call as the Indian IT industry, barring the setting up of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI).

Some of the budget highlights include:
* Customs duty of 5 percent to be imposed on set-top boxes for TV broadcasting.
* Customs duty on LCD panels for manufacture of LCD TVs to be reduced from 10 percent to 5 percent.
* Full exemption from 4 percent special CVD on parts for manufacture of mobile phones and accessories to be reintroduced for one year.

None of these proposals will significantly boost manufacturing in the country. There is also a great need to boost home-grown companies!

Among the good points, the minister said that he will urge his colleagues in Central and State Governments to remove policy, regulatory and institutional bottlenecks for speedy implementation of infrastructure projects. The infrastructure projects include telecommunications, power generation, etc. This is some good news!

The IT industry has pointed out that it is facing difficulties in the assessment of software which involves transfer of the right to use after the levy of service tax on IT software service. To resolve the matter, the minister has proposed to exempt the value attributable to the transfer of the right to use packaged software from excise duty and CVD. Perhaps, this is some good news as well.

The minister also noted that the setting up of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) is a major step in improving governance with regard to delivery of public services. The first set of unique identity numbers will be rolled out in 12 to 18 months. Rs. 120 crore has been provided for this project. This is also good news.

One other point to note is the feduction in respect of export profits available under sections 10A and 10B of the Income-tax Act. The deduction under these sections would not be available beyond the financial year 2009-2010. To tide over the slowdown in exports, the minister has proposed to extend the sun-set clauses for these tax holidays by one more year, i.e., for the financial year 2010-11.

Semicon, solar seem neglected this time!
The budget has missed out in helping develop the semiconductor and solar/PV industries. These sectors require the full backing of the government. Even local telecom manufacturing seems to have been bypassed. Nor is there any mention of how foreign direct investment (FDI), can be enhanced in these critical sectors.

Especially, solar photovoltaics holds a lot of promise. A couple of months ago, SEMI India, in its paper on solar PV in India, had highlighted the need for more action from the government of India, a more closer industry-government collaboration, as well as the need for financial institutions to pay more attention to the solar/PV segment in India.

I also didn’t see any proposal in the budget that would help strengthen India’s semiconductor ecosystem. How can India become an even more attractive destination for foreign investors? There are companies, especially some Indian technocrats, who would probably like to return to India and set up semiconductor product companies. Would the VC community finance semicon start-ups? What would excite these folks?

Recently, BV Naidu, chairman, India Semiconductor Association, (ISA), mentioned in a discussion, that it would be appropriate if the Government of India could provide seed and start-up capital for new ventures and set up a focused venture fund of about Rs 200 crores.

According to him, the technology development board could administer these funds and the fund may provide up to 80 percent of the approved project cost with equity balance being brought in by entrepreneur. The Government can also subsidize the acquisition of EDA tools by start-ups and other SMEs in this sector.

None of these points have been addressed in today’s union budget!

Someone recently questioned me whether India will ever have a fab. Frankly, I don’t know! Having a good, strong local semiconductor industry does require a huge support from the government.

This could’ve been a much more braver and bolder budget. Perhaps, future budgets will address points given a miss in this edition.

Opportunities in India’s solar/PV landscape: SEMI India


Solar/photovoltaics (PV) holds tremendous potential and promise for India, a fact not hidden from anyone. To further highlight its importance, SEMI India unveiled its first paper on Solar PV in India yesterday afternoon.

More action from Indian government needed
The meet called for more action from the government of India, a more closer industry-government collaboration, as well as the need for financial institutions to pay more attention to the solar/PV segment in India.

The photo here shows from left to right: Dr. Madhusudan V. Atre, President, Applied Materials India; Dr. J. Gururaja, Renewable Energy Action Forum & Executive President, SEMI India; K. Subramanya, CEO, Tata BP Solar; and Sathya Prasad, president, SEMI India.

Touching on the rationale for this SEMI paper on solar/PV’s landscape in India, Dr. J. Gururaja, Renewable Energy Action Forum and Executive President, SEMI India, said it was meant to project the solar/PV industry’s perspective: where we are and what needs to be done! This is a first account report and will be followed by many other such reports.

