Thursday, June 26, 2008

GE's PrimeStar Reveals Secret Strategy to Kill First Solar (FSLR)

That's Clusterstock's headline, here's the story:
General Electric (GE) bought a majority stake in Cadmium-Telluride (CdTe) thin film PV solar module producer PrimeStar earlier in the year. This acquisition was a warning shot at market-leader First Solar (FSLR) and signaled that GE was serious about its pledge to have a $1 billion solar buiness within 3 years.

No one knows much about the stealthy PrimeStar. However, Fred Seymour, PrimeStar's VP of technology, spoke last week in San Diego on a variety of issues at IntertechPira's Photovoltaic Summit. has the details:

PrimeStar believes the five key areas for thin-film process development are:

  • efficiency
  • uniformity
  • repeatability
  • stability
  • cost

On Competition, Consolidation and Safety:

Noting the growing number of CdTe players, he said "there is a lot of froth in the market" and expects to see significant consolidation as well as the establishment of strong(er) supply and sales channels. As for the challenges and opportunities facing the sector, he cited the perceived toxicity risks with cadmium, then discounted it, noting among other things how the Cd is inherently "sequestered" safely within the modules....

Modules will be produced "when we're ready," Seymour said coyly, "it's important not to put out product too early."

Tellurium is not scarce:

He also mentioned the perceived scarcity of tellurium, but the old mining guy (OK, he's not old, so "former mining guy") disputed such claims, saying there's a 300-500 metric ton supply of Te available. While some price disruptions are likely, there's plenty of the element available in the seabed and elsewhere, "if," as he told me, "you know where to look."

We'd expect PrimeStar to say that they can beat the competition, Cadmium is safe, and their Tellurium supply is fine. What else are they going to say?

First Solar bulls shouldn't panic, though, at least not yet.

Here's Clusterstock's main page.