* Yingli seeing substantial increase in solar demand
* Sees Q2 shipments up 70 percent from Q1
* Sets 15.5 mln share offering; funds to pay down debt
* Stock down 2.5 percent in extended trade
LOS ANGELES, June 15 (Reuters) - Chinese solar panel maker Yingli Green Energy Holding Co Ltd (YGE.N) on Monday said it has seen a substantial increase in demand since the beginning of the year and set an offering of 15.5 million common shares that pushed its stock down 2.5 percent in extended trade.
In a statement, Yingli forecast shipments would be up 70 percent in the second quarter from the previous period, citing progress in government solar incentives in the United States and China, improved weather conditions in Europe and “a visible change of industry sentiment” since the Intersolar trade show in Germany last month.
The solar industry has been hit hard since the end of last year by a lack of available financing for big projects and an oversupply of solar panels that has sent prices into a freefall.
In recent weeks, however, solar players including U.S.-based SunPower CorpSPWRA.O and top Chinese panel maker Suntech Power Holdings Co Ltd STP.N have said they see encouraging signs of a recovery in the solar market.
Yingli, which is based in Baoding, China, said better market conditions combined with lower polysilicon prices gave the company confidence it could meet its second-quarter gross margin target of 18 percent to 20 percent.
Separately, the company also filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to sell 15.5 million shares of common stock, raising about $163.1 million.
Proceeds from the sale will be used to repay a $50 million loan facility and other debt, the company said.
The move by Yingli follows a string of share placements by solar companies including SunPower, Suntech, Germany’s Q-Cells SE QCEG.DE and Norway’s Renewable Energy Corp (REC.OL)
Yingli shares fell to $12.84 in extended trade after closing at $13.16 on the New York Stock Exchange. (Reporting by Nichola Groom; Editing by Andre Grenon, Bernard Orr)