The Solar Battlefield from Inside the World’s #1 Solar Panel Manufacturer
by Willy Wang, MBA ’13 and Environmental Finance and Impact Investing Fellow (10/22/12)
Over the summer I worked with the American subsidiary of the world’s largest solar panel manufacturer to develop strategies for downstream project financing.
Headquartered in Baoding, China, Yingli Solar was the largest seller of panels by revenue in the first quarter of 2012. Yet, its net profit was negative $40 million. This highlights the current nature of the solar industry. Numerous suppliers, ambiguous government policy, and cross border trade wars have made solar a war of attrition.
In my summer internship, I worked with the Chief Financial Officer of the American subsidiary to develop strategies for downstream project financing. The high-level logic behind the work is that if more projects can be completed that otherwise would not due to lack of financing, the solar panel market will grow and the more panels Yingli can sell.
I couldn’t have asked for more out of my internship. Despite being 15,000 employees strong in total, Yingli’s American subsidiary comprises of less than 50. I enjoyed the startup environment in a large, global company. My summer was colored with a broad variety of experiences in addition to my primary project. I attended an industry conference, met with potential clients and partners, and worked out of both US offices (SF and NYC). The internship drew on knowledge I learned at Johnson and it leveraged my previous experience in energy markets and contract negotiations. I had to build project financial statements, calculate the weighted average cost of capital (WACC), and deliver presentations.
Ultimately, my strategy was approved and is headed for implementation. It is no secret that downstream financing is seen as the new “holy grail” of the solar industry and, undoubtedly, Yingli’s competitors are implementing their own strategies. May the best companies win!
Willy Wang with Nupur Pande, MBA '11 at Intersolar North America