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Darwinism Hits the Solar Industry

The solar industry is suffering some 19th century Darwinian style competition, with Chinese manufacturers Suntech (NYSE:STP) and Yingli Green Energy Holding (NYSE:YGE) clearly dumping panels below cost to gain market share. You may laugh, but I watched the Japanese pursue the same strategy in the seventies and eighties to devastating success. They now control half the US automobile market, and the most profitable half at that. As a solar consumer I shouldn’t care, as the 50% price drop has, with Obama’s generous tax subsidies, made new installations cheaper than obtaining electricity from my local power company (PGE) at 12 cents a kilowatt. It’s just a matter of booking the profit in China instead of Phoenix. But the predatory pricing has also kicked my beloved First Solar (NASDAQ:FSLR) in the shins, which has dropped from 44% from $205 to $115 since May. Use the move to pick up FSLR on the cheap. The company is using advanced cadmium telluride based thin film semiconductor technology, which has enabled it to match the Chinese price cuts dollar for dollar, and the engineering will allow them to continue to do so. The Chinese, wedded to an older polysilicon product, can’t keep playing this game, unless they want to hemorrhage cash, or face US anti-dumping enforcement. To see more on the current fundamentals of solar, please click here