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...

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...