March 14, 2011 / 7:49 AM / 9 years ago

INTERVIEW-UPDATE 1-Trina Solar sees break after Japan nuke leak

* Governments should rethink nuclear energy strategy

* Trina Solar aims to maintain cost leader position

(Adds details)

By Soo Ai Peng and David Lin

CHANGZHOU, China, March 14 (Reuters) - The nuclear crisis hitting Japan may lead to new opportunities for the solar power industry, the chief executive of Chinese photovoltaic company Trina Solar TSL.N said on Monday.

Japanese authorities have been working desperately to avert a meltdown at an earthquake-stricken nuclear plant in Fukushima prefecture, 240 km (150 miles) north of Tokyo, following the quake and tsunami that likely killed more than 10,000 people. [ID:nL3E7EC0D6]

“My personal view is that we need to seriously reassess the development of nuclear power plants and put more energy in developing renewable energies such as solar power,” Gao Jifan told Reuters at Trina Solar’s headquarters in Changzhou, outside Shanghai.

“Even the Chinese nuclear power plants under construction need to be re-evaluated,” he added.

Shipments of Trina solar’s equipments will grow by an annual rate of 50 percent over the next five years, which would help it realise its goal of achieving $8 billion to $10 billion in sales by 2015, said Gao.

Demand for equipments solar power, seen as a safe and green alternative to other energy resources such as coal and nuclear fuel, will keep growing thanks to the push by many governments around the world, including the United States, analyst say.

Gao, who eats lunch daily at the factory canteen with his employees, said the firm aims to maintain its cost leader position even as it plans to grow at twice the pace of the industry.

Industry overcapacity, a major concern for growth this year, may actually help drive down costs across the supply chain, offsetting pricing pressures, he said.

Despite regulatory uncertainties in Germany and Italy, two of its top markets, Gao said top players such as Trina Solar should continue to see robust demand from their customers, many of whom are large utility companies and established solar companies.

Italy and Germany will review their solar power policy in the middle of this year which may lead to further cuts in financial support for the industry and hit demand for solar equipments.

ENERGY-ALCHEMY

A chemist by training, Gao founded Trina Solar with a group of scientists in 1997 — the same year governments signed the historic Kyoto Protocol and former U.S. President Bill Clinton launched the Million Solar Roof Initiative.

The 46-year-old said his vision is for Trina Solar to become a global company that supplies electricity through solar energy to the entire world.

Shares of Trina Solar has gained 11 percent so far in 2011 having recouped its pre-global crisis level. It fell to around $3.00 during the financial crisis.

Shares of Trina Solar ended down 2.3 percent on Friday at $24.23 a share.

By contrast, shares of Suntech Power STP.N and LDK Solar LDK.N still hover near their record lows although the two stocks have gained 14 percent and 20 percent, respectively, so far this year.

Last year, Trina Solar’s net profit more than tripled to $311 million from 2009 and revenue more than doubled to $1.86 billion.

(Reporting by Soo Ai Peng and David Lin; editing by Kazunori Takada)

((aipeng.soo@thomsonreuters.com; +86 21 6104 1763; Reuters Messaging: aipeng.soo@thomsonreuters.com@thomsonreuters.net))

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