New Reports See Solar Outlook Brightening

James Montgomery Sun emerging behind saguaro by Tom Konrad Scanning the new crop of reports from IHS, NPD Solarbuzz, and Navigant, here are a few key themes that emerge: Demand Is Shifting to Asia. Global solar PV demand reached 9 GW in 3Q13, up 6 percent from the prior quarter and nearly 20 percent from a year ago, according to Solarbuzz. China's share of that 3Q demand exceeded 25 percent, compared to 10 percent just two years ago. Meanwhile, the National Energy Administration reportedly has increased its 2014 targets for...

Solar REITs Unlikely to Win Favorable IRS Ruling

by David K. Burton In early 2013, many in the solar industry appeared to be thinking that the IRS’s blessing of a solar REIT would be provided within weeks. It is now the middle of 2013, and it appears the thinking from a few months ago was at best irrational exuberance. Three events have triggered a change in perspective on solar REITs. First, Hannon Armstrong’s (NYSE:HASI) private letter ruling request as to its REIT status is now public. Prior to the ruling being made public, the industry scuttlebutt was that the ruling would bless rooftop solar as REIT...

Solar Gainers and Losers

By Harris Roen Five solar stocks announced key updates – three show improved prospects, and two warn of danger. Power REIT (PW) More Info Power REIT will acquire 100 acres of land underlying a 20 megawatt solar array to be developed. The leasee will sell electricity to Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) and Southern California Edison (SCE), which should then provide a steady income stream to PW shareholders. The stock price is up 11% for the year, in addition to a yield of 3.9%. Press release ...

Power REIT’s First Solar Deal

Tom Konrad The 5.7 MW Solar Farm in Salisbury, MA is the largest solar farm in New England. The land under if was purchased by Power REIT (NYSE:PW) in December. Photo source: Power REIT I first wrote about Power REIT’s (NYSE:PW) plans to invest in renewable energy real estate in May 2012.  The intent was to buy the real estate underlying a solar, wind, or other renewable energy project, charging the project owners rent.  This can be done profitably because REITs often have a lower cost of capital...

What Does 2013 Hold for Solar? Predictions From Four Green Money Managers

Tom Konrad What will the New Year hold for Clean Energy?   For the people who manage clean energy portfolios, mutual funds, and indexes the question is more than idle curiosity.  Getting the answer right means finding the stocks which will put a shine on your solar portfolio’s returns.  Getting it wrong means the competition will blow away your wind stocks. I asked my network of green money managers what they thought, and they gave me a lot more than I expected.  This is the start of a series on the predictions and stock picks from my...

Report: Solar and Geothermal Projects Have Over 10% Returns, But Finance Remains Difficult

Ryan Hubbell Despite healthy expected returns, finance-related challenges remain the largest barriers to renewable energy development, according to NREL's Renewable Energy Finance Tracking Initiative (REFTI). Two recently released reports on solar and geothermal technologies show greater than 10% expected returns for both developers and tax equity investors. Yet roughly half of both geothermal and solar respondents (350 in total) reported financial issues (project economics, PPAs, creditworthiness, and raising capital) as the largest barriers to development. In light of this, only 11%-13% of respondents reported abandoning their projects. Figure 1. Expected returns...

Siemens Bows Out of Solar, Announces Renewed Focus on Wind and Hydro Power

Vince Font Siemiens wind turbines at the Gunfleet Sands Offshore Wind Farm 4 km from Gunfleet Sand, Essex, Great Britain. Siemens AG is selling its solar business, and will focus its renewable energy efforts on hydro power and wind energy.  Siemens is an established “clear market leader for offshore wind power” according to Managing Board member Michael Süß.  Photo credit: Ashley Dace Citing slow growth, low profit and high cost, Siemens AG (NYSE:SI) announced that it would be selling its solar energy business as part of...

