Technology StocksAmerican Superconductor (AMSC)

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From: David C. Burns8/31/2011 1:26:42 AM
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Renewables Investment Breaks Records

Global investment in renewable power and fuels set a new record in 2010, according to a new analysis commissioned by UNEP's Division of Technology, Industry and Economics (DTIE) from Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Investment hit $211 billion last year, up 32 percent from a revised $160 billion in 2009, and nearly five and a half times the figure achieved as recently as 2004.

The document, Global Trends in Renewable Investment 2010, an Analysis of Trends and Issues in the Financing of Renewable Energy, reports that the record itself was not the only eye-catching aspect of 2010. Another was the strongest evidence yet of the shift in activity in renewable energy towards developing economies. Financial new investment, a measure that covers transactions by third-party investors, was $143 billion in 2010, but while just over $70 billion of that took place in developed countries, more than $72 billion occurred in developing countries.

. . .

A second remarkable detail about 2010 is that it was the first year that overall investment in solar came close to catching up with that in wind. For the whole of the last decade, as renewable energy investment gathered pace, wind was the most mature technology and enjoyed an apparently unassailable lead over its rival renewable energy power sources. In 2010, wind continued to dominate in terms of financial new investment, with $94.7 billion compared to $26.1 billion for solar and $11 billion for the third-placed biomass & waste-to-energy. However, these numbers do not include small-scale projects and in that realm, solar, particularly via rooftop photovoltaic installations in Europe, was completely dominant. Indeed, small-scale distributed capacity investment ballooned to $60 billion in 2010, up from $31 billion, fuelled by feed-in tariff subsidies in Germany and other European countries, the report finds. This figure, combined with solar's lead in government and corporate research and development, was almost enough to offset wind's big lead in financial new investment last year, the document concludes.

Furthermore, no energy technology has gained more from falling costs than solar over the last three years. The price of PV modules per MW has fallen by 60 percent since the summer of 2008, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance estimates, putting solar power for the first time on a competitive footing with the retail price of electricity in a number of sunny countries. Wind turbine prices have also fallen - by 18 percent per MW in the last two years - reflecting, as with solar, fierce competition in the supply chain. Further improvements in the levelised cost of energy for solar, wind and other technologies lie ahead, posing a growing threat to the dominance of fossil fuel generation sources in the next few years.

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From: David C. Burns9/3/2011 2:28:53 AM
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Technology Cost Review: Grid Parity for Renewables?

Research from the University of Melbourne's Energy Research Institute predicts that the price of wind and solar energy will continue to fall. The Institute's Renewable Energy Technology Cost Review covers the current and future costs of three forms of renewable energy technology - photovoltaic (PV), wind and concentrating solar thermal (CST) - by comparing data from a range of international and Australia-specific studies.

"It's expected, especially in the case of solar technologies, that they'll become very close to competitive with fossil fuels over the next five to 10 years. What this means is that we should be planning for a future with much larger penetrations of renewable energy and focusing on how we get that built and how we can integrate into the system as fast as possible," said Patrick Hearps, one of the lead researchers.

Each of the studies reviewed performed assessments of cost reductions for major plant components, taking into account expected growth and experience. The major opportunities include mass manufacture of mirror components; implementation of higher temperature steam cycles and storage; scale-up of plant sizes; and convoy/experience effects on engineering and indirect overheads. Power tower (central receiver) solar thermal systems are expected to be cheaper than parabolic troughs.

Photovoltaics and wind power have historically shown that a large proportion of cost reductions have come from experience and economies of scale associated with large-scale global deployment - not just improvements in technical efficiency. This is made particularly apparent when displaying a technology learning curve as a function of cumulative installed capacity, rather than time. Therefore any projection of a cost curve over time has an inherent assumption, explicit or not, of the expected growth in deployment of the technology.

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From: i-node9/15/2011 11:57:07 AM
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American Superconductor Sues Sinovel For IP Theft; Shrs Off

American Superconductor shares are trading sharply lower after the wind turbine technology company announced that it is filing criminal and civil complaints in China against Sinovel Wind Group, which had been one of American Superconductor’s key customers. The charges allege “the illegal use” of the company’s intellectual property.

