SunTech Power Forecasts Brighter 2011

SunTech Power Holdings Co. (NYSE: STP) — the largest solar panel maker in the world— delivered an optimistic 2011 forecast to investor analysts on Monday.

The Wuxi, China-based company with significant market share and operations in the U.S. expects its sales next year to grow by a minimum of one-fifth, and its revenue to reach $3.4 billion to $3.6 billion, up from $2.78 billion to US$2.83 billion this year. Its 2010 revenue represents growth of 64 percent over 2009.

The president of SunTech America, Steven Chan, projected that the U.S. market for solar should reach 1,114 MW by the end of 2010; SunTech’s share of that should end up around 210 MW. He expects SunTech to sell 410 MW in the U.S. in 2011 as domestic demand for solar overall rises to 2,058 MW by company estimates.

Competition in the U.S. — especially from First Solar, Sharp and SunPower(NASDAQ:SPWRA) — took some market share from SunTech this year.

The Chinese solar manufacturer lacks the large-scale utility projects that SunPower, for example, has signed on to develop in California and elsewhere. Instead, most of SunTech’s sales have been generated by light-industrial and residential projects, and European customers to-date.

The company’s forecasts for technological developments were reasonably rosy.
Chief technology officer of SunTech, Stuart Wenham (image, below) said on the guidance call that the company’s solar modules, used in large-scale commercial applications, should demonstrate 22% conversion efficiency in the field within three years, conservatively.

SunTech currently offers solar modules that demonstrated a 19.2 percent conversion efficiency as measured at one of their installations in Australia. Solar modules with a higher conversion efficiency deliver more power per square inch of solar power-generating materials.

An increase to 22 percent, Wenham explained, would lower the cost of systems for potential buyers, and help SunTech meet demand for clean energy without increasing its costs to produce the modules.

The company’s newest products are made from “Pluto efficient crystalline silicon solar cells.” A 72-cell module, 5-inch wafer made by SunTech today has a power output of about 195 watts. The company’s newer Pluto modules will have a power output of 200 watts, Wenham said on the call.

The CTO bragged light-heartedly about one rooftop installation at the Sydney Theatre Company in Australia. Film star Cate Blanchett did the honors of switching the system on to promote clean energy, the theater and SunTech there in November.

(Blanchett, like Wendham, is Australian.)

Shares in SunTech traded 9 percent higher by the end of Monday, over the previous business day. But they were beginning to dip in after hours trading.