Solar

Isofoton CEO: U.S. PV Market Requires Patience

EDITOR’S NOTE: At this year’s American Solar Energy Society (ASES) annual solar energy conference, “Solar 2004”, Jim Callihan, SolarAccess.com’s President and CEO, had a chance to catch up with Javier Gorbena, CEO and President of Isofoton, Spain’s largest photovoltaic cell and module manufacturer. While Isofoton initiated a slow trickle of solar PV over to the United States this year, the U.S. market is far from robust, thus deflecting sales and attention to other markets overseas. Callihan’s conversation with Gorbena offers insight into the complicated relationship between solar PV supply and competing markets throughout the world.

July 14, 2004 [SolarAccess.com] EDITOR’S NOTE: At this year’s American Solar Energy Society (ASES) annual solar energy conference, “Solar 2004”, Jim Callihan, SolarAccess.com’s President and CEO, had a chance to catch up with Javier Gorbena, CEO and President of Isofoton, Spain’s largest photovoltaic cell and module manufacturer. While Isofoton initiated a slow trickle of solar PV over to the United States this year, the U.S. market is far from robust, thus deflecting sales and attention to other markets overseas. Callihan’s conversation with Gorbena offers insight into the complicated relationship between solar PV supply and competing markets throughout the world. Special Report from ASES “Solar 2004″… Javier Gorbena often repeated the word “patience” during our brief conversation. He knows the U.S. is hungry for more PV modules during a time when modules are scarce, but clearly does not want to over-promise his company’s capacity at a time when there are profits to be had in Europe. Gorbena pointed out that while Isofoton is a profitable company, he has had to learn to be patient with himself, his company and the market. “In this business you have to be very patient if you want to make a profit,” Gorbena said. “We have been very careful in our growth. “We are one of the few PV companies making a profit,” said Gorbena, who expects his company to have revenues of $130 Million Euros (US$160 million) this year. “We’ve been around for 25 years, and it has only been a good business for the last five years or so. We’ve learned to be patient. “Germany, Spain and Italy look good, and we expect the U.S. will pick up a lot,” he said. “We have to go where the market is and that’s Japan, Europe and the U.S. — the largest consumer market in the world. The U.S. market will explode in three years, but a lot is based on politics. In the end it has to happen, but you have to be patient. “The main manufacturers in the U.S. — Shell, BP, Sharp – are shipping to Europe,” said Gorbena. “It (Europe) is a much better market for them than here (The U.S.). Prices are higher in Europe, the exchange rate is favorable, so it is an economic decision. “For us the U.S. is an important market, but we have to be patient,” said Gorbena, once again inserting his “patience” mantra. Gorbena said the company would ship 2 MW to the U.S. market in 2004 and 6-10 MW in 2005. What started as a university research project 25 years ago, has grown into one of Europe’s most successful PV manufacturers. Currently the company manufactures 4″ and 5″ PV monocrystalline cells and full-size modules. Gorbena also indicated the company would continue “serious R&D on concentration” PV technology and expect within three to four years to commercialize such applications. The company employs 650 workers, and upon completion of the transition to the manufacturing facility expects to top out at 850 to 900 total employees. According to Gorbena, Isofoton will produce 55 MW of PV in 2004. In 2005, as a transition year during manufacturing consolidation, Isofoton will still find a way to continue growth and anticipates 70 -75 MW output. Once they complete their transition and settle into a new 250,000 sq. ft. facility in 2005, only about 10 miles from their current home in Malaga, Gorbena said he expects Isofoton will produce 200 MW by 2007.