Flawed EMCORE Concentrator PhotoVoltaic System deal with the Pod Generating Group?

The Pod Generating Group plans a risky High Concentration PhotoVoltaic System deployment in Northern Ontario Canada

Within the span of a week, EMCORE Corporation (NASDAQ:EMKR) announced a pair of utility scale High Concentration PhotoVoltaic (HCPV) projects in Canada and South Korea:

EMCORE Corporation enters into an Agreement to supply 60MW of Terrestrial Solar Power Systems in Ontario, Canada
EMCORE Corporation To Supply 20 Megawatts Of Concentrating Solar Photovoltaic Systems in South Korea

On the surface, these seem like celebratory milestone events for Concentrator PhotoVoltaics (CPV). However, HCPV systems require direct solar radiation (irradiance) for operation =at all=. If a cloud passes overhead or the sky is overcast blocking direct sunlight, the HCPV system will not generate electricity.

Three regions in the world have been identified as having the best direct solar resources for HCPV system installations:

Southern Europe (Spain, Italy) and North Africa
Southwestern United States and Mexico
Southern Australia

At the recent ThinkGreen Conference in San Francisco, SolFocus, Inc. CEO Gary Conley expanded upon this view to include the Middle East and India, the Gobi Desert in Mongolia, and the southern region of South America (Chile, Argentina).

And still Sault Saint Marie (The Soo), Ontario, Canada, and South Korea are not among them.

Is EMCORE just trying to buy their way into the Concentrator PhotoVoltaic market with these deals? No financial terms or performance guarantees were disclosed for either deal.

Although EMCORE trumpets their CPV systems as delivering the lowest cost per watt, it does not look as though EMCORE is so sure this Canadian deployment will achieve contractual terms. Per the press release:

EMCORE also has the right to substitute other solar technologies in portions of the projects.

Given the suboptimal direct solar resources available in Canada, cost per kilowatt-hour (kWh) is the proper focus metric not cost per Watt. Objective evaluation of Canadian solar resources and available photovoltaic technologies would result in the selection of traditional crystalline silicon or thin film solar modules as the preferred solution for Sault Saint Marie.

Who is this solar up-start the Pod Generating Group (PGG)? Per The new Pod on the block by David Ehrlich at cleantech.com:

Backed by France’s Calyon, Sault Ste. Marie-based Pod Generating is a sister company of Los Angeles-based Pod Consulting Group, which Martin founded.

Originally from Sault Ste. Marie, Martin said the idea for the new company was formed back in November 2006, when the Ontario Power Authority started its Standard Offer Program.

Pod Generating has a 20-year power purchase agreement with the Ontario Power Authority for its project, made up of two 10 MW facilities. It’ll be getting 42-cents Canadian per kilowatt hour produced at the plant.

Martin would not disclose how much funding Pod Generating has received from Calyon, but the Pod Consulting web site says the solar group is backed by over $300 million in financing, with several strategic investors.

Since then, PGG has been awarded four more 10 MWp (MegaWatt-peak) solar projects as Renewable E
nergy Standard Offer Contracts
with the Ontario Power Authority (OPA) as detailed in Pod Generating Group Awarded Additional Ontario Solar Power Supply Contracts.

I believe the problems begin with PGG’s technology driven instead of market or solution driven VISION of THE NEW SPACE AGE:

The Pod Generating Group is dedicated to bringing space technology into daily use, here on Earth.

Through the development of utility-scale solar power generating facilities throughout Canada and the United States, Pod Generating Group is realizing this vision.

The Pod Generating Groups seems to be more about Canadian political connections bolstered by promises of local CPV manufacturing (Manufacturing Plant Coming to Sault Ste. Marie) when the exchange rate favors manufacturing across the border in Michigan than proper application of existing photovoltaic technologies.

I contacted both EMCORE and the Pod Generating Group (PGG) and asked the following questions about the Ontario Canada project:

  • Can you please explain how an HCPV deployment in Ontario makes technical and economic sense at this point in their development?
  • What is the expected direct solar insolation for this location used in the economic analysis?
  • At current production costs, I don’t see how this project can break even?

EMCORE was aware of my request and chose not to respond. The Pod Generating Group did not respond to my emails or voice messages, and I was unable to reach a real person at the company. The extension listed on their press releases was wrong although an operator at the Sault Ste. Marie Innovation Centre (SSMIC) was able to connect me with the voice mail of incubator client, PGG.

I expect this initial post will trigger a series of follow ups.

On a more festive note, please see Best Wishes for the Holidays and a great 2008! for my special holiday greeting.

Here is a bonus EMCORE Picasa slideshow from the 22nd EU PVSEC.


  1. Anonymous says:

    This “analysis” by Mr Gunther of the Canada based POD project utilizing EMKR CPV technology is an absolute joke. I am an experienced project/program engineer, with years of alternative energy power station development and operations experience, and have also been involved with cutting edge manufacturing of PV systems.