The Next Trend: Integrating PV with Solar Thermal

Tom Konrad CFA The Once Bright Future of CSP Solúcar PS10 solar tower. Photo by afloresm via Flickr Since before I started writing about investing in clean energy in 2006, I’ve been fascinated by Concentrating Solar Thermal Power (CSP.)  CSP held the promise of much cheaper energy than was then available from photovoltiac (PV) solar, combined with thermal storage, which eliminated the variability problems of PV.  Unlike other renewable energy able to produce baseload power (geothermal, biomass, and hydro), CSP is scaleable: The solar resource in areas...

A Solar Light at the End of the Tunnel…

...but it may take another year to get there by Clean Energy Intel Light at the End of the Tunnel photo via BigStock Suntech Power’s (STP) first quarter earnings report provided some supportive insight into the process of consolidation currently underway in the solar industry. The financial numbers were of course less than constructive, though much as expected as pricing pressures continue to make life difficult for the sector. Perhaps of more interest were the company’s insights into the inroads...

Tariffs on Chinese Solar Are Bad for Us All

Garvin Jabusch Trade War photo via Bigstock The United States Department of Commerce Thursday, and of all things at the behest of a German-owned company, SolarWorld AG (SRWRF.PK), imposed extreme tariffs on China-made solar panels and modules of between 31% and 250%, making them much less affordable for U.S. consumers. Commerce took the additional extraordinary step of making the tariffs retroactive for 90 days to prevent U.S businesses and homeowners from getting a decent price on the basis that their local...

SolarCity Files for IPO under Cloak of Secrecy

Debra Fiakas CFA Image by Olga Palma via Wikimedia Commons On the first word of an initial public offering investors flock to the Securities Exchange Commission website to get financial details on the heretofore private company.  Earlier this week solar energy solutions provider SolarCity Corporation announced its IPO plans, but investors will have to wait a while to get a look behind the SolarCity curtain.  The company is among the first to take advantage of a new “confidential” registration for emerging growth companies. The process...

Big Solar Out; Distributed Solar In: Brightsource & Solar City IPOs

Jennifer Runyon On the heels of Brightsource Energy's announcement last month that it was canceling its plans to go public, SolarCity on Monday announced that it plans to conduct a registered initial public offering (IPO) of its common stock. The IPO will begin after the Securities and Exchange Commission completes the review process that SolarCity initiated on April 26. No further information about the IPO such as when and at what price shares will be available is available at this time. SolarCity has been in the residential solar PV leasing space since 2006 and...

Next Move After the Solar Sell-off

As the solar industry struggles to reduce costs, it stands to reason that the more successful in the group will turn to lower-cost solar concentrating technologies - even as simple as such technology might seem in comparison to solar cells. It makes sense to include solar concentration properties like patent-rich Opel Technologies in a solar portfolio.

Here comes the sun….not

Marc Gunther   Germany, once the world’s leading market for solar power, is pulling back its subsidies. Q Cells (QCLSF.PK), once the world’s largest solar company, just went bankrupt. This isn’t happy news. If the country that birthed the Green Party cannot sustain its support for solar, what does that tell the rest of us? It should tell us that it’s time (actually way past time) to get serious about energy and climate policy. This week, as I followed the news from Germany, I talked with a couple of energy-policy experts who I respect–Jesse Jenkins of the...

Solar ETFs Breaking Support

Steve Sollheiser KWT Breaks Support There is very interesting price-action in the Market Vectors Solar Energy ETF (KWT) in the last trading day. We can see that price has closed below the support level of $3.40 which is a bearish signal. We can also see that the breakout price was touching an ascending resistance line twice - which creates this a Descending Broadening chart pattern. We would expect price to continue downwards with target at approximately $2.00. If price opens above the level it will be a sign that the support...

Solar Struggles Continue: Q-Cells to File for Bankruptcy

Steve Leone Germany's Q-Cells, a solar industry giant that helped usher in a new era of solar energy, announced Monday that it will file for bankruptcy, but that it will continue to work to restructure. In a statement released by the company, “the Executive Board and the preliminary insolvency administrator will work together to secure the continuity of the company within the insolvency proceedings.” The move follows an unrelated higher court ruling on Friday that Q-Cells says limits its ability to move ahead with a debt restructuring plan. The filing is the most prominent to date in...