More Pain Ahead for Solar Stocks

Tom Konrad CFA Clean Edge's Clean Energy Trends 2012 contains some disturbing predictions for solar stock investors. Clean Energy Trends 2012, the annual report from Clean Edge by Ron Pernick, Clint Wilder, and Trevor Winnie, was released today. On the surface, it seems like good news for the solar sector.  Although headlines in 2011 featured much bad press for Solar PV, the industry has not been "withering on the vine." Here are some key points in the report:   Combined global revenue for PV increased from $71.2 billion in 2010 to $91.6 billion...

Buffet Bet Comes Out for Solar

by Sean Kidney Warren Buffet is a famous proponent of value investing and he surely received a sign of the value in solar investments over fossil fuels last week. The MidAmerican Energy $850m Topaz solar project bond we mentioned a couple of weeks ago was so successful that a second tranche is expected to cover the remaining debt of the project. The offer was oversubscribed by $400m which would have mopped up the total $1.2bn of debt in the project; Buffet's Berkshire Hathaway (BRK-A) controls MidAmerican. In contrast, Buffet’s investment in $2bn of bonds from gas company...

Solar Stocks Double from Lows

L. Myron Clark A two-day surge on Feb. 8-9 took at least thirteen solar energy stocks more than twice their recent lows.  These names represent about half the publicly traded companies in the industry (on an unweighted basis).  The "two-bagger" stocks follow somewhat different patterns, as indicated in the two graphs below.  Several of them hit their 52-week lows in late September or early October 2011, close to the bottom in the broad market.  Those lows ranged from 80% (YGE) to 86% (JKS) below the respective 52-week highs.  The companies include: Jinkosolar Holding Co (JKS), ...

Developments in the Solar Corporate Bond Market

by Corporate Bonder The global bond market is huge. Data from the Bank for International Settlements shows that the total size of the global debt securities market (domestic and international securities) was $99.5 trillion as at June 2011, of which $89.9 trillion were notes and bonds. Governments accounted for $43.7 trillion of outstanding debt securities, financial organizations $43.8 trillion, corporations $11.0 trillion and international organizations $1.0 trillion. Against that, Bloomberg has estimated that there are $230bn outstanding of fixed-interest securities that meet their “green bonds” definition. And of course the IEA talks of $1 trillion of investment a...

Dark Clouds Threaten German Clean Energy Ambitions

John Petersen During the fourteen years that I've lived in Switzerland, the Germans have been the world's staunchest supporters of green power and alternative energy. Their aggressive development of wind power was breathtaking, as was their warm embrace of photovoltaic power. Over the last few weeks, however, there has been an ominous change in the mainstream German media's tone as the political class finally comes to grips with the unpleasant reality that rooftop solar panels are worthless on short, grey winter days and "For weeks now, the 1.1 million solar power systems in Germany have generated almost no...

Solar: One Chart That Highlights The Adjustment In The Industry

by Clean Energy Intel Source: NPD SolarBuzz, SolarBuzz Quarterly. New survey-based data from SolarBuzz points very clearly to a very much needed ongoing adjustment to manufacturers planned module shipments. The chart above illustrates the issue very succinctly. In SolarBuzz´s survey conducted in Q2 of the current year, manufacturers were still planning on shipping just over 8 GW of modules in Q3 of this year and almost 9 GW in Q4. The somewhat obvious result was oversupply, a continued inventory build and falling module prices. However, in the latest...

Buffett Buys Into Another Solar Project – Expect More To Follow

by Clean Energy Intel Warren Buffett-controlled MidAmerican Energy Holdings on Friday acquired an interest in a second solar project. In the latest deal, the company has acquired 49% of NRG Energy´s $1.8bn Agua Caliente project.This follows the company´s acquisition of 100% of First Solar´s $2bn Topaz Solar Farm less than two weeks ago. As was the case with the first Topaz deal, we know little of the arithmetic faced by MidAmerican holdings in this latest agreement. However, what we do know is the following - Agua Caliente is a $1.8bn project owned by NRG Energy (NRG) in Yuma...

Cheap Photovoltaics Are Eating Solar Thermal’s Lunch

Tom Konrad CFA The falling price of photovoltaic (PV) solar is undermining the case for Concentrated Solar Thermal Power (CSP).  According to a recent report from Pike Research, of the 6886 MW of CSP projects awarded in the United States since 2004, 36% have been replaced with PV.  That's more than the number which are actually under construction (1,532 MW, or 21% of announced projects), and all of those required the backing of the US DOE loan guarantee program. With this recent track record, and no ...

