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Chinese solar company Yingli Green Energy Holding Co. Ltd. (YGE - Snapshot Report) or Yingli Solar is all set to raise awareness about its brand and solar power generally at one of the biggest sporting extravaganzas, the 2014 FIFA World Cup, which was kicked off yesterday in Brazil.   

Yingli Solar – the world’s largest vertically integrated photovoltaic (“PV”) module manufacturer – was the first Chinese and renewable energy company to sponsor a FIFA World Cup event even way back in 2010 in South Africa. This year’s game will see the installation of solar panels on at least two main stadiums, namely the Arena Pernambuco in Recife and the Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro, where the final will be played.

The Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro – one of the largest stadiums in South America – have installed 390 kilowatt peak (kWp) of solar panels sufficient to power 240 homes a year while reducing Brazil’s carbon emission by 2560 tons each year. On the other hand, the Arena Pernambuco is now powered with clean energy from a 1 megawatt (MW) solar power plant. Arena Pernambuco’s solar PV system will generate over 1500 MWh of clean energy per year that will meet 30% of the region’s electricity demand. The Chinese manufacturer is providing 3,650 monocrystalline PANDA Series panels for a fix-tilted ground-mounted system on 15,000 square meters of land near the stadium.

Solar in Sports

In the 83 years of soccer history, this World Cup marks a benchmark as being one of the most environmentally sustainable events that has ever been staged.

Apart from facilitating solar power in the above mentioned stadiums, Yingli Solar will also provide charging stations in stadiums as well as solar powered information towers. The company is not only targeting residential consumers, but seems to be interested in making connections with global sports franchises and stadiums. The Yingli Solar–FIFA partnership has already grabbed the attention of several stadiums around Brazil, as well as NFL’s New York Jets.

In 2012, Yingli Solar had teamed up with the U.S. Soccer Federation to promote solar energy. The company has strong associations with soccer and it has got key sponsorship agreements with FC Bayern Munich.

The World Cup serves as a perfect marketing platform to sell any company’s products globally be it beer to sports jerseys. But who would have thought of solar? Notably, World Cup viewership is on the upswing in the U.S. Since the 2006 tournament, the viewership has gone up by about 70%. As California, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Pennsylvania are the biggest solar panel markets in the world, the company’s sponsorship of the FIFA World Cup might generate widespread interest and brand recall in these markets.

As per media reports, Yingli Solar has seen a boost in PV module shipments in the past few years thanks to the World Cup effect. Its shipments skyrocketed with 2.2 gigawatts (GW) in 2012 and 3.2 GW in 2013.

Will the Chinese and U.S. Attempt Give a Push to Solar?

Alternative energy is now an important component in the power generation mix in many developed and developing nations. The depletion of fossil fuel reserves, higher oil and gas prices, new and advanced technologies, accompanied with more competent alternative energy applications have made green power more feasible.

Notably, 2013 showed astounding scale in the Chinese market, overtaking longtime leader Germany. China plans to install 14.5 GW of solar generating capacity, of which 8 GW would be from distributed solar energy.

In that light, the U.S. still has a lot of catching up to do, despite enormous potential, to get anywhere close to the global leaders. The demand for renewable energy, in particular solar and wind, is rapidly growing for electricity generation in the U.S.

Recently, Warren Buffett – the most successful investor of the 20th century – committed to pump another $15 billion into renewable energy, doubling his clean energy portfolio to $30 billion. His Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (BRK.A - Snapshot Report) (BRK.B - Analyst Report) is spending big money to build wind and solar power in the U.S. The business has invested in a solar farm in California that will be one of the world’s largest upon its completion in 2015.

President Obama’s latest attempt to crack down on carbon emissions will likely prove to be beneficial for renewable energy stocks and is certainly one of the most significant efforts to address global warming and climate change in U.S. history. A proposed new Environmental Protection Agency rule would reduce carbon emission from power plants 30% by 2030, compared to 2005 levels.

The U.S. solar PV installer SolarCity Corp. (SCTY - Snapshot Report) is also trying to popularize rooftop solar with new marketing ploys. The company has lately teamed up with big-box retailers like Best Buy Company, Inc. (BBY - Analyst Report) and The Home Depot, Inc. (HD - Analyst Report) to make solar services readily available to customers. The company has also collaborated with Groupon Inc. (GRPN - Analyst Report) to lure potential customers online.

Trade Tensions

Though solar is becoming increasingly popular as an alternative energy source, the expansion of renewable energy manufacturing infrastructure has sparked off trade conflicts among the major solar product producing countries. Specifically, every country in this arena is trying its level best to protect homegrown interests. Washington has once again slapped new import duties on solar panels and other related products from China – the world’s prime manufacturer of solar panels.

China had earlier hit back by imposing anti-subsidy duties of 53.3% to 57% on U.S. polysilicon and claimed that the imports were being sold below market value.

Bigger Picture

Globally, China leads the world in total electricity generation from renewable sources, helped by its increased allegiance in recent times to the alternative path. The dragon is followed closely by the U.S., Brazil and Canada.

Now with Yingli Solar’s broad exposure through the 2014 FIFA World Cup, Brazil will likely resolve the ongoing power crisis that the country is facing by chalking out how solar can play a key role in solving this challenge. In this respect, this Chinese company’s endeavor to popularize solar power is indeed commendable keeping in mind the global solar landscape, which is shifting from traditional U.S. and European markets to the emerging markets like Brazil.
 

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