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GT Solar bets on lighting apps for sapphire growth

Image representing GT Solar as depicted in Cru...

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GT Solar International, a U.S. solar and LED equipment maker, forecast its sapphire materials business will contribute about a tenth of its fiscal 2012 sales as orders for general lighting applications pick up.

Sapphire is the main base used in making LEDs, an industry that GT Solar CEO Tom Gutierrez expects will expand rapidly as incandescent and compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs are replaced by the cheaper and environment-friendly LED bulbs.

The Merrimack, New Hampshire-headquartered company, which makes sapphire material used in the LED, medical and aerospace industries, expects the business to contribute $70-$90 million to its fiscal 2012 sales of more than a billion dollars.

The sapphire material business is a part of the company’s Crystal Systems segment, which also sells furnaces to companies looking to make their own sapphires. The entire segment reported revenue of $15.3 million for the fiscal year ended on April 2.

Its sapphire business backlog then included new orders worth more than $184.2 million, of which just $10 million was related to sapphire material contracts, with the rest coming from the furnace and other equipment orders.

But Gutierrez expects the demand for energy-efficient LEDs — touted as the future of the lighting industry — to grow despite the high investments required which have made its mass adoption slower than expected.

LED lights need to pay back hefty investments a lot quicker before they go mainstream, LED maker Cree’s CEO said at the Reuters Global Energy and Climate Summit on Monday.

GT Solar’s Gutierrez, however, said that as more capacity is brought on board, prices will fall, helping sales. He said the company’s customers, centered in South Korea and China, were not averse to operating in a low-margin, high-volume environment.

“Our Asian customers are looking to make 15-20 percent gross margins versus the much higher margins that other suppliers in the industry are making today, and so it will sort itself out,” he said on a conference call to discuss the company’s fast-growing sapphire business.

On Monday, GT Solar, which has won a string of contracts this year, substantially raised its April-June forecast due to higher revenue recognition in the quarter.

Shares of the company, which from August will be known as GT Advanced Technologies, rose 6 percent at $12.89 in morning trade on Nasdaq.

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D.Light Launches An Ultra-Cheap Solar Lantern

Have you ever tried studying in the dark? How about studying in the midst of noxious fumes? It’s not the best educational environment.

D.Light

A few years back, D.Light, a startup that began as a Stanford design school project, announced that it had created the world’s cheapest solar lantern. For you, with your electric lights, this doesn’t seem like a big deal. For everyone who relies on kerosene (and all of its associated fumes) for lighting, it’s a life-changer. It’s newest offering, the S1, is designed specifically to help students.

Quality is subjective, but we tend to believe the company, which is backed by investors including the Acumen Fund and Draper Fisher Jurvetson. The S1 costs less than $8 and offers up to four hours of LED-based lighting for a day’s worth of charging. The device is rugged and, as you can see in the picture, very bright.

So who is going to use this thing? Anyone who needs cheap access to reliable lighting–including students. In one pilot in India, every single one of 275 students surveyed claimed that they studied regularly with the D.light S1. All of the students reported increased productivity, cleaner air in their homes, and reduced risk of fire (as compared to kerosene).

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100 Watt’ LED Bulbs Lighting Up

‘100 Watt’ LED Bulbs Lighting Up

May 18, 2011 — First there was the incandescent bulb. Then came the compact fluorescent lamps, or CFLs. Now, light-emitting diodes — the tiny bulbs already used in automobile headlights and tailights — are available for use in household and office lighting.

Osram Sylvania, based in Danvers, Mass., and Switch Lighting, based in San Jose, Calif., have both announced that they have an LED bulb that’s as bright as a 100-watt incandescent bulb, but consumes just 14 watts of energy. This is huge news for anyone looking to save money on their utility bills. Where a CFL bulb provides three to four times the energy savings of an incandescent bulb, LEDs offer 10 times the savings of a CFL and last 25 times longer. In fact, they have an operational life of 100,000 hours, or 11 years of continuous operation. LEDs produce less heat and do not contain trace amounts of toxins, such as CFLs.

The cost of LED bulbs is still much higher than CFLs. Those coming to market from both Osram Sylvania and Switch Lighting (as well as Philips, who has a bulb that’s about as bright as a 75-watt incandescent bulb) cost between $40 and $50, while CFLs cost under $5 each. But as more manufacturers get into the act, the costs should come down. This kind of bulb could be extremely attractive to large office buildings, where electricity and the cost to maintain it (that is, changing thousands of light bulbs) can cut deeply into an owner’s pocket.

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