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Robert Castellano
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Dr. Robert N. Castellano, president of The Information Network (, received a Ph.D. degree in solid state chemistry from Oxford University (England). He has had ten years experience in the field of wafer fabrication at AT&T Bell Laboratories and Stanford... More
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  • Western Digital Wins the Hard Disk Drive Battle for 2010

    The HDD market recorded a growth of 17.1% in unit shipments to 653.5 million units in 2010, according to a report by The Information Network The Hard Disk Drive Industry: Market Analysis and Processing Trends



    Market share of Hard Disk Drive Manufacturers


    2009 Market Share (Units)

    2010 Market Share (Units)



















     Total Units

    558.3 million

    653.5 million

    Source: The Information Network


    The market for 2010, as in 2009, was about product mix.  Western Digital (NASDAQ:WDC), which has focused on non-desktop applications, primarily the 2.5-inch form factor for mobile and CE, took over the lead in 2010 from Seagate (NASDAQ:STX), which has focused on the desktop and the enterprise markets. In 2010, mobile PCs grew 29% while desktop PCs grew only 8%.

    In the mobile HDD sector, Western Digital led the 2010 market with a 27.5% share followed by Hitachi Global Storage Technologies (HIT) with a 26.0% share and Seagate with a 20.4% share. 

    The acquisition of HIT will lead to complete domination of the HDD market by WDC.


    Media Tablets, already cannibalizing Netbooks and Smartbooks, will impact Hard Disk Drive sales as units contain Solid State Drives (SSDs) instead of HDD.

    More than 54 million media tablets will sell in 2011, each containing a solid state drive (NYSE:SSD) instead of a hard disk drive (HDD).  The HDD market, already reeling from more than 17 million media tablets sold in 2010, will be impacted by the displacement of HDD-based notebook PCs by media tablets.


    In 2011, media tablets are expected to penetrate the entire global community, thereby impacting PC sales and hence HDDs sales in other geographic regions.  In 2014, according to the report, the Asia-Pacific region will account for more than 50% of media tablet sales. 

    Mar 07 10:31 AM | Link | Comment!
  • Can The Western Solar Manufacturers Compete Against the Chinese?
    This year we expect that more than 20 GWatts of solar cells will be installed, up from 14 GWatts in 2010.  Moreover, the Chinese solar cell manufacturers produce more than 50% of the worldwide cells and export more than 90%. Five of the top 10 solar panel makers in the world are from China.  With the Chinese renowned for low-cost manufacturing, can the non-Chinese solar manufacturers compete against the likes of Suntech Power (NYSE:STP),Yingli Green Energy (NYSE:YGE), Trina Solar (NYSE:TSL), Solarfun (SOLF) and Canadian Solar (NASDAQ:CSIQ)?

    There is a constant struggle by solar manufacturers to keep production costs down and increase solar cell efficiency.  First Solar (NASDAQ:FSLR) has been an industry leader in this regard with its CdSe thin film solar cells.  Amorphous silicon manufacturers continue to promote themselves as low-cost manufacturers, while at the same time pulling out all stops to get efficiency above 10% to remain competitive.

    A recent release by SolarPA, which advertises on its home page ( that it uses "Nanotechnology to make solar cells better", notes that it can achieve relative increases on solar cell efficiency by up to 10% using a nanocoating that is applied to a completed solar cell.  Yes, we know that a 50 MW plant becomes a 55 MW plant with a 10% efficiency gain, but an interesting point is that the technology can move binned marginal efficiency cells above a company's minimum level to become useable.  This is critical.  Every day solar cell manufacturers make low-efficiency cells, some days are worse than others, because the manufacturing process, although highly automated, is subject to outside forces, such as the quality and defects of the solar cells and variations in materials and processing parameters.  One estimate I've seen is that as much as 20% of annual production  results in marginally efficient cells.  If a 50 MW plant makes 10 MW of marginal cells at a production cost of $1 per watt, that's $10 million that could be lost.  Increasing the efficiency of these cells by up to 10% at a cost of a few cents per watt is a huge factor in cost effectiveness.

    Another graph on the SolarPA site notes that relative efficiency of solar cells increases up to 18.5% over uncoated cells at grazing incidence (30 degrees) of sunlight.  We all know that because the sun moves across the sky and the angle of incidence does not remain at 90% (perpendicular to the cell), giant solar farms use expensive tracking devices to reposition the solar panels in the direction of the sun.  What about residential and commercial rooftops that don't use these tracking systems?  Cells coated with SolarPA's nanomaterial (dubbed NanoCoat) perform with efficiencies up to 18.5% better in early morning and late afternoon, as well as up to 10% better at noon.

    The privately held company, working with a grant funded from the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory, is exploring the feasibility coating solar panels already installed, which represents more than 100 GW of power.



    Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.
    Feb 14 1:04 PM | Link | Comment!
  • Solar Cell Production Capacity Utilization Reaching 51% at Year End As Sales Double

    A massive increase in solar production with anticipated sales increasing more than 100% in 2010 is depleting inventory at a rapid rate, according to our report Opportunities in the Solar Market for Crystalline and Thin Film Solar Cells.

    The list of solar companies continuing to beat analyst expectations continues to grow. Yingli (NYSE:YGE), LDK (NYSE:LDK), and First Solar (NASDAQ:FSLR) all outperformed in recent weeks.  It is a far cry from 2009.


    Inventory levels rose significantly in 2009 as numerous economic factors kept solar cell production growth at “only” 26.5%, far from the average yearly growth rate of nearly 50%.  Combined with a surge of new solar companies entering the market with thin-film-based cells, supply clearly exceeded demand, and inventory grew from an average of 71 days in 2008 to 90 days in 2009 (see chart below). 











    Solar Consumption (NYSE:MW)




    Solar Capacity (MW)




    Capacity Utilization




    Days Inventory





    In 2009, our research shows that 7,116 MW of solar power was consumed, but plants worldwide had a capacity of 19,013 MW, bringing capacity utilization levels to 37.4%. 


    For 2010, we forecast an increase in solar panel consumption to 14,389 MW.  At the same time, new additional capacity will be brought on board to levels of 28,507 MW.  This will bring capacity utilization to 50.5% and reduce inventory to 67 days on average for all of 2010.


    Solar power production will reach 30.7 GW in 2012, a compound annual growth rate (OTCPK:CAGR) of 51.1% between 2003 and 2012.


    Forecast of Solar Module Installation in Megawatts (MW)




































    Disclosure: no positions
    Tags: YGE, LDK, FSLR
    Aug 19 1:20 PM | Link | 1 Comment
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