He said: “Solar in general, and PV in particular, can address the challenges that we face today. Solar/PV has a special attraction. It converts solar to electricity without involving any moving parts.”

He added that although the industry has been looking at the potential, the markets have not been expanding as expected. “We need to see what can be done and achieved. This report is a stock-taking exercise,” he pointed out.

Case for solar/PV in India
Sathya Prasad, president of SEMI India, touched upon the case for PV in India. These include:
* The existing power deficit situation in many parts of the country.
* India’s brisk economic growth implies rising energy needs.
* Overdependence on coal for electricity generation — limited coal reserves and CO2 emissions.
* Overdependence on oil and natural gas imports — it accounts for 7 percent of GDP and consequent energy security concerns.

According to him, India is abundantly endowed with solar radiation. So far, so good!

Key PV opportunities for India
According to SEMI’s paper, the key PV opportunities for India lie in off-grid applications and grid-connected PV. The off-grid applications include:
* Basic lighting and electrification of rural homes.
* Irrigation pump sets.
* Power back-up for cellular base station towers — approximately, there will be 2.9 lakh base station towers by the end of 2009.
* Urban applications — such as street lighting, etc.

The opportunities in grid-connected PV exist in:
* The current grid connected PV generation capacity is very small.
* Existing power deficit and huge projected future need.
* The cost point of PV has been declining continuously with technology improvements and scale.

Benefits of PV in India
The benefits of PV in India extend well beyond addressing energy needs. For instance, renewable energy technologies create more jobs than any fossil fuel based technologies. It also creates jobs across the value chain — from R&D to manufacturing, installation and maintenance. Sathya Prasad highlighted MNRE’s point that about 100,000 jobs could be created out of PV.

PV also has the capability of transforming lives. About 450 million Indians today manage with kerosene/other fuels for very basic lighting despite its significant health and safety risks. In this context, special mention needs to be made of the Aryavarta Grameen Bank’s home electrification program.

Challenges for PV in India
Evidently, a bunch of opportunities are awaiting India in the solar/PV space. However, several challenges need to be overcome as well. These would be:
* Need for closer industry-government co-operation.
* Need for standards.
* Need for collaborative, goals driven R&D.
* Training and human resources development
* Need for financing infrastructure and models.

So, what are the recommendations of this paper on solar/PV landscape in India, and further call to action? These are:
* Need to evolve a common government-industry vision to make India a world leader in PV.
* Develop financing infrastructure and models that will motivate large-scale PV adoption and investments.
* Expand development of PV in off-grid applications.
* Accelerate grid-connected PV generation on a large scale.

Call for low carbon growth strategy
“Low carbon growth path is universal now. To make that happen, there needs to be a political will,” advised K. Subramanya, CEO, Tata BP Solar, and chairman SEMI India PV Advisory Committee, while presenting his perspective on the solar/PV industry in India.

There has been little action on part of the government of India. “This needs to be implemented on the ground. We need policy and lifestyle innovation,” he added. Subramanya cautioned that, “Too much of analysis will result in paralysis.” According to him, separate budgets are required for a low carbon growth strategy. “Solar has tremendous potential. Even its learning curve is brilliant,” Subramanya noted.

He added that if the European Union (EU) can make a low carbon journey so smoothly, then why not India? For instance, in Karnataka state alone, the demand is said to be 6700MW and a 10-11 percent peak shortage. We have 20-odd lakh Bhagya Jyoti and Kutir Jyoti units, and around 7,870-odd street lights. If a majority of these can be replaced by solar, it could lead to tremendous savings! This could be at least 57MW for a state like Karnataka. Apparently, all of this would require an investment of Rs. 52 crores and a payback time of two years.

“Why can’t we develop a low-carbon growth path for every state in India? Imagine, what it can do for the other states,” Subramanya highlighted. “If the power sector does not do well, it will hit the country’s GDP!” Quite rightly so!!

Subramanya cited another example of solar water heaters in Karnataka. There are 32 lakh homes, of which about 5 lakh homes have solar water heaters. If more houses were to adopt these, it would result in a saving of 4,000MW of electricity! The Tata BP Solar CEO also called upon financial institutions to have a closer look at solar. Even the tariffs structure for solar/PV in India is not favorable enough.

