Friday, February 27, 2009

Solar Stocks Update: One Stock Stands Out

Most down but better than last week

Again, the stimulus bill signed last week which included about $80 billion in incentives and benefits for the solar industry. In fact, February 17 quite likely was the best day for the American PV industry in history. So solar stocks caught fire, right? Wrong. The 20 stocks in this index went down an average 19.38%. There's always next week, right?

This week, at a combined 7.43% down, obviously was a little better. Maybe investors are beginning to see the (sun)light; that renewable energy companies will not only create more jobs but will slow electricity rate hikes while reducing GHG emissions. Or maybe it's because spring is just a month away and the prospect of sunnier days get more people thinking solar. (This blogger always more PV installations during the baseball season when air conditioning can make electricity bills look like mortgage payments.) Or maybe it's because banking stocks are super dicey and U.S. auto stocks look even worse.

Through it all, one solar-related stock stands out: MEMC. This company started as a venture by the old Monsanto chemical conglomerate in St. Louis in 1959 becoming the Monsanto Electronic Materials Company. Today MEMC produces high-grade silicon wafers at nine facilities in all the major semiconductor markets in the world including Japan, Taiwan, Malaysia, Korea, Europe and the U.S. Their new line of 300mm silicon wafers (about 12" diameter) could become extra large solar cells. If that's the intention, the cost of PV modules for large-scale installations could go down considerably. All solar stocks are down from the January 5 close of trading and the beginning of this index but MEMC has only dropped 5% in the time, the least of all 20.

It is not the intention of this index to recommend or detract from any stock listed. However, crystalline cells still run the world's electronics and convert sunlight to energy. A well-entrenched, well-distributed chip manufacturer with an active R&D arm, MEMC, is at least a brighter spot in today's PV market.

Week of February 23-27, 2009

Monday OpenFriday CloseUp/Down% ChangeClose 1/5/09
Dow Jones DJIA7365.677062.93-302.74-4.12%8952.89

Akeena Solar AKNS1.471.06-.41-27.902.28
Amtel Systems ASYS3.012.96-.05-1.634.00
Applied Materials AMAT8.769.21+.45+5.1310.67
Canadian Solar CSIQ4.203.59-.61-14.537.00
ECD (UniSolar) ENER24.6221.93-2.69-10.9329.33
Entech Solar ENSL.OB.272.2602-.0118.-4.44.28
Evergreen Solar ESLR1.301.22-.08-6.163.60
First Solar FSLR134.01105.74-28.27-21.10157.80
GT Solar Int. SOLR4.224.27+.05+1.184.00
JA Solar JASO2.272.03-.24-10.595.09
Kyocera KYO61.3457.80-3.44-5.7871.87
LDK Solar LDK6.125.12-1.00-16.3414.84
MEMC Elect. WFR13.7515.01+1.26+9.1615.76
Renesola SOL2.372.42+.05+2.105.15
Satcon SATC1.191.19NCNC1.60
SolarFun SOLF2.972.99+.02+.0066.12
SunPower SPWRA30.9227.89-3.03-9.8045.13
SunTech STP6.866.09-.77-11.3313.55
Trina Solar TSL7.496.54-.95-12.6910.09
Yingli YGE4.073.89-.18-4.437.25
Percent change all 20 stocks this week:



Thursday, February 26, 2009

Solar Rebate Reservations Down Slightly in SD

Still too early to show
2009 trend

Katrina Perez, non-residential program manager for the CA Solar Initiative in San Diego (SDGE area), was asked by Solar Advice for Free to compare the beginning of 2009 to 2008 for reserving rebates for solar installations other than residential. Although little data is available, applications were down just 11% from last year.

"In a comparison of Jan & Feb of 2008 to Jan & Feb of 2009 - nine applications [were submitted] in January and the first half February 2008 compared to eight in 2009 [for the same period], an 11% decrease," said Perez, a staffer at the CA Center for Sustainable Energy. She also said the last quarter of '08 CCSE saw just ten applications submitted. "The number of applications that are received in the Non-res sector has been sporadic in the past 2 years," she added. Adjacent graphs show non-residential rebate activity (SDGE territory) since the CSI began January, 2007. (Click for larger images.)

As of today, issued non-residential rebate reservation letters from CCSE amount to 1.26MW worth of projects; only 9.8% of the 12.87MW available in Step 5 of the CSI declining rebate schedule. An anemic 120kW of rebate applications are presently under review at CCSE. (See CSI Statewide Trigger Point Tracker at

California trails only Germany and Japan in total photovoltaic installations, economic uncertainty and tight credit are influencing decisions to go solar. It's also much too early to tell what the new stimulus package--including about $80 billion in solar incentives--is having on the industry. If solar stocks are any indication, it's not a pretty picture.


Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Bulletin: Solar Stock Index Up 12.35% Today

After another mournful Monday on the Dow and NASDAQ both were up at day's end Tuesday. The DJIA gained 236.16 or 3.32%; the NASDAQ was up 54.11 or 3.9%. All but one company, Entech Solar, in this blog's 20 select solar stocks index was down if only by a cent. Overall increase was 12.35%.

Top gainers were Evergreen Solar (ESLR) at 21.01% up; Renesola (SOL), 18.86 up; and SolarFun at 15.4% up. In a conversation with a major panel manufacturer this morning, some large orders are coming in for spring delivery. After the bloodbath of the past two weeks, maybe traders simply saw pricing as too good to pass up.

