Zhengrong Shi, the founder, chairman and chief executive officer of Chinese solar giant, Suntech, has stepped aside as the company’s CEO, maintaining his role as executive chairman and assuming the new role of chief strategy officer – a hugely important position, as the company struggles to stay at the forefront of an increasingly turbulent solar market. Dr Shi – who is known as the Sun King in China, and in Australia as our solar industry’s loss – will be replaced by David King, who joined Suntech last year as CFO. In a statement released on Wednesday, Shi said: “The solar industry is at a critical juncture and is facing both significant challenges and exciting opportunities. At this time, I believe it’s important to devote more of my time to guiding the strategic direction of the company, building relationships with key partners, and driving the ongoing development of Suntech’s leading solar technology.”
Dr Shi founded Suntech – the world’s biggest manufacturer of solar modules – in 2001 after returning to China from Australia where, along with Australian citizenship, he obtained a PhD in solar power technology from the UNSW’s School of Photovoltaic and Renewable Energy Engineering. According to the Suntech website, Dr Shi is the inventor for 15 patents in PV technologies. And according to Forbes, his personal wealth had dropped 90 per cent in 2011 from its $2.9 billion at the peak of his career in 2008, when he ranked No.396 among the world’s billionaires. Last month, Suntech’s share price dropped 33 per cent after the company declared itself a victim of suspected fraud. But Dr Shi’s outlook on solar remains positive. In January, he delivered the most bullish forecast to date for the China PV market, predicting that 4GW – or even more – could be deployed in the country in 2012. And in an interview with Bloomberg, also in January, he said solar PV would reach parity in half of the world’s countries by 2015.
In other news…
Ratch-Australia Corp, which is 80 per cent owned by Thailand’s Ratchaburi Electricity Generating Holding (RATCH), has revealed plans to spend $A1 billion over the next three years buying power plants and building wind farms. Bloomberg reports that Ratch-Australia will be considering coal- and gas-fired plant acquisitions as well as renewable energy projects. The company said it might also bid on NSW state-owned power generators when the government puts the stations up for sale.
The US Coalition for American Solar Manufacturing (CASM) says Chinese solar imports to America have fallen by 60 per cent since June 2011, totaling $99.6 million from $241.5 million. PV Tech reports that decline has been attributed to the market’s rising recognition of costs, risks and uncertainties associated with Chinese solar. The effects of preliminary anti-subsidy duties have been factored in, too, with June 2012 imports of Chinese solar cells and panels down 20 per cent from the previous month.
Finnish utility Fortum Oyj is looking to build a $300 million solar-power plant in Russia, according to a local media report attributed to the deputy head of Russian Association of Solar Energy. Bloomberg reports that the company’s Russian unit, OAO Fortum, has plans to build a 100MW solar station in the Chelyabinsk region. Billionaire Victor Vekselberg’s Hevel Solar may supply the modules for the project, which would be the country’s largest.
TRUenergy is set to appeal the decision to reject its Stony Gap wind farm proposal for mid-north South Australia, made by Goyder council’s development assessment panel on August 1. ABC News reports that the power company says it will appeal against the ruling in the Environment, Resources and Development Court, and will argue that the application for the 41-turbine wind farm met all state planning requirements and was supported by the council’s independent planning consultant, who recommended it be approved.
And in Victoria, planning approval has been given for a 30MW solar power plant at Kerang. ABC News reports that the project, proposed by “a Sydney-based consulting company,” would be one of the first PV plants built in Australia.
UNSW and the University of Queensland have won a $40.7 million grant to establish two PV research programs worth 159MW. PV Magazine reports that part of the grant, issued by Australia’s Education Investment Funder, will go towards building a Power Systems Interface Research Facility at the Tyree Energy Technologies Building, which aims to investigate how PV can be successfully integrated into Australia’s electricity grid.
Australia’s national rugby union team the Qantas Wallabies have committed to offset the players’ carbon footprints, as well as the emissions generated at the first match of the Bledisloe Cup series in Sydney on 18 August, using credits purchased on the Carbon Trade Exchange platform. A statement from CTE said the Wallabies credits will be generated from a forestry project in Australia, as well as an energy efficiency project based in New Zealand. The required number of offsets will be calculated at the match’s conclusion, by independent energy auditing company Pangolin Associates.