Solar Power 2006… news of the week

Lots going on this week with the Solar Power 2006 conference in San Jose:

* ATS Automation’s soon-to-be-spun-off solar business, Photowatt Technologies, has entered into a 10-year silicon supply contract with Deutsche Solar AG, which will begin supplying solar-grade multi-crystalline polysilicon wafers in the first half of 2009. This amount should support the manufacture of about 15 megawatts of solar power products per year. It doesn’t solve all of Photowatt’s silicon sourcing issues, but it helps — particularly as the company positions itself for an initial public offering.

* Evergreen Solar saw its shares soar 17 per cent today after announcing a four-year, $100-million contract to sell its solar products.

* Google plans to install 1.6 megawatts worth of solar panels atop its Mountain View, Calif.-based headquarters by next spring, likely making it the largest corporate installation in North America.

* SunPower says it has increased the efficiency of its silicon cells to 22 per cent from 20 per cent, and that it can fit more individual cells within a standard panel. These improvements apparently result in a 43 per cent increase in power from its next-generation panels, which will reportedly be in mass production sometime next year.

* Software startup Fat Spaniel is trying to make it easier for companies and homeowners to monitor how much solar power they use and what’s going to the grid. A demonstration of this capability can be found here, where the company uses its software to track the performance of solar panels atop the historic Horse Palace at Exhibition Place in Toronto.

* And if you’re wondering about the health of solar stocks, given that they’re down — way down — these days, check out this piece on RenewableEnergyAccess, written by Wall Street analyst Peter Lynch.

This, of course, is just a sample of the barrage of news we’ll be getting out of the solar show, so stay tuned.

Railpower stock spike… What’s going on?

Okay, so more than a million shares of Railpower Technologies changes hands today and the stock shoots up more than 28 per cent. But there was no announcement, and apparently the company’s management doesn’t have a clue about the share movement. Sounds fishy…

Let’s just say if a positive announcement does come tomorrow or this week, there’s never been a better reason for the Ontario Securities Commission to investigate a company for insider trading. This is just ridiculous.

Railpower stock spike… What’s going on?

Okay, so more than a million shares of Railpower Technologies changes hands today and the stock shoots up more than 28 per cent. But there was no announcement, and apparently the company’s management doesn’t have a clue about the share movement. Sounds fishy…

Let’s just say if a positive announcement does come tomorrow or this week, there’s never been a better reason for the Ontario Securities Commission to investigate a company for insider trading. This is just ridiculous.

Fuel Cell Technologies closing shop

Its solid-oxide fuel cell technology was sound and had potential, but Kingston-based Fuel Cell Technologies Ltd. hasn’t been able to make a business out of it. The company announced today that its workforce was being terminated, most of its board has resigned, and a financial advisor has been retained to sell the company’s assets or raise capital.

The company had hopes of commercializing its SOFC technology, and numerous demonstrations proved that it was heading in the right direction. For example, four 5-kilowatt systems were being used to provide heat and electricity to a campus residence at the University of Toronto in Mississauga. Unfortunately, the company lacked the capital and likely the management skills to move it forward in a market that has become increasingly skeptical of the potential of fuel-cell technology. The irony is that this company’s SOFC system actually had that potential.