The Pending Solar Apocalypse Not!

Garvin Jabusch The hysterics around recent solar industry announcements that in general profit margins are narrowing are, as usual with all things solar recently, completely overblown. "Is This A Death Spiral for Solar Companies?" might be my favorite histrionic headline. Artist's depiction of death spiral in binary star system J0806 with two white dwarfs destined to merge.  Image Source: NASA/Tod Strohmayer (GSFC)/Dana Berry (Chandra X-Ray Observatory)   Yes, narrowing margins are making life difficult for smaller, higher cost producers. But this is and has always been a standard part of the evolution...

Politics Likely to Continue to Cast Shadow Over Solar

by Clean Energy Intel Solar stocks have clearly been heavily affected by the political fall out following the Solyndra affair - and unfortunately the political debacle only looks likely to get worse. The Hill now reports that the Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee are deeply focused on attempting to prove that the Obama Administration broke the law in restructuring the $535m loan guarantee it had granted to Solyndra. Clearly, this is largely politically motivated and as such is only likely to remain so as we move deeper into the election season. However, from an...

Solar: DoE Ends Loan Guarantee Program with Final $4.7bn in Approvals

by Clean Energy Intel This past Friday, the 30th September, was the final day for approvals under the Department of Energy's 1705 Loan Guarantee Program. This was of course set up as part of the 2009 stimulus law and extended an existing Energy Department loan guarantee program. Activity at the DoE under the program has also now of course become a highly political issue in the aftermath of the move by Solyndra into Chapter 11 - leaving the program exposed on its $535m loan guarantee, extended to the company in September of 2009. In...

Inverter Stocks: A Value BOS Play on Solar

Tom Konrad CFA Think low solar panel prices drive a renewed boom in solar installations? Consider inverter companies as a way to play it. I don't usually follow solar stocks because I think solar is just a little too cool, and the space is too well covered by other analysts for me to feel like I can offer new insights.  Nevertheless, the sharp decline in solar stocks this year has been tempting me to dip my toe in the golden stuff.  Since I'm no solar stock expert, I've...

Rough Patch For Owners of Solar Stocks

Mark Henwood This sector defines investment risk.   Not only has Evergreen Solar, Inc.   filed for bankruptcy, investors in another high visibility solar developer have been saddled with a 72% loss over the last week.   In a massive shift that has to shake confidence in the company, Germany’s Solar Millennium AG announced on Thursday said it will convert the first 500 megawatts of its 1,000 MW Blythe solar power plant in the Mojave desert to PV. It will decide what technology to use for the second half of the project at a later date.  Nor has it...

Saviors and Saboteurs in Alternative Energy

John Petersen Last week Societe Generale published a thematic research report titled "A new world order, when demand overtakes supply" which examines the macro-economic and demographic trends that will transform the global economy over the next 20 years. It mirrored the theme of Jeremy Grantham's April 2011 quarterly letter titled "Time to Wake Up: Days of Abundant Resources and Falling Prices Are Over Forever" and did a great job of summarizing an issue I touched on in "How PHEVs and EVs Will Sabotage America's Drive For Energy Independence." In the words of Societe Generale: "So, while...

Wall Street’s Irrational, Dangerous Hatred of Solar Stocks

Garvin Jabusch For most of 2011, the stocks of solar power companies of all kinds, from providers of raw polysilicon to developers of finished utility scale plants, have been taking a beating on world and U.S. stock markets, partly because solar has been the industry most singled out for attack by bearish short sellers. I can’t describe this phenomenon any better than did Roberto Pedone in a recent column for thestreet.com: Besides the banking sector post-2008 financial crisis, I can't think of a group that's as hated and despised as solar stocks…For whatever reason, this entire complex...

Saudi Arabia to Become the Saudi Arabia of Solar Electricity

by Garvin Jabusch A couple days ago Bloomberg reported the following: "Saudi Arabia plans to generate solar electricity equaling the amount of its energy from crude exports, Oil Minister Ali Al-Naimi said." Wait, what? That sounds like a ridiculous quantity of solar electricity. The article doesn't say quantitatively how much energy that is, so I did a quick check. Saudi Arabia exports about 2.7 billion barrels of oil per year, each containing the equivalent of 1,700 Kilowatt hours of electricity for a total of 4.59 × 1012 KwH per year, or the equal of about one quarter or the...