New Ways to Invest in Solar Like Buffett

Tom Konrad Over the last couple of years, investors who were hoping to do well by doing good have gotten bad sunburns.  Since the start of 2011, the two ETFs which track the solar sector, Guggenheim Solar (NYSE:TAN) and Market Vectors Solar Energy (KWT) are down 74% and 75%, respectively, even after the large jumps up in the first week of the year. That jump was in large part caused by the January 2nd purchase of two large solar projects by Warren Buffett controlled MidAmerican Solar from Sunpower Corporation (NASD:SPWR.) You might wonder, Why would...

Trina Drives Consolidation As Solar Trade War Flares Up

Doug Young  As if the solar trade war between the US and China wasn’t bad enough, tensions just got worse with a preliminary ruling in Washington aimed at closing a loophole to a previous ruling imposing anti-dumping tariffs on Chinese solar panels. I’ll admit I was a bit surprised by the preliminary ruling just announced by the US International Trade Commission (ITC), as I’d previously predicted this latest action in the Sino-US solar trade dispute would quickly fizzle. Meantime, industry consolidation is continuing in China, where more than half the world’s solar panels are currently made, with word that...

Solar Stocks As the Best Play On The Cleantech Revolution? (Part I)

I just got around to reading a new report by Merrill Lynch (link at the end of this article) identifying cleantech as "The Sixth Revolution" (the other five being: Industrial Revolution; Age of Steam & Railways; Age of Steel, Electricity and Heavy Engineering; Age of Oil, the Automobile and Mass Production; and Age of Info and Telecommunications). Periodically, sell-side firms will release free cleantech/alt energy reports, which lay out their macro theses but stop short of providing stock picks to non-clients. I don't generally pay these reports too much attention as I find they rarely - if ever...

2020 Solar Investment Outlook

If you Hate Money, Don't Invest in Solar! It took the solar industry forty years to reach a cumulative global capacity of 100 gigawatts … By 2020, more than 100 gigawatts will be installed in a single year! According to a new report from the good folks over at Greentech Media, the solar industry will install a mind-blowing 135 gigawatts of solar PV projects all across the globe in less than five years. This will push the cumulative market to nearly 700 gigawatts - or about the size of all the electrical generating capacity in Europe today....

Sunset for Suntech as China Solar Target Rises

Doug Young  Sunset for Suntech. Photo by Tom Konrad More good news is coming for the rebounding solar sector with word that Beijing is accelerating its build-up of solar power plants in a bid to help the industry and also improve China’s dismal air quality. But that news is coming too late for rapidly disappearing sector pioneer Suntech (NYSE: STP), which has just announced it has formally launched a liquidation process that will end its life as an independent company. Suntech’s downbeat news isn’t really unexpected, and comes amid...

Five Pioneers Mining the Sun for Income

by Jared Wiedmeyer For the past few years, solar industry stakeholders have imagined a future where the general public has the ability to invest in pure-play renewable energy real estate investment trusts (REITs) that finance and construct both utility-scale and distributed photovoltaic (PV) projects in the United States. While these stakeholders wait for this reality to come to fruition, existing REITs already have several options to own or develop solar projects that still allow them to comply with the IRS's asset and income tests.  This past May, Chadbourne & Park's Kelly Kogan and Scott Bank moderated a roundtable with...

Schizophrenic Signals Surround Sino Solar Stocks Yingli, ReneSola And Jinko

Doug Young Bottom line: YIngli’s debt restructuring plan and ReneSola’s early debt repurchase will bring some confidence to solar shares, but pessimism will quickly return as their situations deteriorate without major signals of new government support. Shares of Yingli (NYSE: YGE) and ReneSola (NYSE: SOL) have taken investors on a wild ride these last few weeks, reflecting the alternating hopes and fears gripping 2 of the shakiest companies in a solar sector crippled by a downturn now entering its fourth year. If I were a betting man, I would say the chances are better than 80 percent...

Solar Bonds For Small Investors

By Beate Sonerud SolarCity (NASD:SCTY) is issuing US$200m of asset-linked retail bonds, with maturities ranging from 1-7 years and interest rates from 2-4%. Wells Fargo is the banking partner. While the bonds are registered,SolarCity expects the bonds to be buy and hold, and not traded in the secondary markets. The bond is issued for small-scale investors, with investment starting at US$1000, giving this bond issuance a crowdfunding aspect. Choosing such a different structure allows SolarCity to diversify their investor base – the company stresses that small-scale investors are a complement, not substitute, for large-scale institutional investors. While...