“These cases follow an intensive investigation conducted by both AMSC and law enforcement,” the company said in a statement. “Based in part upon evidence obtained through the investigations, AMSC believes that Sinovel illegally obtained and used AMSC’s intellectual property to upgrade its 1.5 megawatt wind turbines in the field to meet proposed Chinese grid codes and to potentially allow for the use of core electrical components from other manufacturers.”

American Superconductor said it is seeking to compel Sinovel and related parties “to cease and desist from infringing its intellectual property.” The company also seeks monetary damages, and it has filed a claim for arbitration seeking to compel Sinovel to pay for past product shipments, and to accept contracts byt not yet delivered components and spare parts under existing contracts.

The company added that it is “now operating its business on the assumption that Sinovel will not be a customer.”

“We are taking legal action against Sinovel based on its contractual breaches and strong evidence of its criminal misconduct,” AMSC CEO Daniel McGahn said in a statement. “These actions send a clear message that AMSC is enforcing its intellectual property and commercial contracts.

AMSC shares are down 91 cents, or 12.8%, to $6.17.

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To: i-node who wrote (735)9/18/2011 3:22:35 PM
From: Art Bechhoefer
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Is it a coincidence that Sinovel started installing its own equipment shortly after canceling contracts with AMSC, and shortly after allegedly obtaining AMSC trade secrets from a person with knowledge of AMSC software code?

In its lawsuit against Sinovel, AMSC, as part of its discovery, will be able to subpoena software code used by Sinovel in order to compare with the confidential software code that AMSC claims was stolen.

Art Bechhoefer

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To: Art Bechhoefer who wrote (736)9/19/2011 11:20:58 AM
From: Doren
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It was almost a no brainer after they got dumped.

Let that be a lesson to other tech companies doing business with the Chinese. Never liked that dictatorship. Never thought we should be chummy with them...

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To: Doren who wrote (737)9/19/2011 12:09:54 PM
From: Art Bechhoefer
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The Chinese like to copy technology or goods that someone else has invented. This is acceptable as long as they agree to pay whatever licensing and royalty fees are attached to that use. In many cases, they have paid royalties, especially to Qualcomm, whose wireless technology is at the core of most of the wireless services in China and most of the wireless devices made in China for domestic use or export.

In other cases, they have flouted the laws, as in the pirating of Windows software and illegal copying of DVDs. They say they are cracking down on illegal copying. Now it's time for them to prove it with regard to AMSC. Studying the recent AMSC announcement concerning the illegal sale of their trade secrets (confidential program code) by a person in Austria who was jailed for the act, it is going to be difficult for the Chinese to claim they invented this code themselves, especially if it matches or closely approximates the code that AMSC developed in house.

The discovery process, part of any legal action, can determine if the Chinese inserted some program code that just coincidentally happened to be like that taken from AMSC. Rather than admit wrongdoing and losing face, it is more likely that the Chinese will find a way to settle with AMSC, thereby leading to a further adjustment in earnings, probably for the better.

This is also an area where the U.S. government can exercise a little muscle. China wants better access to U.S. and world markets and treatment as a "market nation" rather than as a non-market nation whose product prices are sometimes set by government officials instead of the market place. Well, if they want it, they have to start acting like they deserve it.


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From: Doren9/26/2011 2:50:06 PM
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Chinese Turbine Firm Tied to Software Theft


A former employee of American Superconductor Corp. was convicted in Austria on criminal charges in a corporate espionage case linked to China's biggest manufacturer of wind turbines.

The conviction on charges of fraud and industrial espionage may buttress American Superconductor's allegations against its once-biggest customer, Sinovel Wind Group Co. Ltd.

The U.S. company contends that Sinovel was responsible for the theft of valuable software that controls turbines used to generate electricity from wind power. It has filed civil suits against Sinovel in Beijing.

Sinovel could not be reached on Friday but has previously denied the allegations.

Dejan Karabasevic, a 38-year-old Serbian engineer, admitted he stole the company's software, modified it and secretly furnished it to Sinovel.

The engineer was sentenced on Friday to three years in prison and ordered to pay of €200,000 ($270,000) to the American firm.

