06 August 2012
Posted in News - SPVI news
SolarPVInvestor presents an exclusive interview with Mr Luc Graré, Senior Vice President Sales and Marketing, Cells & Modules, REC Solar, about the company and the solar industry.
In light of the financial crisis in Europe, the solar industry has been suffering for over 18 months. Some high profile bankruptcies took place in Europe and in the severe competition with the Chinese, once-leading European businesses have retreated. REC Group has been on the leadership path for some time. Once a global wafer leader, today REC Group has scaled down to 750MW of vertically integrated capacity located in Singapore, and still operates highly sophisticated polysilicon facilities in the US of more than 21,000MT. The company operates the world’s most successful FBR polysilicon plant, based on its own proprietary technology. Mr Luc Graré, Senior Vice President Sales and Marketing, Cells & Modules, REC Solar, agreed to discuss business at REC and the solar industry as a whole.
SPVI: REC produces first-in-its-class back passivation modules; can you please describe the benefits?
|Luc Graré, Senior Vice President Sales and Marketing, Cells & Modules, REC Solar|
REC: Yes, REC is the first supplier to offer modules based on cells with innovative backside passivation technology. This innovation is the first step to bring the efficiency of multicrystalline cells up to 18%. The REC Peak Energy Plus module delivers an extra 5 watts of peak power at midday conditions compared to the earlier product generation.
And, more importantly, innovative backside passivation technology improves performance by enhancing the solar cell’s response to red light. The new module will perform particularly well in low light conditions and at high temperatures, producing additional energy during early and late hours of the day, in hazy conditions and in warmer climates.
SPVI: What does REC Solar offer to installers, what are the focus markets for REC Solar, and does the company offer any programs in those markets?
REC: REC has launched an industry leading certification program – Solar Professional Program – for solar installers including warranty extension and service fees for those who comply. By registering as an installer we give them access to our installer portal to optimize their business. In the portal they will have all information that matters to them: e.g. product information, warranty claims registration, module registration, an overview of REC’s distribution partners as well as seminar information and REC updates.
Germany and Italy are quite important markets for REC, but the solar market will shift and a rebalancing will occur. The Americas and APAC region has huge potential for us and have not yet reached their full potential.
REC has introduced its REC Partner Program for distributers throughout Europe and in the US providing them with tools, services and benefits to grow their business. REC has already certified more than 331 installers in approximately ten countries as REC Solar Professionals and recently launched the installer program in the US. There will follow more certifications – by the end of the year we want to build up a network of more than 600 certified Solar Professionals.
SPVI: Can you tell us about FBR? What makes this such an attractive offer for solar companies?
REC: REC Silicon has commercialized Fluidized Bed Reactor (FBR) technology to produce Granular polysilicon on a wide-scale basis, and is now the world’s largest producer of this kind of polysilicon, which is marketed as NextSi™. FBR technology offers significant benefits to the end-user that enable increased throughput, decreased cost and increased profit in the PV ingot manufacturing process.
NextSi™ Granular polysilicon enhances the efficiency of the PV ingot manufacturing process by increasing the amount of yieldable ingot that can be harvested during a production cycle, thereby increasing throughput, reducing production cost and increasing profit.
REC Silicon’s granular polysilicon products have two additional advantages compared to other polysilicon products: 1) they can flow and 2) they are packaged in flexible intermediate bulk containers (FIBCs). These benefits provide for optimized logistics and cost savings for the end-user. NextSi™ Granular polysilicon is a flowable material. End-users can take advantage of process automation opportunities such as automated material transport, crucible loading, top-off and recharge.
SPVI: China has committed to its own polysilicon manufacturers to investigate alleged dumping by the US and South Korean companies. REC released a statement denying any wrongdoing and its regret at the escalation in the case.
REC: REC has competed fairly and in accordance with existing trade laws and rules. This action is an unfortunate and regrettable escalation of a solar trade war. We believe that open and competitive global markets will lead to lower costs and sustainable growth in the solar industry while making the technology more accessible and affordable. The current trade dispute threatens to increase costs, harming the solar industry, jobs, and consumers.
SPVI: We read recently that SolarWorld is lobbying for the trade case against the Chinese in the EU. In what appears to be signs of the trade war, where is the industry heading and what is the near-term forecast for the markets and REC?
REC: REC is disappointed at the escalation of the solar trade war after the filing of an anti-dumping complaint at the European Commission. Our experience shows that trade barriers hurt the consumer most by making products more expensive. This may also hinder the transition to clean energy, which Europe has been a leader in taking forward. We regret the prospect of increased costs across the solar industry. Constructive dialogue is imperative within the industry and with regulatory authorities.
REC hopes governments focus more on product quality and decreasing their carbon footprint by putting a price on carbon, as well as on harmonizing incentive schemes and simplifying regulations. Today, the solar industry is mature enough to address these issues openly.
SPVI: REC, like many others, has been hit hard by the challenging market situation. Your wafer division was permanently closed. The company has announced refinancing, which drew controversy. Medium and small shareholders actually wanted to buy more of the company, which is unusual as normally equity issues are considered as having a negative effect on ownership, so what makes investors believe in REC?
REC: The refinancing started with a private placement and all shareholders are able to participate during the subsequent offering taking place the end of August. Not only did medium and small shareholders want to buy more shares, all of RECs major shareholders wanted to participate in the offering, including Umoe and Canica AS and Orkla ASA. The recently announced refinancing package with significant new equity, new bank loan with extended maturity, and a strengthened equity ratio of about 42% gives REC increased strength in a market where many competitors are struggling. With our significantly strengthened equity, shareholders and lending banks show clear confidence in REC and in our assets.
SPVI: Thank you very much Mr Graré.
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