China’s Trina Solar launches $800 million expansion, as SpectraWatt sputters

By Todd Woody
December 28, 2010

IMG_1324Days after solar cell maker SpectraWatt notified New York authorities that it will shut down its seven-month-old factory and lay off 117 employees, China’s Trina Solar announced Monday that it will invest $800 million in new manufacturing plants over the next three years.

The move by Trina underscores just how difficult it has become for solar startups in the United States to compete against the massive investment being poured into Chinese photovoltaic module makers.

That’s particularly the case for startups making conventional silicon photovoltaic cells such as SpectraWatt, which was spun out of Intel in 2008 with an initial $50 million investment lead by the chip giant’s venture capital arm, Goldman Sachs and other investors.

In 2010, Chinese firms accounted for 72 percent of new photovoltaic manufacturing capacity worldwide, according to a survey by iSuppli, a California research firm. Seven of the top 10 module manufacturers are based in China.

As Chinese solar companies like Suntech Power Holdings and Yingli Green Energy have ramped up manufacturing — supported by generous subsidies from China’s government — they’ve cut prices and grabbed big shares of the U.S. and European markets.

Trina, for instance, established its U.S. headquarters in San Jose, Calif., last year and began signing deals, including one to supply utility Southern California Edison with 45 megawatts’ worth of solar panels. (In October, I stood on the roof of a 562,089-square-foot warehouse in Ontario, Calif., that was covered in Trina solar panels.)

In contrast, SpectraWatt’s entire manufacturing capacity is 60 megawatts. On Monday, Trina said it would ship 1,000 megawatts’ worth of photovoltaic cells by the end of the year, an 151 percent increase from shipments in 2009.

The company did not specify how much additional manufacturing capacity would result from the $800 million to be invested in a new plant complex called the Changzhou Trina PV Park.

(Photo: Todd Woody)

17 comments

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wonderful invention………….and investment would want participate……..in the business

Posted by adeniyi2010 | Report as abusive

Did Stalin and Lenin ever say what people the proletariats should transfer the means of production to? Greatest generation, you bet. Congress just keeps believing the press reports and pundits coming out of Harvard and Yale even though the back of a good old time birth certificates warns you against marrying your relatives.

Posted by ROWnine | Report as abusive

Did Stalin and Lenin ever say what people the proletariats should transfer the means of production to? Greatest generation, you bet. Congress just keeps believing the press reports and pundits coming out of Harvard and Yale even though the back of a good old time birth certificates warns you against marrying your relatives.

Posted by ROWnine |

………

Lost me – what has this to do with photo-voltaic cells??????

Posted by mgb500 | Report as abusive

Tax this crapp. If for any reason, ask Trina how much waste they produce making their solar panels, compared to any non-Chinese firm.

Posted by kc10man | Report as abusive

I have been building machinery and equipment for the past 20Y in the USA. All this hipe about green energy is exagerated by the press and politicians. If you actually see and learn the technology you will find out that they are very inefficient systems and very expensive. Let’s say a 25KW Wind-generator is massive, big heavy steel plate and big machined parts, lots of copper for the retifiers working at low voltages, lots of maintenance to do also. The price installed $500,000.
You could by a comparable generator at Home Depot for $5,000.00
Similar things for solar energy, they are expensive and take a huge space. Just Wind and solar are not reliable sources to get energy, it is a big waste of time and resources. I think the solution goes to hydraulic energy and nuclear sources where the energy is a lot more concentrated. Water moving at the speed of wind has 1000 times more energy plus it could be controlled and stored. By the way the helium ballons for your child’s party are the byproduct of nuclear reactions under ground.

Posted by axiom321 | Report as abusive

Buy USA!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by uc8tcme | Report as abusive

The policy in the US is messed up. I agree with kc10man and axiom321: unfair standards and inefficient programs are enriching China economically at the cost of our increasing National deficit. But there is more to the picture. Investments in R&D do need to be made and devising a market mechanism such as tax benefits can help but they need to be coordinated and complementary. Piecemeal policies that are temporary are counterproductive and encourage behavior that only has short-term benefits for the individuals involved.

Solar and wind production in the US is not as economically sound as coal. However if laws and policies were coordinated they could be. For example, as kc10man suggested, if tariffs were charged on imports that were not produced to US ecological and social standards, the international market would be more fair. And if tax laws promoting R&D in new energy production were written to last 10 years or more in coordination with other laws, businesses would be able to invest with more confidence. Instead we get consumers demanding tax breaks and businesses ramping up to meet their demand. This demand side push is ineffective when it has to compete with the $400 billion in tax breaks for the fossil fuel industry enjoys. We just don’t see the economies of scale promised or the synergistic benefits a coordinated effort would have and we don’t see enough support coming from the military or the national laboratories.

