Suntech Power Holdings (NYSE ADR: STP)

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Suntech Power Holdings (NYSE ADR: STP) Outshines Other Solar Cell Makers

Suntech Power Holdings Co. Ltd (NYSE: ADR STP) is the one company that's best-equipped to withstand the biggest challenge facing the solar cell industry - falling prices and squeezed margins.

Make no mistake: The solar sector has suffered of late.

Several stocks have shed as much as 20%, as a result of margin concerns and a drop-off in generous European government subsidies.

And Suntech has been no exception. It's fallen nearly 25% since April 1.

But China-based Suntech Power has advantages its rivals do not - and that makes it more of a bargain than a flop.

Surprisingly, that advantage is not low labor costs, which accounts for less than 4% of the cost of building solar cells, but rather technical advances in manufacturing.

For years Suntech has scouted out research, such as a two-decade-old project at Australia's University of New South Wales, which it has adapted to enhance its manufacturing process. Those efforts have increased efficiency and beefed up performance of the solar cells themselves.

"They were trying to commercialize [that technology] the entire time," Stuart Wenham, Suntech's Chief Technology Officer, told Technology Review. "It took Suntech to turn those laboratory processes into production processes."

One such process cut solar panel costs by 10% to 20%; another increased manufacturing efficiency by 10%.

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