Five solar stocks with a bright future – MoneyWeek

Fromscienceprojecttomainstreampowersourcealmost

Backin1954,DarylChapinandCalvinFullercreatedthefirstphotovoltaic(PV)solarcells,basedonpolysilicontechnology。

Despitethebreakthrough,earlyPVcellswereexpensiveandprogressstalledbeforeiteverreallygotgoing。

Butthroughtechnologicaladvances,panelefficiency(theamountofsolarenergythatisconvertedintoelectricalenergy)hasrisensteadily。

Thereareatleastadozennewpaneltechnologiesmanufacturedcommerciallyallwithaneyetowardloweringthecost-per-watt。

PolysiliconpanelsandCIGSpanels(Copper,Indium,Gallium,Selenide)arecurrentlythetwolargesttechnologiesincommercialuse。

CommercialPVsolarpanelsnowcapture10-20%ofthesunsenergyanumberthatisexpectedtoclimbtoabout30%overthenext10yearsorso。

Butwhataboutthenitty-grittythecost?

Wanted:parityinthesolarsector

Oneofthedrawbacksofaburgeoningtechnologylikesolarpoweristhehighcost。

Andmakenomistakecostistheimportantissuehere。

Inorderforsolarpowertoreachwidespreadprice-convergencewithconventionalpowersources(atermreferredtoasgrid-parity),thecostofsilicon-basedpanelshastohitabout$1perwatt。

However,thepricecurrentlystandsat$4perwatt。

Thatnumberisfallingfast,thoughitdroppedby20%in2009alone。

Forless-efficientthin-filmpanels,thecostisabouthalfthatnumber。

Andthankstoalargedoseoffederalandstategovernmentstimulusmoney,plustherecentlyrenewedSolarInvestmentTaxCredit,afewhigh-demandlocationslikeCaliforniaandNewJerseyarealreadythere。

AccordingtosolarresearchfirmGTMResearch,11stateswillhavelikelysurpassedgridconvergenceinthecommercialsectorby2012,whiletenwillhavereacheditontheresidentialside。

Forconsumersandinvestorsalike,hereswhygrid-parityissoimportant:onceitsachievedonawidespreadbasis,commercialutilityprojectswillsoar,particularlygiventhegrowingdislikeforfossilfuelpowerplants。

Residentialdemandwillexplode,tooadevelopmentexpectedtofuelanestimated40%ofthesectorsfuturegrowth。

Andifyoudontbelieveitcanwork,justtakealookatoneofEuropesbigboys

TheGermanexample:amodelofsolarsuccess

Germanyisagreatexampleofhowtheshifttoincreasedsolarpowercanwork。

In2000,theGermangovernmentpassedTheRenewableEnergySourcesAct(knownasEEGinGermany)。

Itwasaparadigm-shiftingeventforGermany。

Citizensknewtheycouldallbecomeenergyproducers。

Andgridsystemsoperatorsarecommittedtonotonlyacceptingthepowertheyproduce,butpayingfixedfeesforit。

Today,withthosefeesdecliningeveryyear,theEEGsbenefitsarepowerful

Germanyisontracktobecometheleadingsolarmarketintheworld。

Itcurrentlyproducesnearlyhalfofalltheworldssolarelectricityandfulfillsnearly15%ofGermanystotalelectricityneeds。

TheEEGplanhasthemontracktoincreasethatto27%by2020。

TheGermansolarsectornowemploysover230,000people。

Thankstosolarpower,GermanyhasreduceditsCO2greenhousegasemissionsbyover100milliontonsperyear。

ItshouldbeeasytoreplicateamodelintheUnitedStates,right?

SpecialFREEreportfromMoneyWeekmagazine:Whenwillhousepricesbottomoutandhowwillyouknow?

WhyUKpropertypricesaregoingtofall50%

Whenitwillbetimetogetbackinandbuyuphalfpriceproperty

SowhycantwedoitintheUS?

Thesolarsectorsbiggestproblemhereisalackofpromotionandmarketing。

Despitethatandtherecession,however,werestillforgingaheadwithsolarambitionsandenjoyingsuccess。

Considerthesefigures

Industryresearchgroup,Solarbuzz,predictsthat6。

37Gigawattsofsolarpanelswereinstalledworldwidein2009。

Inrevenuedollars,thatsworthabout$50billion。

Installedwattsareforecasttoincreaseby5%globallythisyear。

ButU。

S。

growthissettoexplodebyasmuchas48%annually,accordingtoGTMResearch。

GTMsaystheUnitedStatescouldbecomethegloballeaderforPVpaneldemandby2012。

Ithinkthatsabitpremature,butitcertainlycouldhappenayearortwoafterthat。

Andherearethefirmspoisedtotakeadvantage

Fivesolarleaders

Aspanelpricescontinuetoerodein2010,thiswillultimatelyincreasedemandforthefirmsthatmanufacturethem。

However,notallwillchurnoutprofitsforinvestors。

Thebiggestplayersandthosemostlikelytosurviveandthriveare:



FirstSolar(Nasdaq:FSLR)?

SunPower(Nasdaq:SPWRA)?

SuntechPowerHoldings(NYSE:STP)?

YingliGreenEnergyHoldings(NYSE:YGE)?

TrinaSolar(NYSE:TSL)

AndstaytunedforanothersolarcompanysettogopublicearlythisyearSolyndra。

Thefirmhasalreadyreceivedalotofattentionforitsunusualpaneldesigns,basedonCIGStechnology。

Insteadofbeingflat,Solyndraspanelscontaintubesthatallowthesolarcellstoabsorbbothdirectandreflectedlight。

Asyoucanimagine,thispotentiallycreatespanelsthataremoreefficientthanthosefromothermanufacturers。

SolyndraclaimstohavenearlyoneGigawattofpanelsonbackorder,mostlyfromcommercialpowerproducers。

Thisisgoingtobeanexcitingyearforthesolarsector。

WithapopulationmorethanfourtimesthesizeofGermanys,theUnitedStatescouldpotentiallycreateoveronemillionnewjobsinthesolarsectoralone,bysimplyfollowingtheGermanmodel。



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