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Solar News: First Solar Inc (FSLR)’s Big Announcement, SunPower Corporation (SPWR) & MEMC Electronic Materials Inc (WFR)

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Editor’s Note: Related tickers: First Solar, Inc. (NASDAQ:FSLR), SunPower Corporation (NASDAQ:SPWR), MEMC Electronic Materials, Inc. (NYSE:WFR), LDK Solar Co., Ltd (NYSE:LDK), Yingli Green Energy Hold. Co. Ltd. (NYSE:YGE), El Paso Electric Company (NYSE:EE), General Electric Company (NYSE:GE), ReneSola Ltd. (NYSE:SOL), Suntech Power Holdings Co., Ltd. (NYSE:STP), General Motors Company (NYSE:GM), NextEra Energy, Inc. (NYSE:NEE)

First Solar, Inc. : First Solar Sets CdTe Module Efficiency World Record, Launches Series 3 Black Module (4-Traders)
First Solar, Inc. (NASDAQ:FSLR) today announced it set a new world record for cadmium-telluride (CdTe) photovoltaic (PV) module conversion efficiency, achieving a record 16.1 percent total area module efficiency in tests confirmed by the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). The new record is a substantial increase over the prior record of 14.4 percent efficiency, which the Company set in January 2012. Separately, First Solar also set a record for CdTe open circuit voltage (VOC), a critical parameter for PV performance, reaching 903.2 millivolts (mV) in NREL-certified testing. This new record marks the first substantial increase in CdTe VOC in over a decade of international R&D. The new records come just six weeks after First Solar announced a new world record for CdTe solar cell efficiency of 18.7 percent.

First Solar, Inc. (NASDAQ:FSLR)

Chinese solar industry on the go, First Solar (NASDAQ:FSLR), Yingli Green Energy Hold (NYSE:YGE) the leading firms (PRCarbon)
In order to strongly build its renewable manufacturing industry China has put tens of billions of dollars and now the country enjoys its lucrative dominance in solar industry.  First Solar, Inc. (NASDAQ:FSLR), Sharp Electronics and Q.Cells were the top three solar manufacturers in 2008, followed by China’s Suntech Power Holdings Co., Ltd. (NYSE:STP) in fourth place. According to the Renewables 2012 Global Status Report, today China is home to the top nine solar companies. Top companies like Suntech Power Holdings Co., Ltd. (NYSE:STP), Yingli Green Energy Hold. Co. Ltd. (NYSE:YGE), Trina Solar, LDK Solar Co., Ltd (NYSE:LDK), and many others have used easy and cheap money from Chinese lenders to bankrupt the rest of the globe’s solar industry and claim it as its own.

Construction Halted at First Solar’s 230 MW Antelope Valley Site (GreenTechMedia)
Construction has been halted at First Solar, Inc. (NASDAQ:FSLR)’s 230-megawatt Antelope Valley solar power plant due to air standards issues. After multiple delays in construction throughout 2012 due to violations of the project’s conditional use permit (CUP), Antelope Valley Solar Ranch One (AVSR1) started delivering electricity to the Southern California Edison grid at the end of the year and now has 150 megawatts of its planned 230-megawatt nameplate capacity on-line. The current interruption of construction is due to the failure of First Solar to bring the facility into compliance with the Federal Ambient Air Standard, according to Antelope Valley Air Quality Management District Operations Manager Bret Banks.

First Solar, Inc. (FSLR): Will This Be the Breakout Year for Alternative Energy? (InsiderMonkey)
Proponents of alternative energy such as solar and wind power have fought a long uphill battle. For years they’ve tried to prove that these energy solutions were not only more ecologically friendly, but also that the potential, long-term returns made them a better investment… One example of improving efficiency from solar is First Solar, Inc. (NASDAQ:FSLR)’s Macho Spring facility in New Mexico. The 50-megawatt solar farm will sell power to El Paso Electric Company (NYSE:EE) for 5.79 cents a kilowatt-hour, less than half of what El Paso Electric Company (NYSE:EE) pays to buy power from coal plants. A large uptick in manufacturing has also helped First Solar, Inc. (NASDAQ:FSLR) start to realize even further cost reductions. Today, the company sports one of the lowest per-watt costs at about $0.66 today, and the cost is expected to lower by another 33% in four years.

India Plans Subsidies to Boost Solar-Power Sector (WSJ)
The Indian government will unveil proposed regulations Monday to create subsidies and expand a “Buy Indian” mandate to give a boost to its lackluster solar-power sector, putting it on a collision course with the U.S. …”We believe that restricting imports through measures such as local content requirements only serves to raise prices, limit solar adoption, and hinder the growth of domestic solar industries, in which manufacturing plays a relatively minor role in overall economic value creation,” said a spokeswoman for Tempe, Ariz.-based First Solar, Inc. (NASDAQ:FSLR) +3.83% the largest supplier of solar thin films in India.

Malacca expects RM400m cruise terminal, other projects to drive growth (TheStar)
The development of a RM400mil marina jetty terminal in Malacca for cruise liners is in the works, one of many projects lined up to drive the state’s growth. Malacca was eyeing RM8bil of investments this year RM3bil and RM5bil for manufacturing and services sectors, respctively, Malacca chief minister Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam told StarBiz. He said the manufacturing sector would create 6,000 jobs this year and the services sector, 2,000. …Earlier, US-based SunPower Corporation (NASDAQ:SPWR) had committed to invest RM3.7bil, of which RM2.4bil had already been pumped into a solar panel plant that has started operations. This year, the company is expected to invest the balance RM1.3bil to expand operations.

Germany’s SolarWorld seeks savior from Qatar as Hillsboro plant carries on (OregonLive)
Financial clouds darkened again this week over SolarWorld, as the German company with a Hillsboro factory announced yet more losses, postponed its annual meeting and saw its stock plunge to a nine-year low…Toor says competing manufacturers have better prospects. “SunPower Corporation (NASDAQ:SPWR) and First Solar, Inc. (NASDAQ:FSLR) have both some sort of differentiation,” she said, citing two U.S. manufacturers, “not only in terms of technology but also business strategy.” Oregon taxpayers have a financial stake in SolarWorld survival, having invested $41.9 million so far in tax credits and more in county tax abatements. From those state credits, SolarWorld netted $28.1 million, or less than 5 percent of its Hillsboro investment of more than $600 million.

China’s Clean Energy Investment Puts America to Shame (Fool)
In the U.S., when the topic of clean energy comes up, we like to debate concepts like climate change or global warming, turning it into a political debate more than a strategic one. Subsidies to industries such as wind or solar, no matter how small, take criticism from politicians and the media while the government continues to subsidizes oil, gas, coal, and nuclear production to the tune of billions of dollars each year. We neglect to account for externalities such as the cost of war ships keeping the Suez Canal open when Iran threatens to close it, oil spills inland and offshore, the wars in Iraq, and the limited liability given to the operators’ nuclear plants. If Fukishima happened here, it would be no problem for U.S. companies — Uncle Sam would pick up the tab…There are a fleeting few U.S. companies that can now stake claim to a significant piece of the clean energy future. First Solar, Inc. (NASDAQ:FSLR) and SunPower Corporation (NASDAQ:SPWR) appear to be winners in the solar industry, and they’ve even turned to China as a potential customer for their products. But they still have to fight off fierce competition from China. General Electric Company (NYSE:GE) is using its sheer size to stay afloat in wind power and is still investing in solar. The sad truth is that most of the other large manufacturers in wind and solar have fallen by the wayside.

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