Monday, January 16, 2012

Is First Solar Inc., the Parent of Antelope Valley’s Solar projects: Willow Springs, AVSolar Rancho One and EdisonMission Energy in financial trouble?

According to Investing Daily and other news sources First Solar lowered its sales forecast. First Solar said it now expects sales of $2.8 billion to $2.9 billion on the year, down from its previous estimate of $3.0 billion to $3.3 billion. The company also said it will lay off about 100 workers, or roughly 1.5% of its workforce.
There stock was at a high in 2008 at 300 a share to now under $40 a share. Other stock watchers have indicated that the Chinese are making less expensive solar panel chips, so First Solar intends to get out of the roof panel business part of solar. The Chinese production is highly automated and the factories are subsidized.
Other solar companies have gone bankrupt such as Fremont, Ca. Solyndra and Massachusetts based Evergreen Solar.
First Solar’s press release, Mike Ahearn, the company’s chairman and interim CEO, alluded to subsidy cuts when he said the company was recalibrating its business “to focus on building and serving sustainable markets rather than pursuing subsidized markets.”
First Solar is not in the same situation as Solyndra as Solyndra was backed by US Government loans. Evergreen Solar situation is also different. Evergreen was selling primarily solar panels. Solar panel prices dropped worldwide and Evergreen was losing money on every panel it made. That is a reason why First Solar is getting out of the panel business.
We will be keeping tabs on First Solar’s progress and it has become a pivotal part of the landscape in Antelope Valley.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Train, the train is Coming to the Central Valley by Fall 2013

The state has secured $3.9 billion in federal money, and California taxpayers have approved bonds for the rest. Construction is actually set to start by late next year on the first leg between Bakersfield and Fresno at an estimated cost of $5.8 billion. If construction begins then the project will likely be the largest in the Union with California and the Federal government on the hook for billions of dollars in future costs.

It is not likely to go smoothly though. The estimated costs have essentially doubled with right of way issues as the train will move into urban areas. Also the state and federal governments are currently running deficits and the private sector is not all in, so finding future funds could get murky. It also looks like California voters are a little flakey. Recent polls showing voters would not have voted for the train if the vote was today.

Democrats have indicated that clogged highways are smog choking their districts, so a train system is necessary. Republicans indicate that Amtrak is not in full use, so a high priced fast train is not a solution. A big problem maybe in Palo Alto, Ca. where democrats have riled against new rail lines passing through neighborhoods.

There is indication that at least another $20 billion will be needed, so the alternative to the lack of funds will be that if the speed train fails then Amtrak will run along the new tracks. The initial stage is the Fresno to Bakersfield route and the next stage would link the San Joaquin Valley to San Jose or Bakersfield to San Fernando (Los Angeles County

The State will need funds past the Fresno to Bakersfield plan though, but despite the backlash the Cal-High-Speed Rail Authority is moving forward. They have the initial money and they plan on laying the tracks. The current administration is behind the effort, and the Rail Authority feels private money will be invested once the project has started. If you own land at or near the Fresno to Bakersfield route then you stand to profit. Buy land and wait, and buy land in the path of development still holds true.