February 21, 2013

180 Solar Panel Makers Will Disappear By 2015

A huge bumper crop of solar panels already has caused a sharp decline in their prices and bankrupted many manufacturers worldwide over the past two years. Now a research report released Tuesday says another 180 solar panel makers will likely go out of business or be bought by 2015.

Nearly half of them – or 88 companies – will shut down factories in countries that have become too expensive for producing solar panels, namely the United States, Europe and Canada, said GTM Research. The report looks at over 300 solar panel makers to determine their chances of survival.

The prognosis is not only shocking, but it also answers a perennial question, at least for now, about whether solar manufacturing can thrive in the United States. China, which has used state owned banks and utilities to finance solar factory expansion and create domestic demand for solar panels, will continue to dominate solar manufacturing, though the government is reportedly working on rescuing only 12 large companies and forcing mergers in others. GTM is estimating that 54 solar panel makers in China will not survive over the  next three years.

“Given where the industry is right now and how committed China is for its solar manufacturing industry, it’s very difficult for the U.S. to compete,” said Shyam Mehta, the senior analyst who authored the GTM report. In fact, by the end of 2013, cell and panel manufacturing could disappear all together in the United States.

China’s rise as the world’s epicenter for solar manufacturing has elicited resentment from rivals who believe Chinese companies haven’t competed fairly. The U.S. Department of Commerce recently sided with petitioners of such a trade complaint and imposed tariffs after finding that Chinese solar companies have indeed received illegal government subsidies and sold solar panels at below cost.

Signs of trouble began to show in early 2011, when changes in solar incentive policies in key European markets prompted solar panel makers’ customers – distributors and project developers – to delay purchasing decisions. Prices for solar panels began to fall faster than what manufacturers had expected. The prices dropped by about 50 percent last year and have continued to decline this year. At the same time, many manufacturers had built up massive factories and were counting on a huge surge in demand in the global market. In fact, they continued to churn out solar panels to keep their factories running and workers employed even though demand wasn’t keep pace.

First Solar, an industry bellwether, saw flat revenues and lower earnings during the first quarter of 2011. Life pretty much went downhill from there for many solar panel makers and their suppliers. Young companies that were entering mass production of their technologies in order to compete effectively with larger rivals went bust, including Solyndra and Abound Solar. GE, which once embarked on an ambitious plan to build a 400-megawatt factory in Colorado, decided to shelve that project earlier this year. First Solar, long the king of low-cost manufacturing, decided

to build new factories in Vietnam and Arizona. Other solar panel makers in the U.S., Europe and Asia have made similar decisions to shutter factories or file bankruptcy.

SunPower is one of them. The San Jose company announced Tuesday it will suspend production at six of the 12 solar cell production lines and cut solar panel production by 20%  in the Philippines. It plans to lay off about 900 employees, most of them located in the Philippines.

Still, some solar manufacturers have proceeded with their plans to build new factories for a variety of reasons. Some thought the oversupply problem would be over soon; others needed to scale up their production to cut costs. As a result, the world will likely see 35 gigawatts of excess solar panels for sale per year over the three years, GTM said.

The plummeting prices for solar panels are good news for installers and solar power plant developers – and ultimately consumers. Some developers have switched to solar panels instead using other types of solar technologies. An increasing number of manufacturers have entered the business of developing solar energy generation projects since they are not  making money selling solar panels.


February 14, 2013

Be Careful of a Mercury Poisoning Disaster caused by CFL Lightbulb.

CFL bulbs contain mercury and when they break in your home a tiny amount of mercury will be released and become a more or less permanent part of your environment.

Here’s a little taste of what Health Canada has to say about the dangers of mercury: If mercury is burned, heated, sprinkled or spilled in the home, a poisonous gas can be produced, requiring a clean-up procedure.