He also touched upon US President Barack Obama’s energy plan and the actions taken, since his coming to power, and drew a parallel with India’s national action plan, which includes a solar mssion. This was released last June, but hardly any action has happened on the ground. So, there needs be changes on this front as well.

Four key aspects for solar/PV in India
Dr. Madhusudan V. Atre, president, Applied Materials India and vice chairman SEMI India PV Advisory Committee, highlighted four major aspects while presenting his perspective on the solar/PV industry. These are:
* See the advantage SEMI India brings to India. It can help bring costs down, due to the involvement of the PV Group.
* A point Dr. Atre had highlighted to me about a year back — that solar/PV is a great way to trigger manufacturing in India. He said that the solar/PV ecosystem will be a very important step in setting up a semiconductor manufacturing ecosystem in the country.
* What wireless did to telecom — perhaps, solar/PV has a similar aim! It can get rid of transmission lines and actually take power to the people!
* The Indian government-academia-industry would need to work hand-in-hand.

Time for Indian semicon to step up! Yes or No?


I was really happy to see a comment on my blog post: “What India now offers to the global semicon industry,” left by Tom Morrow, author of the SEMISpice blog, and Vice President of Global Expositions and Marketing, SEMI. Thanks for visiting and commenting, Tom.

You said: Your description of India’s Special Incentives Package Schemes for setting up and operating semiconductor fabrication as a “debacle” is off the mark. Is it really wise for the country to join an already crowded semiconductor manufacturing ecosystem when it can apply its scarce resources to join 30-50 year boom in solar, something the country desperately needs for both domestic and export development?”

“The move to solar is the right one. India had nine manufacturers of solar cells and about twice as many module makers. Most of these proposals have been in response to the Government’s announcement of a Special Incentives Package Scheme under the 2007 Semiconductor Policy.

“About 70 percent of India’s solar cell and PV module production has been exported. This is likely to change in the near future as government policy provides the push for PV deployment and following the recent release of guidelines for grid connected solar generation. Several states in India, including Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Karnataka, Punjab, Rajasthan and West Bengal have also announced their own solar policies, plans and incentive packages in recent months.

“ISA and SEMI has recognized the great opportunities in solar and have taken supportive leadership positions. While both organizations would love to see a domestic semi fab industry emerge in India, given the overcapcity in the industry today, the transition to solar has been swift, thoughtful, and right on the mark.”

First up, Tom, I did not formulate SIPS or the Indian semicon policy! I too thought India would soon build a wafer IC fab! Several delegations have visited India, in the past, with companies hoping to work with these so-called wafer IC fabs in India. I am merely a small time blogger, offering my opinions. And I love my country, no less than any other Indian!

Perhaps, you should see some of the press these ‘so-called fabs’ received! All the talk of a wafer IC fab only died down with SemIndia late last year!

If folks read my posts carefully, I’ve discussed how India has been doing fine before the semicon policy and post the policy, fab or no fab! Some knowledgeable experts have even said that fabless India shines brightly! It has shone before, and continues to do so!

Neither do I have anything against solar and the solar industry! It is a great way to trigger off manufacturing in India. Did I say otherwise?

I work closely with ISA, in fact, was present, when ISA was born, back in October 2004, and also know Sathya Prasad at SEMI India quite well. It’s a great initiative that’s going on in solar in this country. So, yes, the move to solar is a very correct one!

Still on wafer IC fabs, one expert even goes on to say that India could look at skipping the current node of technology and make an entry into the one that will be prevalent after few years.

However, my focus is essentially on semiconductor manufacturing! As many industry experts never fail to say at conferences, India needs to move up the semicon value chain! We need more semicon product start-ups!! And, that’s not happening fast enough!

Perhaps, we can just discard all of these ideas and go on being a leading player in design services (which, we already are), a much easier option.

I would still go with what Malcolm Penn of Future Horizons’ says, that India needs to re-think its semiconductor strategy! It cannot survive on chip design alone!