    For Mr Gunther to question the POD project economics, based on the projected diurnal solar conditions of the selected power station site, and the matching of the EMKR CPV solution, is akin to a toddler trying to solve differential calculus problems. Mr Gunther displays an incredible ingnorance of PV system functions, and uses this ignorance to create “kindergarten” level questions and innuendo that is intended not to be an objective analysis of the POD project, but a blatant attempt to create uncertainty in the EMKR CPV technology and hence impact the price of EMKR stock. Stock of which Mr Gunther does not go on to tell us that he is shorting and hence betting that the stock price will go down.

    When one reads a blog from a person like Mr Gunther, and you find yourselve awash in “why mommy” questions and “how mommy” retorts, you can be pretty darn certain that what you are reading is greed biased, and of no objective and true analytical value.

    Personally, I suggest that Mr Gunther complete at least Junior High School before he attempts to understand solar technology system matchings in varying environments. Frankly, it is just this sort of inane babble that Mr Gunther spews about the POD project that marks why the internet has become a bastion of stupidity and “anything goes”. But for those of us that practice due diligence and appreciate real information and analysis, we know what is real and what is just someone blowing smoke out of their arse. In the case of Mr Gunther, the smoke is so thick you wonder how it is he can breath, let alone see his keyboard as he makes up his distorted, greed based, commentary.


  2. Edgar A. Gunther says:

    334 words to conduct a personal attack on an 801 word initial post instead of focusing on the facts? My experience dictates that MSA (if those are your real initials) is the EMKR, PGG, or CPV stakeholder. I welcome a dialog with EMKR and PGG to get their point of view and justification for this project.

    As regular Blog readers know, I disclose any conflicts of interest, including stock holdings.

  3. Anonymous says:

    It should be said that it is Ed’s prerogative to not publish comments, yet he has chosen to do so with this exceedingly vituperative example. And from an anonomous source! While the author of the comment has attacked Ed’s ignorance of PV system functions, he(she) has done nothing to establish that his/her understanding is any the better.

    The style and spelling suggests the reader is from either Australia or New Zealand.

    Ed Gunter has not in the past shown any signs that he is opposed to CPV in any way.

    It’s certainlt not for us to say whether the venture makes commercial sense.

    For all we know the partners may not be planning to deploy in Canada at all, and are merely value-adding there.

    I am sure this scheme is exactly the kind of boondoggle which gives subsidy schemes such a bad name, but there’s nothing to suggest it will be unprofitable for anyone except perhaps the rate payers but then that’s public investment for ya – ain’t nothing wrong with it.

    Alex Fiedler

  4. Anonymous says:

    For the benefit of Mr Gunther and others that are interested in the real energy output of flat PV systems versus CPV systems, in low sun incidence and cloudy conditions, please read the article at the link below (copy and paste URL):

    http://www.sunpowercorp.com/Smarter-Solar/The-SunPower- Advantage/~/media/Downloads/smarter_solar/EPSEC00.ashx

    I again question the integrity of Mr Gunther’s “analysis”, which is not an analysis, but rather personal opinion, based in ignorance, and the desire to influence the stock price of EMKR.

    Mr Gunther has been attacked by me for the simple reason that when a person posts information in a manner that is portrayed as analytical, but in reality is just innuendo and “guessing” at what the real economics and technical application hurdles are for a project, then that person should be exposed as the mud-slinger they are.

    Bottom line here folks, it’s wise to be aware of the agenda and the technical understanding of “the messenger” when one is trying to sift through information and “commentary” that is posted on the web.

    I have no gripe with Mr Gunther personally, and he is free to post whatever he wishes on his blog. But he is also subject to the review and response by those that see through his charades, and called to task for his comments about a subject that he is not as informed of as he would like the average reader to believe.


  5. Anonymous says:

    Well MSA certainly does not stand for Mensa. MSA’s overly-aggressive, rabid-dog-style personal attacks immediately allow one to dismiss him entirely.

    And his inane, naive assertion that a simple blog could ever possibly influence EMKR stock price indicates that he is quite unschooled in modern capital markets as well.

    In fact, MSA is most likely an EMKR pumper, which would explain his energetic attack.

    The reality is the EMKR deals to date are not very impressive. One big deal with unheard-of GGE in Australia (take a look at their website….geeez, my garage is more impressive). Then a deal in Korea, which does have a very high feed-in rate, but still….Korea??, that global PV powerhouse?

    And now the Canadian deal with, yes again, a little-known outfit with probably two pennies to rub together.

    MSA, if you read the post (I won’t say “again” because you obviously did not read it before), you’ll note the questions raised were more on the low quality of EMKR’s partners/deals, not so much on the technology.

    Spectrolab seems to have much better customers (oh, no, now accuse me of trying to manipulate Boeing stock 😉

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