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More on Cree: Wunderlich's Theodore O'Neill suggests the company is the First Solar (FSLR) of...

More on Cree: Wunderlich's Theodore O'Neill suggests the company is the First Solar (FSLR) of the LED world. He notes both Cree and First Solar rely on exotic materials few others in in their respective industries use, and argues each company's competitive edge is withering as the materials typically used by rivals - polysilicon for First Solar's competitors, sapphire for Cree's - get cheaper. Meanwhile, Digitimes reports LED prices have stabilized in Q2 thanks to strong demand. (also)
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Comments (3)
  • 867046
    , contributor
    Comments (398) | Send Message
    Mr. O'Neill is being simple minded.


    His comment is typical of a liberal arts major, wading into the characterization of a technology company using one parameter to achieve an understanding of the deeper issues.


    A cliff notes guide to the key issues are:


    1) FSLR


    The solar light spectrum is peaked in the green. Poly Si is not the most efficient material to convert light to electricity, but it is cheap. FSLR uses materials that are optimized to convert more light into electricity but are more expensive. FSLR uses less of these expensive materials and they have more flexibility in depositing these materials. So the trade is using less of a more expensive material for higher efficiency along with a cheaper manufacturing process as compared to cheaper poly Si material which is less conversion efficiency and which has it's own manufacturing art.


    2) CREE


    Again the story is more complicated. Nitride based LED's can be deposited on sapphire or SiC substrates. The crystal lattice mismatch is higher using sapphire than SiC. The bottom line is that sapphire based nitride LED's are cheaper but have less performance, whereas the SiC substrates that CREE uses for nitride LED's are more expensive but has several plusses which include the ability to produce brighter LED's. CREE has also been a pioneer in increasing the SiC wafer size to lower manufacturing costs. SiC based devices offer higher margins in smaller packages and I would guess possibly higher efficiencies.
    23 May 2012, 11:28 AM Reply Like
  • billkennedy
    , contributor
    Comments (4) | Send Message
    Cree comments are not correct. You talk about "brightness" which is at the package level, then support all of that at the epi and die level which is incorrect. Also, Cree makes "some" lower level output die with SiC. Its higher power devices are epitaxially grown on sapphire (AL2O3) and laser lift off/bonded to silicon for vertical integration. SiC based devices have never been the High Performance choice for AlInGaN...all of that PR re mismatch, heat, etc has been shown up long ago....and the micro-pipe issues continues. Cree has never had as good of epi as the Japanese as the Japanese have a completely different MOCVD equip and approach than western style reactor systems. Indeed Cree, with lower performance epi has had to use many techniques, including chip shaping, laser lift-off, etc to compete. I am not saying they do not make excellent products and they are indeed within the top 10, but they do not have the best die efficiencies/performance as compared to Al2O3 based products that you can buy (versus what is in the lab).
    26 May 2012, 02:28 PM Reply Like
  • billkennedy
    , contributor
    Comments (4) | Send Message
    FSLR was actually dead on arrival as far as I am concerned...bringing out via Govt sponsored R&D a Cadmium based solar cell (allowable with an EPA waver granted just for this tech/co = while we have Cadmium EPA alerts everywhere else). Further its business model, that it could be made less expensively that Mono or Poly silicon, even though it had an inferior conversion efficiency, could compete was also erroneous.


    It costs more in the long run as you need more of it (larger installation costs) than competing technologies, and you still have the cadmium left over to collect (within 15 yrs) and carefully dipose of (more energy waste and expense). Larger footprint, even in the desert upsets some as it harms more of the biosphere.


    Time has shown that even with its Govt subsidization this tech has poor competitive values (conversion efficiency, costs, footprint, disposal) as compared with silicon based systems (even with large tariffs) and especially CPVs as they come on-line (higher conversion efficiency, smaller footprint, etc).


    Cree is a completely different story, in a completely different market/arena. I am not saying that Cree does not have its own problems, but they are of a different sort, which is a whole other story.
    26 May 2012, 02:29 PM Reply Like
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