Even the recently held ISA Vision Summit had a session: “Indian design influence: Ideas to volume”! Speakers discussed how India should seize opportunities, especially in this downturn, and that, it is time for the Indian semiconductor industry to step up, put the right innovations in place and grow.

I am very interested in hosting an event in India on this topic — Time for India to step up: Put right innovations in place and grow! However, as I said, I am merely a small time blogger, trying to make a living. I hope I can find some support to host such an event at least once in India.

I am simply delighted that my post has drawn the interest of such a senior person at SEMI. Thank you, sir!

Reviewing global/Indian semicon industry in 2008 — top posts


Greetings, dear readers and friends, in the new year. May you all have all the success and prosperity in 2009!

An eventful year in semiconductors has passed by us. For me, personally, it has been a tremendous 2008, ending with Electronics Weekly of UK selecting my blog (Pradeep Chakraborty’s Blog) as the world’s best in the Electronic Hardware category.

Lot of people have asked me since, how it feels to be a world champion! Well, I do feel elated! However, one point, more of the congratulatory notes have come from overseas, than from India. Perhaps, it is an apt indicator of how semiconductors is perceived in India — though, I may be wrong.

Friends have also asked me how I’ve managed to blog on such a difficult subject sitting in India. Simply put: It has not been easy!

First, I’m just a simple person, and not some brand name. Second, my blog does not represent any large, well known media house, or a big brand semiconductor magazine. Hence, maintaining a semicon blog, with the help of contacts from all over the world has been tough, at times. Why, some folks, with whom I wished to speak with, never even responded to my emails and requests. Quite understandable!

Third, I’ve only managed to blog, when I have the time, unlike many other great bloggers who post regularly (or daily)! Fourth, there have been several instances, where my location has been my weak point. I was unable to blog on several instances simply because I had no way of reaching people whom I wished to speak with, while sitting in India. And, as I said, I did get cold snubs on several instances! :) As a result, I could not present my views at specific instances, even though I dearly wanted to!

However, the unconditional and loving support and encouragement of my family, friends, well wishers, industry leaders and loyal readers such as you have helped overcome all of these deficiencies. It is only because of these people that I’ve managed to come this far! I hope each one of you continues to have faith in me. I shall try my best to provide you with the best information (hopefully) the global semiconductor industry has to offer.

To start off the new year, may I present, what I feel, are the top blog posts on semiconductors during 2008, as a review for the past year.

Being indisposed at the start of 2008, I only managed to pick up speed from April onward. As the year progressed, the Indian fab story with SemIndia started worsening, before finally disappearing, even as fabless India held on sttong, as did the fortunes of the global semiconductor industry, which incidentally, did look quite good till September last year.

I have arranged the blog posts, from January to December 2008, so they will present a better picture of how 2008 behaved! These posts are set in no particular order or preference, otherwise. Some of you may have your own favorites, so kindly let me know, in case those haven’t made the list.

JAN 2008
Power awareness critical for chip designers
LabVIEW 8.5 delivers power of multicore processors

MAR 2008
NXP India achieves RF CMOS in single chip
VLSI as a career in India
Using ‘semicon’ simulation for drug discovery

APR 2008
New camps promise exciting times ahead in memory market
Indian design services to hit $10.96bn by 2010
Staying ahead of clock a habit at Magma!

MAY 2008
Dubai — an emerging silicon oasis
Developers, go parallel, or perish, says Intel
Think AND not OR; Altera first @ 40nm FPGAs
Top 10 global semicon predictions — where are we today
Semicon to grow 12pc in 2008
India’s growing might in global semicon

JUN 2008
10-point program for Karnataka semicon policy
Has the Indian silicon wafer fab story gone astray?
Semicon half year over, what next now?
EDA as DNA of growth

JUL 2008
Semicon is no longer business as usual!
Cadence C-to-Silicon Compiler eliminates barriers to HLS adoption
Practical to take solar/PV route: Dr. Atre, Applied

AUG 2008
What India brings to the table for semicon world! And, for Japan
NAND update: Market likely to recover in H2-09
E Ink on every smart surface!
RVCE unveils Garuda super fuel-efficient car
Indian fab policy gets 12 proposals; solar dominates

SEP 2008
90pc fab investments for 300mm capacity: SEMI
Synopsys’ Dr Chi-Foon Chan on India, low power design and solar
Magma’s YieldManager could make solar ‘rock’!
Motion sensors driving MEMS growt
BV Naidu quits SemIndia; what now of Indian fab story?

