Solyndra Inks $189M Panel Deal


Tube-shaped thin-film solar maker Solyndra‘s been streaming a series of good news lately, including a much-coveted Department of Energy loan guarantee, a customer installation and various partnerships and sales contracts. The company on Thursday added to that list a $189 million deal to sell an undisclosed number of panels to Amsterdam-based solar integrator SunConnex through 2013.

The deal will deliver a shot in the arm to Fremont, Calif.-based Solyndra’s European business, which until now has centered mainly on Germany. Solyndra opened its European headquarters in Germany in January, and counts German-based integrators Phoenix Solar and GeckoLogic among its customers. According to Solyndra, the SunConnex deal brings its backlog of sales contracts to nearly $1.7 billion — and that’s only counting its announced deals.

While the company hasn’t released any details that would indicate how competitive its prices are, its multiyear contracts indicate confidence in Solyndra at a time when solar prices are waning. According to a Solarbuzz price survey, U.S. panel prices fell 4 cents per watt from April to May and a total of 15 cents per watt from the end of last year. Meanwhile in Europe, prices moved lower by 2 euro cents per watt from April and 26 euro cents per watt since the end of last year.

Overall, it’s a good sign that Solyndra seems to be focused on building its market and fortifying its position in commercial rooftops, as analysts predict increased competition and tough times ahead. But the company also will need to be careful not to raise expectations too high, and to deliver on all its commitments. After all, customer announcements aren’t the same as products delivered.

And Solyndra has kept mum about its progress on production. While the company said it began shipping panels to customers in July, it hasn’t said how much it’s shipped or whether it’s reached full production at its first factory, which it said back in January was ramping up to 110 megawatts of capacity.

With the loan guarantee, Solyndra also plans to build a second factory in Fremont, which CEO Chris Gronet said in November will have the capacity to produce about 500 megawatts of panels annually. The loan guarantee doesn’t mean Solyndra has cleared all the hurdles to its new fab, however. The company is having some difficulty negotiating the purchase of the land for the project, and has put the permit-application process on hold until it can reach an agreement, Fremont associate planner Steve Kowalski told us Thursday.

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