Your first instinct when you break one of those coiled CFL light bulbs will be to get out the vacuum cleaner. Don’t. Here’s what Health Canada suggests:
The amount of mercury found in household products does not usually lead to serious health problems and can often be cleaned up without the help of a trained professional. However, even small spills should be treated as hazardous and cleaned up with caution. Remember to report these spills to the local environmental health authorities. Depending on the size of the spill, hiring a Contractor to monitor mercury levels in air, and to conduct a professional clean-up, may be advisable. There are also commercially available small mercury spill kits that can be obtained. Never vacuum a mercury spill with a household vacuum cleaner. It will increase the vaporization of the mercury.

A few helpful hints to remember are:
•Do not put contaminated items in the washing machine;
•Do not vacuum the spill;
•Do not use a broom or a brush;
•Do not pour mercury down the drain; and Do not throw mercury or contaminated items in the garbage.

Incandescent bulbs have been banned from the marketplace and are in the process of being phased out. They do cast a very palatable light, which is probably why they technology to replace them has been slow to develop.

The cheapest way to replace incadescent bulbs is to switch to CFLs and you will see a lot of propaganda from BC Hydro aimed at helping you make the switch. The only rational explanation for promoting CFLs is that they are cheap, so cheap that people will balk at the price of LEDs, which are a far better solution.

LEDs are more efficient, longer lasting and may throw a better quality of light. Today Environment Canada provided yet another good reason not to buy CFLs and instead go straight to LED lights. Canada’s mercury waste facilities are not ready for the coming onslaught of mercury-laden CFL bulbs as they burn out and break.

With no effective way to collect the bulbs, most will go to landfill where they will begin to poison the groundwater, rivers and eventually our oceans.

Even the few bulbs that are collected are unlikely to be rendered harmless. There are no facilities in Canada to extract mercury from waste. How long the United States will allow Canadian toxic waste to be shipped across the border is anybody’s guess.



Mercury-Packed CFL Bulbs Now Found To Fry Your Skin

Individuals are drawn into compact fluorescent bulbs due to their environmentally-friendly label, but anyone who has really looked into these incandescent alternatives knows of the numerous health and environmental dangers of CFL bulbs. A recent study sheds light on just one such concern associated with the ‘green’ CFL bulbs, showing how they are capable of actually frying your skin with UVA radiation.

CFL Bulbs Can Fry Your Skin

Following a study in Europe examining the effects of CFL bulbs on the skin, researchers from Stony Brook University in New York conducted a similar study to examine the bulbs’ impact on human skin cells. For the study, the researchers purchased CFL bulb from various locations, and then measured the amount of UV radiation emissions. What they found was “significant levels of UVC and UVA” which was a result of cracks that were present in the coating on the bulbs. Every single one of the bulbs studied.

After studying the effects of these emission on human skin cells, they discovered that healthy skin cells experienced the same damage you would find with ultraviolet radiation. Similar tests were also conducted using incandescent light bulbs of the same intensity along with the implementation of UV-absorbing Titanium Dioxide (TiO2) nanoparticles, which are found within many personal care products. While the incandescent light bulbs had no negative effect on healthy skin cells, the researchers couldn’t say the same for CFL bulbs.

“Our study revealed that the response of healthy skin cells to UV emitted from CFL bulbs is consistent with damage from ultraviolet radiation…Skin cell damage was further enhanced when low dosages of TiO2 nanoparticles were introduced to the skin cells prior to exposure,” ,” said Professor Rafailovich. “Despite their large energy savings, consumers should be careful when using compact fluorescent light bulbs…Our research shows that it is best to avoid using them at close distances and that they are safest when placed behind an additional glass cover.”

This, of course, isn’t the only issue with compact fluorescent bulbs. In addition to having a potential negative impact on your skin, these bulbs emit toxic chemicals. In fact, only months after it was found that energy saving fluorescent bulbs release carcinogenic chemicals into the air, a new study has found that these harmful chemicals are continually released from the bulbs over a period of weeks to months. In addition to releasing these cancer-causing chemicals, which are far beyond the “safe” level set by the EPA, these bulbs also release levels of mercury which also exceed the “safe” levels for humans.

Mike Barrett
July 21, 2012

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