Oversupply of Silicon Solar Panels

First Solar Copper Mountain

It’s hard to believe in many respects that there might be an oversupply of silicon solar panels, as many of us can go most of our lives (depending on where we live) without ever seeing a solar panel. But there is in fact a surplus. The latest victim of this situation is First Solar, An American manufacturer of thin-film solar devices. The depressed market recently led them to revise their earnings lower as CNN reports:

“First Solar’s performance in the quarter was impacted by an aggressive competitive environment, an uncertain regulatory environment, warranty-related charges, and restructuring costs incurred to help position our business for the future,” Mike Ahearn, First Solar’s chairman and interim CEO, said in a statement.

The company also lowered its sales guidance for 2012 from $3.7-$4.0 billion to $3.5-$3.8 billion. Following a brief halt to trading after the bell, shares dropped roughly 15% before rebounding to around 6% down late in the day.

China has been accused of depressing the market by selling solar panels for below cost. All of this is reminiscent of semiconductors in the 1980s when the US industry accused Japan of acting similarly. Intel and AMD survived the highly competitive market. There will be survivors on this side of the Atlantic once again.

Something like this is probably always going to happen when a key technology emerges that promises to help define a whole industry if not an economy. There will be a major shakeout until a few major players emerge. Until then, get ready for the earnings revisions.



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