This is your SolarWakeup for October 23rd, 2017

Why Did I Talk To SunPower’s CEO. In the latest podcast, I spoke with Tom Werner, SunPower’s CEO. I was curious about SunPower’s role in the 201 case. If you read the filings, they lead the SEIA filing and at the same time file their own responses. SunPower has been standing not only in their corner, but all of solar’s corner. They’ve been a part of policy fights, public and private, that help amongst other things their dealers compete in a bigger market.

Stion Owes $75mm. The State of Mississippi is contemplating a lawsuit against Stion to recoup its loan. A few years ago, the State loaned Stion $75mm to build a factory. This supplemented $225mm in venture capital investments that Stion received. Stion told reporters that they were hoping a buyer would keep the factory running - don’t hold your breath because nothing is worse for a solar manufacturer than a lack of bankability.

Subsidy Irony. Stion, a largely unkown company, made its way on many radar screens when I pointed out their support of the Suniva/SolarWorld 201 petition. You have to enjoy the irony - arguing for crystalling technology to be punished so they could have an unlevel playing field by saying that other Countries were giving too much money to manufacturers. Subisidies for jobs are part of the global economy. Stion was also given tax deductions, infrastructure and workforce training that all US companies enjoy that other Countries do not.

More On Hannity. Axios has published more information about Solar Powers America, which I had kept to myself because the message was better without the background. If you like palace intrigue, the article is here. This makes a good point that SolarWakeup is the best place to get news out because I support our industry I make my living in it. If you want to stay anonymous, there is a tips link on the front page of solarwakeup.com, use it often or call me to let me know about things you are working on.

Purpose Of 501(c)4. SPA is a 501(c)4 which means it’s a non-profit but has a mission that it supports. You may also know them as Super PACs because donor(s) can stay private and nobody will ever know who they are. Have a billionaire friend that wants to flood facebook with solar supporting news? Start a 501(c)4 and have yourself a field day. Not all advocacy groups are (c)4, some incorporate as a company and end the year without profit.

Presented By EnterSolar. EnterSolar is a leading provider of solar photovoltaic solutions to the commercial marketplace that is ranked the #1 solar developer in New York State and in the top 10 nationally.  We are currently hiring at our growing company.

Join Us in Boston 10/31. Tickets for SolarWakeup Live! Boston are available here, just $75 for four in-depth interviews about net metering, SMART, venture capital and startups.

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Yann


This is your SolarWakeup for October 20th, 2017

Interviewing SunPower CEO. Yesterday I interviewed Tom Werner, SunPower’s CEO, to talk about the 201 petition and how difficult it is to drive cost out of technology. I ask him about SunPower’s request to be excluded from the tariff. Tom questions how SunPower, which sells a premium product, could possible cause harm to modules that sell at a discount to SunPower. Listen to the full interview here.

Excluded But On Offensive. SunPower and First Solar are partners in 8point3 and compete head to head on utility projects. But when it comes to the 201 case, First Solar is excluded through “arcane” regulations and I asked Tom how he felt about that. I would have to ask First Solar, Tom said, about why First Solar would go on the offensive while being excluded.

Solar Powers America. The Hannity audio was actually a radio ad that has been running in South Carolina for a few weeks including on Hannity’s radio show. What isn’t on the youtube clip is the disclaimer that the ad was paid for by Solar Powers America, a 501(c)4 registered in Florida. I tracked down a few people behind the group which is focused on the message and not the messenger, which I will respect. The group is spending big money on pushing the ad out and we could see more with this strategy.

A Southern Strategy. Solar Powers America was formed by Solar industry executives across the Southeast to educate Southeastern states on the jobs and low cost electricity solar energy can deliver to small towns and rural communities.  The falling cost of solar equipment has been the key driver of both affordable electricity and manufacturing employment in factories producing the steel foundation of solar farms throughout the country. Looking at it from a political perspective, Southern states have different politics and needed a different approach. The group has been focusing on outreach grassroots advocacy by highlighting the jobs created by solar. I well done effort in my opinion.

201 Pivot. The original intent of SPA was not the 201 case, it hadn’t been filed yet. The 201 petition unfairly impacts Southern states where tariffs can kill an entire market. Just look at South Carolina which is tight as it is, but a tariff would eliminate it altogether. With a focus on manufacturing jobs already in place, the pivot happened and Solar Powers America used its platform to educate America about jobs that could be lost if offshore hedge funds have their way.

Bezos Badass. Christening a wind farm while standing on top of it? Badass.

Boston Ticket Release. We just opened some more seats for SolarWakeup Live! Boston. This isn’t your typical solar conference, just 4 hours long and no panels. I am personally interviewing Senator Boncore about net metering legislation, Michael Judge from MA DOER about SMART and private sector players Daniel Hullah and Jon Abe. Tickets will not be available at the door but you can get them here.

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Yann


SunPower CEO, Tom Werner, On Asking For 201 Exclusion and Leading The Fight Since 2003

Tom Werner joined SunPower as employee number 35 and became the CEO in 2003. Since going public in 2005, Tom has led the company through the solar industry to where it is today. With 1,100 employees in the US and operations around the world. With the 201 petition at the top of mind, I ask Tom about the exclusion SunPower is asking the ITC for and why he thinks First Solar asked for tariffs to be implemented when they were aleady exempt. It’s difficult to get public company CEOs to open up but I saw a long term vision come … Read More


This is your SolarWakeup for October 19th, 2017

This Is “Reality” The Hannity audio is actually a few weeks old according to my reporting, running on the radio in South Carolina in advance of Trump’s trip to the State. I saw your coverage and comments about the Sean Hannity audio and while I understand your frustration with the Obama language and Hannity talking points, I’d like you to stop whining. Until Rachel Maddow or Chris Hayes get their sit down with Trump, Hannity has the ear of the President. In 78 seconds he talks about manufacturing jobs in America being threatened by an offshore hedge fund, I’ll take it. The rest, that’s part of the reality show we live in.

Audience Of One. The moment the ITC voted to find serious injury, the jobs in the solar industry were in one person’s hands – and that’s Trump. He will have advisors in the White House that are nationalists and free market capitalists and they’ll argue about the virtue of both. What solar needs him to hear is that people are making stuff in the US for the solar industry and tariffs will impact jobs performed by robots and not people. Any tariff would lose American jobs and drive more robots working in the dark. An audience of one, an audience that watches Hannity, follows him on Twitter and retweets him. Hannity has the audience – you and I do not.

Protectionism Is Hated. When it comes to protectionism, the republican establishment and corporate interests cant align more on their hatred for these things. That’s why you see Heritage, Cato, R Street, ALEC and others come together with the solar industry to fight back. I’m thankful because they are good at public affairs and have the budget to attack this with great influence.

No More SUNE. A shareholder vote at TERP has approved the change to Brookfield as the sponsor of the yieldco, which is now owned 51% by Brookfield. Next up with Terraform Global which would quickly turn Brookfield in one of the largest solar asset owners in the world.

FERC Comments. Given all that is going on, not much focus has been given to the DOE NOPR that asks FERC to give subsidies to coal and nuclear plants. This could create destructive impacts on the power markets. The FERC commissioners appear sympathetic to the intent but feel changes would need to occur in order to move something forward. I’d expect many interested parties to continue alignment to educate the commission on pushing this back significantly.

Solar Focus Conference. Want to hear more about power markets and retail energy? I’ll be interviewing CleanChoice CEO Tom Matzzie at MDV-SEIA’s conference on November 7th.

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Yann