OCT 2008
Top 20 global solar photovoltaic companies
IDF Taiwan: Father of the Atom an Indian!
TI Beagle Board for Indian open source developers and hobbyists
Cadence’s Virtuoso vs. Synopsys’ Galaxy Custom Designer!
Synopsys’ Galaxy Custom Designer tackles analog mixed signal (AMS) challenges
Solar, semi rocking in India; global semi recovery in 2010?
No fabs? So?? Fabless India shines brightly!!

NOV 2008
AMD’s roadmap 2009 provides lots of answers… now, to deliver!
Embedded computing — 15mn devices not so far away!
FPGAs have adopted Moore’s Law more closely!

DEC 2008
My blog is the world’s best!
Semicon outlook 2009: Global market could be down 7pc or more
Altera on FPGAs outlook for 2009
Solar sunburn likely in 2009? India, are you listening
Outlook for solar photovoltaics in 2009!

I found it difficult to select the Top 10 posts. If any one of you can draw up such a list, it’d be great!

Outlook for solar photovoltaics in 2009!


Friends and dear readers, this is my last blog post for 2008! Indeed, what a year this has been!!

Let me bid this year goodbye with a general outlook on the global solar photovoltaics industry for 2009.

iSuppli had recently put out a report on solar eclipse coming in 2009! I had blogged about the possible solar sunburn ahead, as well, earlier last week!

Another point that has interested me is: what happens to the top 20 global solar photovoltaic companies, based on iSuppli’s analysis! This blog post has perhaps been the most popular in recent times.

I was very lucky to re-associate with Dr. Henning Wicht, Senior Director, Principal Analyst, iSuppli Deutschland GmbH, in Munich, Germany, for this discussion, thanks to the efforts of Jon Cassell and Debra Jaramilla!

How bad is solar?
The first and the most obvious question: how bad is the global solar market right now and why?

According to iSuppli, bringing an end to eight consecutive years of growth, global revenue for photovoltaic (PV), panels is likely to plunge by nearly 20 percent in 2009, as a massive oversupply causes prices to drop!

Worldwide revenue from shipments of panels will decline to $12.9 billion in 2009, down 19.1 percent from $15.9 billion in 2008. A drop of this magnitude has not occurred in the last 10 years and likely has not happened in the entire history of the solar industry.

Dr. Henning Wicht says that the upstream part of the solar business (cell, module, etc.) will suffer from price decline due to strong oversupply. The downstream side will benefit (installation, end-user, investor, etc.) by lower system prices.

Therefore, what can the solar players do to get over this coming bad phase in 2009? Well, three things: improve the cost structure, improve the sales side, and diversify downstream… These points hold strong for all fully integrated and non-integrated solar panel suppliers as well. By the way, fully integrated solar panel suppliers are likely to suffer less severe losses than non-integrated competitors.

There must be some way around to to bring about some balance within the current imbalance in the demand and supply situation. While Dr. Wicht agrees this is a difficult one to answer this early, he adds that supply and demand are diverging heavily. “With the current trajectories even in 2012, 100 percent more modules are produced than installed,” he says. I promise to discuss this question again with the good Dr. in another six months time.

Word of wisdom
There are various support programs in place, and it is important to know whether they will continue to remain beneficial, both to support markets to become independent sustainable and to develop the regional industry.

Dr. Wicht believes the support programs are still required and beneficial. “If China, India, Mexico and other sunny regions would start to support solar installations, that could change the picture drastically,” he notes.

A note of warning for new entrants in the solar photovoltaic space! Be aware that this warning has been earlier highlighted in the global semiconductor outlook for 2009! In tune with what the various analysts have maintained earlier, iSuppli also forsees newcomers in the solar photovoltaic line having problems in getting the required credit for their projects.

What next for Europe, emerging regions?
According to iSuppli, the short-term boost in demand from Spain and Germany has kept the installation companies busy, and solar orders and module prices high. But this boom is over. So, what’s next for European players?

