Summit News

Suntech sees U.S. solar tripling in 2010

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The U.S. solar market is poised to triple next year as federal stimulus funds become available and access to financing for renewable energy projects is unfrozen, Suntech Power Holdings Co Ltd Chief Strategy Officer Steven Chan said on Tuesday.

Despite the weak economy, Chan also said he expects the solar market in the United States to be about flat in 2009 compared with 2008. At the same time, Suntech expects to double its U.S. market share to 20 percent this year from 10 percent last year.

“The prospects for 2010 and beyond are quite significant,” Chan told the Reuters Global Energy Summit via phone. “Next year, I wouldn’t be surprised if the U.S. market tripled off of this year.”

Chan also said Suntech had seen good signs of improvement in both the macroeconomic environment and in access to financing.

“It’s not close to normal, like prior to when Lehman and Bear Stearns had their problems, but it’s better today than it has been for the past four to six months,” Chan said.

Solar makers are hoping that U.S. stimulus measures approved earlier this year will allow new projects to get under way and give financial players more confidence in the sector.

Last month, Suntech said it would set up a manufacturing facility in the United States, and Chan said on Tuesday that the company hoped to announce a location this summer.

Suntech last month reported a surprise quarterly profit but trimmed its full-year shipment forecast. It also said revenue would grow modestly in the second quarter from the first.

Still, at the time Suntech raised concerns among some analysts and investors when it revealed that Global Solar Fund (GSF), a customer in which it has a roughly 80 percent stake, accounted for more than 30 percent of first-quarter sales.

Regarding those concerns, Chan said on Tuesday that the company “could have probably disclosed (its relationship with GSF) in a clearer fashion,” adding that Suntech would announce a large equity investor in the project developer some time in the third quarter.

“Our percentage ownership will probably be closer to 50 percent or even lower” following that deal, Chan said.

Reporting by Nichola Groom; Editing by Phil Berlowitz