Solar Stocks Are On Fire


Yesterday was the second day in a week that solar stocks performed their own solar flare and this Fool is starting to see sunspots. First Solar (NAS: FSLR) , LDK Solar (NYS: LDK) , and Suntech Power (NYS: STP) all jumped more than 10% after the EU "solved" its debt problems for the time being. But there's more than an agreement and write down in Greece's debt driving solar higher.

It's not Europe, it's Germany
Germany, solar's most important market, recently announced they would be lowering feed-in tariff rates by 15% next year. That might not sound like something that would drive solar stocks higher but Germany said that 5.2 gigawatts have been installed through Sept. 30, and there will likely be a flood of new solar installed between now and the end of the year before the reduction hits.

Germany has the ability to ramp up installations faster than any other country, and with a big feed-in tariff reduction on the horizon installers will be working overtime. That's great in the short-term as everyone from Trina Solar (NYS: TSL) and Yingli Green Energy (NYS: YGE) in China to SunPower (NAS: SPWRA) in the U.S. grapple with weak demand.

But what's good today may not be good tomorrow. I've applauded Germany's transparent and pre-scheduled feed-in tariff reductions based on installation levels, but this could hurt in 2012. If installations fall off a cliff in Q1 2012 like they did in Q2 and Q3 of this year, then we could see another up and down reaction from the market. But maybe I should just be happy that the short-term doesn't look as disastrous as it could be?

Of course, it could be the case that Chinese manufacturers continue dumping modules at dirt cheap prices and Germany continues to install massive amounts of solar next year.

Hanging on for dear life
This week has shown just how wildly the market can react to any news about the solar industry. When First Solar's CEO was let go the stock crashed, only to recover most of what it lost in the next two days partly because the company released decent earnings a week early.

The bottom line for investors in solar is that opportunities are out there if you're willing to understand the risks and wait out the storms these stocks go through. SunPower has long been my top pick and with uncertainty at First Solar, and Chinese manufacturers fighting each other to stay alive, that pick holds true today.

For those patient enough to invest in the rough times, it's weeks like this, when solar stocks catch fire, that make it all worth it.

At the time thisarticle was published Fool contributor Travis Hoium owns shares of First Solar and SunPower. You can follow Travis on Twitter at @FlushDrawFool, check out his personal stock holdings or follow his CAPS picks at TMFFlushDraw.The Motley Fool owns shares of First Solar. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of First Solar. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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