The Solar Bears are Wrong

Dana Blankenhorn There are a growing number of “solar bears” out there like Jim Chanos, a professional short-seller who is convinced China is poised for a 2008-style crash and who is also selling short stocks like First Solar (FSLR) and Vestas Wind (VWDRY.PK). (What does Chanos like? Would you believe Citibank?) (Picture from Wikipedia.) Personally, I don't know whether Chanos is right about those stocks or not. First Solar is a popular short because it's the best-performing U.S. solar play. Fly high and the assumption is you'll fall fast. But two big mistakes are being made here: ...

SunShot Grand Challenge: The SunShot Swerve

Ed Gunther Has a permanent swerve or shift downward of the PV (Photovoltaic) Learning Curve been caused by PV industry overcapacity, normalized polysilicon prices, and the aggressive SunShot goals? From SunShot Grand Challenge: The SunShot Swerve On the second day of the SunShot Grand Challenge Summit and Technology Forum, SunPower Corporation (NASDAQ:SPWR) President Emeritus Dr. Richard Swanson presented “The SunShot Swerve” providing his perspectives on where the PV industry is today and how SunShot has influenced the industry’s direction. After explaining the book that motivated the title, Dr....

PV Micro Inverters and Optimizers: Not Just for Lazy Designers

by Joseph McCabe, PE More and more solar electric installations are using AC micro inverters and DC to DC optimizer electrical balance of systems (BOS) components. This BOS gear goes directly on the back sides of PV modules providing higher valued electricity than output from the PV cells alone. Two years ago I considered micro inverters as only necessary for lazy designs or bad installation practices.  I’ve changed my attitude towards these approaches after organizing two years of forums as the American Solar Energy Society (ASES) Solar Electric Division Chairperson. These forums brought together experts who compared...

The PV Module Supply Glut

Tom Konrad CFA With project financing and plenty of photovoltaic (PV) modules, a shortage of projects with credible off-takers seems likely to lead to further falls in module prices.  How can investors best profit from this trend? PV module prices have dropped 70% since 2008, when the financial crisis sent demand tumbling, with Chinese multicrystalline silicon module prices currently as low as $1.49 per watt, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance's (BNEF) Solar Spot Survey.  In part, this was an example of “the Bubble giveth, and the Bubble taketh away.” For the three to four years ending in 2008,...
Solar Farm

List of Solar Farm Owner and Developer Stocks

Solar farm owner and developer stocks are publicly traded companies who develop or manufacture equipment that converts sunlight into other types of useful energy.  Includes manufacturers and developers of both solar photovoltaic and solar thermal equipment, as well as their supply chain. See also the list of Solar Manufacturing Stocks, the list of Residential Solar Stocks (forthcoming 6/21/18), and solar and wind inverter stocks. 7C Solarparken AG (HRPK.DE) Abengoa SA (ABG.MC, ABGOY, ABGOF) Acciona, S.A. (ANA.MC, ACXIF) Algonquin Power and Utilities (AQN, AQN.TO) Atlantica Yield PLC (AY) Bluefield Solar Income Fund (BSIF.L) Boralex (BLX.TO, BRLXF) Brookfield Renewable Energy Partners (BEP) Canadian Solar (CSIQ) Capital Stage AG (CAP.DE) Edisun Power Europe AG (ESUN.SW) Etrion...

Your Solar Panels Aren’t Facing the Wrong Way

Tom Konrad CFA Dilemma Compass photo via Bigstock Contrary to some confused bloggers, solar panels produce the most electricity over the course of a year when pointed south, not west. A recent report from the Pecan Street Research Institute started a chain of articles with increasingly inaccurate conclusions. The lemmings at Quartz, Gizmodo, and Grist, followed each other off the cliff of delusion saying that homeowners could produce more power by pointing their solar panels west, rather than south.  (UPDATE: Now even USA Today is jumping off.)  The title of...

EU Likely To Impose Sanctions On Chinese Solar Cos

Doug Young Bottom line: The latest EU anti-dumping probe into Chinese solar panels is likely to find that manufacturers violated a previous agreement, which could result in new punitive tariffs by the end of this year. In a move that will surprise to no one, the European Union has formally launched a probe into Chinese solar panel makers who are being accused by European rivals of violating a landmark agreement that averted anti-dumping tariffs. I should really stop using the word “landmark” to describe the 2013 deal between the Chinese panel makers and EU that avoided a...

US Solar: Blistering Demand v Expiry of 1603 Treasury Program

by Clean Energy Intel Despite the Solyndra affair and its aftermath in the political arena, the solar industry in the US continues to see a blistering rate of growth. At the same time, the end of year expiration of the 1603 Treasury Grant Program could have a negative affect on the financing environment for all renewables - including solar. Sources of Growth In The North American Solar Sector Source: NPD Solarbuzz North America PV Markets Quarterly report The latest survey-based data from Solarbuzz points to...