Solar shakeout survival guide


By Peter Gardett

Managing Editor, AOL Energy


There are many ways to survive in the solar business, but relying on protectionist policies and planning to serve only one part of the growing marketplace are not successful strategies for survival.

"A global manufacturer has to be willing to look at its product portfolio and participate in all aspects of the market," Canadian Solar VP of U.S. Sales and General Manager Alan King told AOL Energy recently. Canadian Solar, despite its name, has an expanding presence around the world and is a NASDAQ-traded company determined to survive the fallout from falling panel prices.

There is a place for both large-scale utility projects, several of which Canadian Solar has in its development pipeline, and for small-scale domestic projects or mid-scale distributed generation. The second class of projects offer ideal opportunities for differentiation in company products that otherwise become commoditized - low-voltage solar panels with customized appearances could help Canadian Solar panels stand out from the competition.

Slapping tariffs on Chinese panels is not going to help the market reach grid parity, King said, noting that the country is following historic precedent in moving toward increased consumption of the goods it has previously manufactured for export. In line with broader trends, China could consume more solar product output than the U.S. in 2012, even as it remains a net exporter, King said.

Eyeing the broader solar market, which is in a widely discussed shakeout that has claimed high-profile victims in American manufacturing, King said that "once things begin to settle out, there will be survivors, and those survivors will be stronger."


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