According to Dr. Wicht, Germany and Spain should continue their leading role as solar installation regions, even after the boom. France, Italy and Czech Republic are attractive, but still much smaller markets, he maintains.

iSuppli has also mentioned that the race to larger manufacturing scale comes to an end when the production is not sold anymore! In that case, what’s the case for the emerging nations, like China and India? Aren’t there buyers in such places?

Dr. Wicht says: “Demand in the traditional solar markets is not elastic enough to absorb all of the solar production. Potential new markets, for example, China and India, do not yet have installation capacities and administration to significantly change the global solar demand short term.”

iSuppli also feels that the newer Chinese and Taiwanese suppliers will be hit particularly hard during 2009. The reason being, many suppliers have expanded their production capacities heavily without securing equally the sales/downstream part.

Global top 20 rankings to change?
Now to the most interesting part! Most of you have read about the top 20 global solar photovoltaic suppliers. Following the iSuppli warning of a ‘solar eclipse’ in 2009, there is every likelihood that there will be changes in that table!

Dr. Wicht adds, “However, the top 10 companies are typically better placed than the competition regarding their cost structures, downstream integration and vertical integration.”

Obama’s solar plans!
Now on to yet other interesting point! The US President-elect, Barack Obama’s, New Energy for America plan could well have a significant impact on the US solar industry.

The plan’s provisions include:

• A federal renewable portfolio standard (RPS) that requires 10 percent of electricity consumed in the US to come from renewable sources by 2012.
• A $150 billion investment over 10 years in research, technology demonstration and commercial deployment of clean energy technology.
• Extension of production tax credits for five years to encourage renewable energy production.
• A cap-and-trade system of carbon credits to provide an incentive for businesses to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Dr. Wicht says: “We all know that Obama is in favor of renewable energy. However, he will not change a 160 percent oversupply of solar panels in 2009.”

Bumpy ride to grid parity?
On another note, and a pretty favorite one: Is it going to be a “bumpy road” to grid parity? How will the subsidies be kept going?

Dr. Wicht notes: “Subsidies will continue. It will always be a bumby road because the ramping cycles differ heavily among silicon, cells, modules and the installation capacity. Please remember that the installation business will now benefit from low module prices. It will recover some of the margins it has lost in the last years due to high module prices.”

Also, up to when will polysilicon constraints last? iSuppli had earlier indicated PV strategy changes. According to Dr. Wicht, the polysilicon prices are coming down already. “Our indication from October 2008 seems to be fairly good,” he says.

Lastly, will iSuppli be still sticking by solar, semicon investments being equal by 2010?

Dr. Wicht says: “Please let me cite again our interview in October: The investments for solar production raising up to several hundreds of Mio USD, up to 1 Bio $ per production site. That is coming close to a semiconductor fab. The total capex of semiconductor is still 10 times larger than PV. However, PV is rising much faster.”

That will be all for this year, folks!

Look forward to sharing much more captivating moments in semiconductors, electronics, solar photovoltaics, telecom, etc., in 2009!

Wishing all of you a very happy, prosperous and successful 2009. Be safe and look after yourself! See you next year!! :)

Why solar/PV is good for India? An ISA perspective!

December 25, 2008 1 comment

Recently, the India Semiconductor Association (ISA) held an educative briefing session on the potential of the solar PV market in India, which was conducted by Rajiv Jain, Director, Government Relations, ISA.

This meeting was held well before iSuppli issued a warning that there could be global solar sunburn in 2009! I am sincerely hoping that most of the points mentioned by ISA’s Jain still hold good in the coming year, and that India really does well and takes off in solar photovoltaics.

The ISA’s vision: To help make India an attractive global destination for PV manufacturing and a world leader in solar energy.

Starting with the basics of photovoltaics, he said that it is a package of solar cells used to convert energy from sun to electricity. In simpler words, photons from sunlight knock electrons into higher state of energy, thus creating electricity. The electricity can be used to power equipment or recharge a battery. A typical PV system mainly consists of a PV module, battery, inverter, controller and junction box.