China, with its’ centralized government is actually MORE efficient in aligning its programs to promote industry. The US could do the same thing while maintaining it’s ecological and social standards, but this would require a bipartisan effort in coordination with State programs. But this is more complex than building an atomic bomb or putting a man on the moon and I don’t think the US faces enough of a threat from China to actually work together to outperform them.

Posted by LEEDAP | Report as abusive

Score card;
China: won
USA: Zero
gotta love that dim-sum

Posted by russdogbinladen | Report as abusive

Companies like Trina and Yingli get land granted to them by the provinces, and have dormitories provided gratis for employees. These are massive overhead costs that US companies are forced to absorb. I work in the solar industry, and the delta on pricing from US vs overseas is obscene.

I hope they find out )know they will) that Cadmium levels are grossly under-reported in these panels, and all the projects end up being returned – only to then find out that returning MWs worth of solar to China will not be possible.

Posted by THeRmoNukE | Report as abusive

Buy American, buy quality, buy something with a real warranty. SolarWorld for PV applications, Solyndra for commercial rooftop applications. Only the greedy fight over saving 1 year’s ROI on a 25yr system by going Chinese instead of American. It will come back to bite.

Posted by THeRmoNukE | Report as abusive

Solar isn’t feasable yet nuclear is. We need to stop feeding money to pet projects and start building nuclear plants across the US. Our allies and enemies alike are all going nuclear. No one really cares about the moronic anti-nuclear power crowd anymore. Nuclear plants don’t frighten us.

Posted by Trooth | Report as abusive

Wrong! Wrong!! Wrong to all these.

We need solar energy to save the future of our planet. Chinese use their money to produce things that benefit the future. America borrows money to produce weapons that destroy the present and endanger the future.

When America stops building weapons to fight invented and imaginary enemies, then it can compete again among world manufacturers like China, Japan and Germany. Billions of Dollars are wasted everyday in weapon manufacturing, only to be blown up. We need to make things that build the future, not destroy it, otherwise America is DOOMED!

If China can subsidize solar companies, so can Washington. Instead we subsidize Monsanto and Military Industrial Complex.

Posted by OCTheo | Report as abusive

Trooth – In New Jersey, you can double your money on a solar farm in 8 years, and the warranty is good for 25 years. Solar is plenty feasible. Uranium is exhibiting the same “peak” conditions that oil is, so it would be foolish to increase nuclear power generation on a large scale with uranium harder to come by, while silicon remains plentiful.

Posted by THeRmoNukE | Report as abusive

It reminds the civilisation wars b/w Romans & Assyrians, we chose Romans. Now USA capitalism has to face adjustment, high unemployment rate, homeless rate, China’s concerted state efforts in crushing all tariff barriers & expand at others’ cost. Korean’s transfer of Japanese technology to Chinese co. these are the sorts of problems challenging the foundation whether a bunch of self-interested businessman in Congress would actually need to change their ball game or the system of governing has to be replaced. No other alternatives.

Posted by jumbo23 | Report as abusive

And who’s the 3rd World Country???

Posted by Radical_1 | Report as abusive

Everyone needs to stop subsidizing their industries. We need to stop providing ours with grant money and we need to tariff the low cost Chinese goods as they are almost always subsidized. This practice will hurt our manufacturing sector while building a liquidity bubble in China (that is already pretty large) which upon bursting will hurt the global economy.

Posted by Spasmodic1 | Report as abusive

Let’s put a 25% import duty on all Chinese technology that competes with US manufacturing – across the board. Every time they rip off a patent or reverse engineer a US product, hit ‘em hard and level the playing field. This won’t completely make us competitive, since China manipulates their currency something fierce, but would put a big dent in our trade imbalance.

That said, many of you are quoting renewable energy purchase costs that are based on 2008 numbers. As of January 2011, I can put in AMERICAN MADE 25kW wind turbine today for under $100,000 INSTALLED and a 25kW US mfg solar plant for $150,000. After that, all the energy they generate for the next 25+ years is FREE. After ITC, depreciation and avoided energy costs at .15 cents/kWH, I have a 7 year payback WITHOUT SRECS. Add 8% lease/finance cost and SREC capitalization of $200 per MW hour, I break even year 3.

Sure you pay more up front, but how much is your $5,000 generator going to cost to generate the same energy over 25 years, especially when diesel hits $5 per gallon? Also, how much medical expense are you going to incur when your kids breathe diesel exhaust all their lives? America, the land of the impatient, where instant gratification takes too long. This short sighted attitude costs as much as a lack of bipartisanship and the lobbying of the highly subsidized fossil fuel industry. Use the import tariffs for R&D grants and to balance our budget. Screw NAFTA and the WTO, time for a good old fashioned trade war.

Posted by sfortuna | Report as abusive