This Week in Solar

The solar industry could be in for a multitrillion-dollar run in the next two decades. More on that and other developments.

Travis Hoium
Travis Hoium
Jun 16, 2017 at 5:23PM
Energy, Materials, and Utilities

Despite expectations for 2017 to be a weak year for the solar industry, so far it seems to be holding its own against fossil fuels and a market that was primed to dump renewable energy stocks after a Republican sweep in the November elections. Data coming out of the industry continues to be relatively positive, at least on a macro level. 

Here's a look at some interesting projections about the solar industry and what companies were up to this week. 

Solar panels on a large rooftop on a sunny day.

Image source: Getty Images.

BNEF renewable projection

Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) released its New Energy Outlook 2017, and sees a massive opportunity worldwide for both wind and solar power. In fact, the report predicts that 72% of the $10.2 trillion spent on new power generation by 2040 will be wind and solar. 

BNEF predicts that solar energy's cost will fall another 66% by 2040, and by 2021 will be "cheaper than coal in China, India, Mexico, the U.K. and Brazil." Emerging markets are going to be a big growth driver for solar energy, and it's encouraging to see a report like this acknowledge that fact. 

The shocking numbers were around BNEF's expectations for a decline in coal. By 2040, the report predicts, coal consumption will decline 87% in Europe, 45% in the U.S., and will peak in china in 2026. Now that renewable energy is so cost effective, coal is going to be one of the energy industry's biggest losers. 

Earnings keep pouring in

Earnings reports keep trickling in from the Chinese solar industry, and we're now scraping the bottom of the barrel in terms of company quality. Yingli Green Energy reported a 47% decline in revenue to $179.9 million and a net loss of $30.7 million in the first quarter of 2017. With $1.7 billion in debt, this is a manufacturer who would have been bankrupt a long time ago if it weren't for the loans provided by Chinese state-run banks. 

ReneSola is the other company that reported first-quarter earnings this week.  It saw a 40% year-over-year decline in revenue to $156.6 million and a net loss of $23.2 million. It doesn't have quite the debt load of Yingli Green Energy, but with $870 million in debt, there's little chance the company can dig out of its current financial slump. 

88,000 jobs on the line

I've mentioned the Suniva petition under Section 201 of the 1974 Trade Act in the past, but this week the threat of the potential import tariffs on solar modules got very real. If Suniva wins its case and President Donald Trump (yes, he makes the final call) places a $0.40 price floor on solar cells and a $0.78 floor on modules, it could be a huge drag on solar jobs. 

The Solar Energy Industries Association reported this week that the U.S. will lose an estimated 88,000 jobs if Suniva wins its case. That's because a majority of people working in the solar industry in the U.S. are installing solar panels, and if the price of those panels more than doubles, it would make the entire installation less economical. This case is a big deal, and I'll be covering it more on as we learn more. 

News and notes

Here are a few more items that were notable from the week in solar. 

  • Vivint Solar (NYSE:VSLR) announced that it will begin operations in Vermont, meaning the company now has operations in 18 states. Slowly but surely, the installer is expanding to fill most of the East Coast, and will soon relaunch in Nevada as well. 
  • Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) continues to make big moves in energy and has launched its second green bond, this time valued at $1 billion (the first was $1.5 billion). The money will be used to fund solar, wind, and energy storage projects as well as conservation efforts. 
  • JinkoSolar (NYSE:JKS) announced that it's signed a 187 MW module supply agreement with Quantum Power in Japan. The shipments will start in the fourth quarter of 2017 and the project overall will be completed by the end of 2018. 
  • Florida's solar market is finally starting to take off, with Florida Power and Light announcing this week that construction has begun on eight solar power plants with total capacity of 596 MW. When they're completed early next year, the state will nearly double its installed capacity, which stood at 606 MW at the end of 2016. 

That's all for this week in solar. Check back to for the latest in solar energy.