Focusing on the technological landscape, he touched upon the two key technologies for solar: crystalline and thin film.

Crystalline silicon is said to be the most mature Si wafer technology, with the largest market share. Though, high on cost, it has a typical efficieny of 14-18 percent. Crystalline silicon is said to suitable for rooftop applications.

Thin film is nothing but thin layers of photosensitive materials on glass. It is currently on high growth due to silicon shortage, and very low on cost due to low material consumption. The efficiency is about 6.5-8 percent.

A third technology, nanotechnology, is the future technology for cost reduction. It is more in the R&D space as of now.

Present scenario for solar
So what’s the present scenario? In 2007, of $71 billion invested in new renewable energy (RE) capacity globally, 30 percent was in solar PV. It is the fastest growing area in the energy sector, with a CAGR of 47 percent over the last five years.

Grid-connected solar PV has been high growth market segment in 2007 (50 percent increase). Also, 86 percent of the PV installations are largely in four countries, with Germany at 47 percent being the outright leader.

Market drivers are said to be attractive feed-in tariffs, national PV market development and acceptance, RE obligations through solar PV, access to cheaper mode of finance, manufacturing incentives as well as strong R&D.

Why solar for India
I have addressed this in an earlier blog post. Here’s what Jain had to say, and it is mostly in line with the earlier discussions.

First, India has among the highest solar irradiance globally. It also has the best quality reserves of silica in Orissa and Andhra Pradesh. India has also established itself low cost producer and assembler of solar PV cells and modules.

The major challenges include attaining scale and integration for cost reduction, and, R&D for development of the industry.

Solar insolation in India
To start with, the daily average solar energy incident varies from 4-7kWh per m2. Next, we have multiple sites with solar irradiation >2000 hours per year. In contrast, Germany has 900-1,200 hours per year. Further, most parts of India have 300-300 sunny days in a year translating into a potential of 600GW. Also, potential in some states like Rajasthan is 35-40 MW per m2.

It is well known that the Indian semiconductor policy of 2007 has triggered off the now well publicized efforts in solar initiatives. The government of India has received 16 applications with investments envisaged at app Rs. 1,55,000 crores.

The investments in solar PV manufacturing exceed Rs 1,25,000 crores. Generation based incentives (GBI) are going to be key.

Potential market segments in India
There are quite a few, actually. In rural electrification, the government of India’s target is to achieve ‘Electricity for all by 2012′. About 18,000 remote villages will likely be electrified through RE. About ~25 percent of the remote villages, i.e., 4,500 villages, form a very viable market.

Next comes telecom back-up power! PV is a cost effective alternative to diesel generators (DG) for back up power for shorter duration, as DG based systems suffer from several disadvantages.

Another key market could be grid connected solar PV based generation. Current tariffs do not provide attractive IRR to developers. Decreasing system prices are however, likely to improve the economics.

Finally, roof based BIPV is said to be an alternative to reduce the cost of power procured by commercial buildings.

ISA’s recommendations
The ISA has also made salient recommendations via its report on the industry. These include areas such as manufacturing: with an aim to encourage companies investing in ‘Scale and integration’, provision of capital subsidy to larger number of units, availability of funds at a cheaper rate, and an emphasis on R&D.

Also, the ISA has recommended that GBI be given for a tenure of 20 years, with the present period being 10 years. Further, it has suggested an accelerated depreciation along with the GBI scheme, and the availability of GBI for an unlimited capacity for a period of five years. The ISA has recommended an enactment of the RE Law requiring utilities to progressively increase power purchase from RE.

On its part, the ISA has been working with the government of India and various state governments as well. It has a sound rapport with concerned ministries – MNRE, DIT and NMCC.

The ISA has also assisted in the technical evaluation of solar PV proposals received in Fab City, Hyderabad. It has also drafted a semiconductor policy for the government of Karnataka, which should be out early next year, hopefully. The ISA is also working with several other state governments to promote the industry in their states.

The second ISA Solar PV Conclave is scheduled for November 2009 at Hyderabad.

Very good intentions, all of these! Now, for the Indian industry and the government to deliver, and walk hand in hand!!

%d bloggers like this: