This Week in Solar
After weeks of being in the dumps, this week solar stocks finally recovered some of their losses late this week. First Solar (NAS: FSLR) , SunPower, and even Chinese manufacturers JA Solar (NAS: JASO) and LDK Solar (NYS: LDK) jumped yesterday on the mere mention that President Obama will remain committed to renewable energy in the United States.
But that wasn't the only news out of the industry this week. Here are some of the highlights.
SunPower breaks headlines
U.S.-based efficiency leader SunPower broke a number of stories this week, including the sale of the 250 MW California Valley Solar Ranch project to NRG Energy (NYS: NRG) . The project received a loan guarantee from the Department of Energy late last week, and construction will begin later this month. It will also guarantee that a large portion of SunPower's module production has a place it can call home.
In addition, the company signed a new two-year revolving credit facility for $275 million and has a new standby credit agreement for $200 million for utility-scale solar-plant developments. As part of the same release, however, SunPower slipped in a line about revising 2011 revenue and the earnings outlook on the company's third-quarter conference call on Nov. 3. The stock predictably took a hit when that news came out, but are solar buffs really that surprised?
In somewhat smaller news, SunPower said the 25 MW McHenry Solar Farm in Modesto, Calif., received final approval from the county, and it expects to begin construction by the end of the year. Construction was also completed on a solar-power system on the headquarters of Patagonia.
AC to DC in Canada
Satcon Technology (NAS: SATC) was chosen as the inverter supplier for the second-largest solar plant in North America. The 40 MW order from Q-Cells North America is for eight 1.25 MW Equinox Prism Platforms and 24 1.25 MW Solstice Prism Platfoms, completing a 60 MW project.
Satcon is trying to make continued strides in the solar-inverter market that has yet to be taken over by established players like Power-One (NAS: PWER) .
The biggest solar project, for now
Canadian Solar (NAS: CSIQ) has supplied 148 MW, or 636,000 solar modules to the world's largest solar project in Brandenburg, Germany, which was recently completed. The plant won't be the world's largest for long, but the milestone is worth noting nonetheless.
It's also positive to see utility-scale projects in Germany still taking shape after changes to the country's feed-in tariffs. Rooftop solar is paid a higher rate than utility-scale solar power in Germany and Italy, so the conventional wisdom has been that rooftop projects will be much more prevalent going forward than large utility-scale projects.
Garbage and solar
It's not the prettiest marriage, but solar power is starting to be used on landfills using Energy Conversion Devices subsidiary Uni-Solar's flexible thin-film modules.
Landfills are being looked at as a great way to produce cheap energy from otherwise unused land by installing solar panels and by capturing methane gas at the sites. Any energy we can get from garbage is an added bonus to this Fool.
Solar bottom line
There have been a number of factors pressuring solar stocks, including falling module prices, crashing oil prices, and bankruptcies in the industry. But life has gone on, and in the long run the solar industry will be fine. We're about a month away from manufacturers' earnings announcements, and at that time we'll see just how bad the third quarter was (or wasn't) and how feed-in tariff changes in Germany, Italy, China, and other countries will affect demand in the future.
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At the time this article was published Fool contributorTravis Hoiumowns shares of First Solar and SunPower. You can follow Travis on Twitter at@FlushDrawFool, check out hispersonal stock holdings, or follow his CAPS picks atTMFFlushDraw.The Motley Fool owns shares of Power-One and First Solar.Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave recommended buying shares of First Solar. Try any of our Foolish newsletter servicesfree for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe thatconsidering a diverse range of insightsmakes us better investors. The Motley Fool has adisclosure policy.
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