The global clean technology market is worth more than US$2.56tr a year, and is expected to become more than US$5.13tr in size by the mid 2020s, growing 12.0% a year since 2007. The economic and financial crisis has not stopped the worldwide expansion of the green tech industry. Germany has a dominant share of the global clean tech market, at 15.0%, and is expected to grow more than any of its competitors.1
Global photovoltaic (PV) installations finished 2012 with discernibly lower growth than in 2011, undercut by softer demand in light of continuing economic uncertainties and a general cooling in solar markets worldwide. Total PV installations in 2012 were around 31.12 gigawatts (GW), up from 27.98 GW in 2011.2
First Solar reduced the average module manufacturing costs on its best lines to US$0.64 per watt (excluding underutilization) in 4Q2012, down from US$0.69 in the 4Q2011. The company surpassed 250 MWAC of grid-connected power at Agua Caliente, making it the world's largest operational solar power plant. First Solar also Surpassed 7 GWDC of cumulative production, enough to provide clean electricity for approximately 3.5 million homes and displace 4.7mn metric tons of CO₂ annually.
SunPower Corp sold 579-MW AVSP projects, the largest permitted PV development in the world to MidAmerican Solar. The company also installed over 180MW to date for 250MW CVSR project – 130 MW grid connected.
Trina Solar’s solar module shipments were approximately 1.59MW, compared to the company’s previous guidance between 1.55GW to 1.6GW, an increase of 5.4% from 2011.
First Solar Net Sales were a record US$1.1bn in 4Q 12, an increase of US$236mn from 3Q12 and US$415mn from 4Q11. The increase in net sales from 3Q12 was primarily due to increased revenue recognition for the Topaz project, and an increase in third-party module sales. The increase in net sales from 4Q12 over 4Q11 was primarily due to the increase in sales by all its system segments. SunPower’s revenue also increased in 4Q12 QoQ due to the success of the company’s diversified downstream channel strategy. Net revenues for Trina Solar increased by 1.6% in 4Q12 sequentially, primarily driven by the increase in total shipments as a result of the increased sales in China.
Gross margin increased by 639bps YoY for First Solar. This was primarily due to increasing customer demand. SunPower’s gross margin significantly decreased by 554bps sequentially. This was due to the decrease of gross margin across all segments, led by a significant drop in Utility and Power Plant segmenst. Gross margin also declined due to reduced ASPs of solar products and increased mix of lower margin third-party panels. Gross margin was 1.9% for Trina Solar in 4Q12 as compared to 0.8% in 3Q12.
R&D expense for First Solar was relatively flat QoQ, at US$31.6mn. However, on a YoY comparison, R&D decreased by 16.5%. This was due to decrease in personnel-related expenses primarily driven by decreases in share-based compensation expenses. SunPower’s overall increase in its investment in R&D over all periods primarily resulted from costs related to the improvement of current generation solar cell manufacturing technology, development of next generation of solar cells, solar panels, trackers and rooftop systems, and development of systems performance monitoring products as well as operating expenses related to Tenesol which were incorporated into financial results for the fiscal period 2012. R&D expenses for Trina Solar declined 32% sequentially.
R&D as a percentage of revenue decreased for both First Solar and Trina Solar. This was due to decreased R&D expenditure and higher revenues compared to last quarter. Sunpower’s R&D as a percentage of revenue increased from 15% in the previous quarter to 17.7% in the current quarter.
Days inventory on hand decreased sequentially for Cleantech companies with First Solar, SunPower and Trina Solar, registering 30 days, 23 days and 15 days decrease respectively.
Days sales in receivables (DSO) followed a similar trend. When compared to the same period last year, First Solar registered a 35 days decrease in DSO YoY due to a huge decrease in accounts receivables. Trina Solar’s DSO had a decrease of 26 days YoY. SunPower’s DSO decreased to 52 days in 2012 from 62 days in 2011.