1) Who does Akeena contract with to manufacture their panels?
2) What is Akeena doing to reduce the cost? First Solar and Nanosolar both say they can manufacture @ less than 1 dollar per watt, what is the realistic price Akeena can sell their panels for in a year or two?
3) Isn't the "big risk" that someone like First Solar or Nanosolar start selling through Loews/HD also, and simple cut Akeena out of the middle?
What are your thoughts on these questions?
The Andalay "system" is comprised of a SunTech panel, Enphase microverter and Akeena's Andalay racking system.
The "system" is manufactured and assembled by SunTech in China.
As for cost, Akeena doesn't have much control over cost since the only value add they contribute is the racking system.
Lowering the cost of the Andalay system is really in the hands of SunTech and enphase. Granted the racking system portion will decrease in cost as volumes increase but I do not believe it will be significant as compared to the possible decrease in panel prices, which offer Akeena no competitive advantage since SunTech panels are readily available.
The other Andalay cost concern is it's single sourced - SunTech assemblies the product for Akeena. I believe Akeena licensed the technology to a Canadian firm but I don't know the details or volumes involved. There was a press release a month or two ago concerning this development. My point is SunTech and, to a certain extent, enphase hold most of the cards with respect to lowering costs.
As for the Lowe's deal, I believe the Lowe's deal is a marketing ploy to get Akeena the attention it needs to raise more capital. It has never been a profitable enterprise, and I don't think it ever will, so any attention it can get to lure investors into keeping this banana boat afloat is good for the executive staff's compensation and keeping Akeena's employees working!
Also, please note HD has already gone through this exercise and now only sells panels on their website.
In closing, if a DIYer is really looking at installing a system, their research will lead them to many places on the web were they can buy a complete system for around $4 per watt vs the $5.10 per watt for Andalay - that's around a $170 per 175W panel in savings or $3k to $4k savings on the typically 3KW to 4KW system - more than enough to pay for an electrical contractor to connect the system from the roof to your electrical panel.
As always, "Let the buyer beware!"
It is all about packaging and marketing. Look at Dell Computers. Started by a college kid assembling PC components and selling them as Dell Computers. No stores, just packaging and marketing. In fact, look at Gateway, HP and almost any other PC brand you can think of. Packaging and marketing.
Just because I have been buying components (case, power supply, motherboard, CPU, memory, Hard drive, CD &DVD drives, cooling components, keyboard, mouse, monitor and operating system) and assembling them myself as many other people do, has not yet put the PC companies out of business.
Having the right package, the one that will do the job and marketing it will trump anyone selling just the components. It remains to be seen what role Lowes will end up playing in this, but they are in a position to market this not only to Do it yourselfers, but also to and through their contractors. The roofers are in a position to sell the value added features of installing the Solar panels and system installation along with the new roof.
The roofers are on the roof and ready to guarantee a leak proof install. For the smarter roofers, it would provide an edge not offered or promoted by their competitors.
Marketing, my friend, is the name of the game. The winner will be the one best at it, NOT the guy selling components at the lowest price. Of course, that isn't saying there will be no market for the component guy, just that the marketing of "the package" has proven to be a viable profit model in other technologies.
My2cows, by buying these Andalay solar panels, I install, cutting out all of the competitor installation costs, with the exception of a licensed electrician to wire my rolex from the roof to the electrical panel. All solar panels, selling, will be lowering production costs, just like PC pricing dropped. The American innovation with Akeena's Andalay rests with my ability to put these on my residential roof, as I plan to reduce my electric utility cost and eliminate my fossil fueled car and replace it with all electric. I will add these panels until I achieve parity with my electric utility company; i.e., no electric bill and no fossil fuel cost.
listen, I love the idea of reducing the cost of installation and desperately want to install solar on my house too, but as an investment I'm just trying to ascertain how likely it is that Akeena is a survivor in the solar arena.... and I'm not sure who is yet.
I don't think Akeena even makes the AC converter that go on these panels either. So what is Akeena really bringing to the table besides packaging a solar "system" at retail?
Why couldn't any of the hundreds of solar panel manufacturers do the same thing? I cannot see one barrier to entry for a panel manufacturer.
AND most importantly, the Chinese manufactures can produce panels for a touch over a dollar per watt... add in an ac converter and some nice mounting and that doesn't add 4 dollars per watt. Why is there such a large gap in pricing from manufacturer to retail???
IMHO, the total cost of a solar system needs to be under 3 dollars per watt before it really takes off... with or without subsidy. At 2 dollars per watt or less it's a no brainer.
1) is STP i think. 2) not very much except hoping STP will sell them to them cheaper! 3, yep that is why you want to buy and sell when it pops when they go from 20 to 200 lowes.....competition will kill Akeena in the end because they charge too much. The company that wins in this game will be HQed out of somewhere cheap, not silicon valley!