Gunter R. Huainigg, Mr. Karabasevic's attorney, said his client was unhappy with a job change and so furnished Sinovel with the software it wanted. He said Mr. Karabasevic entered into an employment contract with Sinovel that would have paid him $1.7 million over six years. Mr. Karabasevic cooperated with prosecutors in order to get a reduced sentence, he said.

Sinovel is no longer a customer of American Superconductor, which blamed the loss of the Chinese firm's business for the red ink it reported for its fiscal first quarter, which ended June 30. On Friday, the Devens, Mass., company reported a quarterly loss of $37.7 million, or 74 cents a share, compared with a gain of $9.2 million, or 20 cents a share, a year earlier. Revenues fell more than 90% to $9.1 million, from $97.2 million a year earlier.

American Superconductor had been selling Sinovel components and software that control the productivity and power quality of wind turbines, as well as licensing its turbine designs. It began to suspect something was awry when Sinovel earlier this year rejected a large shipment of control components, company officials said.

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From: David C. Burns11/15/2011 6:51:08 PM
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Wind Electricity To Be Fully Competitive With Natural Gas by 2016, Says Bloomberg New Energy Finance

The best wind farms in the world are already competitive with coal, gas and nuclear plants. But over the next five years, continued performance improvements and cost reductions will bring the average onshore wind plant in line with cheap natural gas, even without a price on carbon, according analysis from Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

After analyzing the cost curve for wind projects since the mind-1980's, BNEF researchers showed that the cost of wind-generated electricity has fallen 14% for every doubling of installation capacity. These cost reductions are due to a number of factors: more sophisticated manufacturing, better materials, larger turbines, and more experience with plant operations and maintenance. Those improvements, combined with an oversupply of turbines on the global market, will bring the average cost of wind electricity down another 12% by 2016.

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From: tktrimbath12/31/2011 1:33:01 PM
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My semi-annual review of AMSC

INTRO Here's my semi-annual exercise to see if I remember why I own the stocks I own, and so I can check back and see if their stories have changed. I post in case it helps others too.

AMSC (now called American Superconductor)
AMSC (market cap $0.190B)
AMSC is an innovative company looking to make money from the power infrastructure industry, primarily through the increased efficiency of superconducting cables, but also through power regulators, network connections, and wind turbine support. They've even renamed the company from American Superconductor to AMSC, and broken it into two divisions: Gridtec and Windtec. The company looked like it was doing the right things: diversification, product introduction, and industry partnerships. Unfortunately, it's largest revenue generator (wind turbines) was severely impacted by questionable actions from its Chinese customers (who cancelled major orders and have been accused of stealing intellectual property). They had just turned profitable and then had major losses. I expected the superconducting related sales to begin making up the difference, but the lack of news (at least that I've come across) means the stock is languishing at less than one-tenth it's ten-year high.

The company is making hundreds of millions of dollars in revenues, and some of the losses are probably one-time write-offs. The cables, motors, power regulators, and wind turbines are selling to an industry that needs such products. The Tres Amigas project ( that will connect all three US major power grids continues to develop. The company is selling into a growing, though stodgy, industry. I wonder if amidst the Chinese wind turbine story I missed a similarly sad bit of news about the superconducting side, the side that convinced me to buy the stock. As the CEO from a few years ago said, they could do for power what fiber optics did for communication. If they do, then that's worth a lot.

The stock trades at a book value of about one and a price/sales of less than two. That is very cheap considering that the company has hundreds of millions in revenue, an active product pipeline, and effectively no debt.

DISCLOSURE LTBH since 2003 but the first shares were sold a while back. I bought more after the main drop, and have been surprised that the knife continued to fall. I might buy more if discretionary funds were available.
(I've also collected links to the other discussion boards and my other stocks over on my blog

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From: David C. Burns1/4/2012 3:40:23 PM
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Startup Promises a Revolutionary Grid Battery

Battery developer Eos Energy Storage claims to have solved key problems holding back a battery technology that could revolutionize grid energy storage. If the company is right, its zinc-air batteries will be able to store energy for half the cost of additional generation from natural gas—the method currently used to meet peak power demands.

Company officials say that current prototypes demonstrate twice the energy density of lithium-ion batteries. They claim their final product will last for 30 years in grid-scale applications with a cycle life that is orders of magnitude greater than that of lead-acid batteries, making it one of the longest-lasting battery types around.

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