Hanergy Group, the Chinese solar energy company that shed 2,000 employees this summer, is turning towards overseas markets as difficulties mount in China.
The company is wooing business from governments across Africa, the Middle East and the Pacific and last week said it had signed a deal to supply 1GW of solar and wind power in Jordan.
The thin film group hosted delegates from more than 20 developing countries this summer to promote its solar panels, even though shares in its Hong Kong-listed subsidiary have been suspended since May, when a half-hour plunge wiped out half its value.
In June, Hanergy’s vice-president said a 400MW project in Ghana, equivalent to roughly one-fifth of that country’s installed power capacity, was “at a key stage”. Earlier in the year, it committed to provide solar power to a casino project in Saipan, with the possibility of expanding to other Pacific islands including Pulau and Guam.
Hanergy’s push overseas comes as many countries line up their commitments to produce low-carbon energy ahead of an international meeting in Paris in December that is supposed to conclude with a deal to limit emissions of carbon and other greenhouse gases that can cause dangerous global warming.
Hanergy in May signed an agreement with UNAids, an organisation that coordinates UN agencies’ work on Aids, to partner on clean power in Africa. The association with UNAids could help Hanergy connect with decision makers in African nations, sources close to Hanergy said.
Solar power is seen as particularly promising for some of the world’s poorest nations, since solar farms can be much smaller than traditional thermal power plants and still improve local electricity supply. But the power generation is weather-dependent, and dust and sharp temperature changes in arid or desert regions can quickly reduce the panels’ performance.
To guard against deterioration over time, many purchasers require warranties that the panels will continue to perform near full efficiency for 10 years or more.
For Hanergy, development of overseas markets comes as questions have been raised about its performance in China.
This year, the Financial Times has detailed its heavy reliance on sales between the parent and the listed unit and unusual trading patterns in the listed unit, Hanergy Thin Film Power. The listed company said last month it had cut 2,000 jobs as it registered a net loss in the first half, following the unwinding of contracts with the Beijing-based parent group.
One of the three Chinese companies that earlier this year entered agreements to buy Hanergy panels and shares in its listed unit has since backed out. In August the listed unit sold its 25MW solar farm in California to the local power utility.
Hanergy is retooling some of its factories to a more advanced technology developed by its German subsidiary Solibro, while other factories have never reached full operational capacity. Visitors say warehouses in its flagship Chinese plant near Chengdu are full of unsold panels.
Hanergy’s other overseas ventures include a mega-dam project in Myanmar, still under construction, and energy investments in Pakistan.
Additional reporting by Owen Guo