Overall, tech stocks did well after the pounding sell-off yesterday. Banking stocks also rallied--if only for the day--on comments made by Federal Reserve Chairman Bernanke.

"I don't see any reason to destroy the franchise value or to create the huge legal uncertainties of trying to formally nationalize a bank when that just isn't necessary," Bernanke stated before the Senate Banking Committee.

Two major banks most eyed for possible nationalization were both up. Bank of America climbed 82 cents a share to $4.73, 21% up. Citigroup closed 46 cents up to $2.60, 22% up.

More good news came from Home Depot which had higher-than-expected fourth-quarter earnings which likely raised investor's hopes on consumer spending. Home Depot went up $1.96 a share today, a 10% boost.


Friday, February 20, 2009

Solar Stock Update: Go Figure...

Dow at lowest since October '02

On Tuesday President Obama signed the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act and the DJIA drops 298 points, the NASDAQ 64. The Dow lost 485 points for the week, the worst in over six years. Even for those who look at the stock market as just one barometer of the U.S. economy, it's not a pretty picture. The solar industry got a whopping $80 billion in combined benefits in the stimulus package so they must have done okay, right? 'Fraid not. All but two stocks in this index were down; an average decline of 6.87% on Tuesday alone. If that wasn't enough all 20 stocks were down an average 19.38% for the week. Go figure.

Word on the (Wall) street says talk of Bank of America and CitiGroup being nationalized has put a chink in investor confidence. Now talk about BofA head Ken Lewis's being subpoenaed by NY Atty. Gen. Andrew Cuomo about the Merrill Lynch acquisition last fall is a reason for today's funky stock market showing, i.e. down again. (Wasn't Lewis on 60 Minutes in December talking about BofA's great market position?) Add to that continuing crappy home sales and GM's verging on bankruptcy (scratching EVs for Hummers? Real smart.) exacerbates the downer mood.

Maybe the mainstreaming of solar stocks--which the PV industry always wanted--is not such a good thing anymore. If investors are sour on stocks generally then solar stocks are likely lumped in with the rest. But solar has to become a good investment on the roof and in a portfolio before very long. As more solar projects fall into place this spring and summer (and it's already starting), solar stock prices must logically do an about face. But let's face it: Had their been any uniform financial logic over the past eight years we wouldn't be in this mess.

Week of February 17-20

Tuesday Open Friday Close Up/Down % Change Close 1/5/09
Dow Jones DJIA 7850.41 7365.67 -484.74 -6.18% 8952.89
NASDAQ 1534.36 1441.23 -93.13 -6.07 1628.03

Akeena Solar AKNS 1.81 1.47 -.34 -18.79 2.28
Amtel Systems ASYS 3.38 3.01 -.34 -18.79 4.00
Applied Materials AMAT 9.51 8.76 -.75 -7.89 10.67
Canadian Solar CSIQ 5.00 4.20 -.80 -16.00 7.00
ECD (UniSolar) ENER 28.95 24.62 -4.33 -16.96 29.33
Entech Solar ENSL.OB .35 .272 -.078 -32.29 .28
Evergreen Solar ESLR 1.66 1.30 -.36 -21.69 3.60
First Solar FSLR 144.45 134.01 -10.44 -7.33 157.80
GT Solar Int. SOLR 5.13 4.22 -.91 -17.44 4.00
JA Solar JASO 2.66 2.27 -.39 -16.67 5.09
Kyocera KYO 64.00 61.34 -2.66 -4.16 71.87
LDK Solar LDK 10.65 6.12 -4.53 -42.54 14.84
MEMC Elect. WFR 16.11 13.75 2.36 -14.65 15.76
Renesola SOL 3.58 2.37 -.39 -16.67 5.15
Satcon SATC 1.28 1.19 -.09 -7.04 1.60
SolarFun SOLF 4.53 2.97 -1.56 -34.44 6.12
SunPower SPWRA 35.00 30.92 -4.08 -11.66 45.13
SunTech STP 9.46 6.86 -2.60 -31.49 13.55
Trina Solar TSL 8.54 7.49 -1.05 -12.30 10.09
Yingli YGE 5.76 4.07 -1.69 -29.35 7.25
Percent change all 20 stocks this week:



Monday, February 16, 2009

Near Signing, Stimulus Burns Bright for Solar

(Much of the information in this post is reported in "US House & Senate agree to US$787B package; good news for solar industry" by Patricia Johnson in Feb. 16, 2009)

When President Obama signs the so-called American Recovery and Reinvestment Act tomorrow in Denver, he will be signing into law the single most expansive economic rescue package since the Great Depression, even after cuts to the legislation. The final $787 billion bill, being signed within the his first 30 days in office, likely could be the biggest piece of legislation President Obama will ever sign. Indeed, it would be a heady moment for any president.

Better yet, the final act gives many reasons for the solar power industry to be pleased.

The bill includes about $6 billion in loan guarantees for renewable energy project, mostly solar. PV industry estimates some 67,000 jobs will be created in 2009 and 119,000 more over the next two years.

Many solar/wind advocates, including this writer, have groused for years about the federal government's favoring coal, natural gas and nuclear power electricity producers. Coal has been favored because it simply produces power the cheapest; natural gas because it's relatively plentiful and burns cleaner; and nuclear power because it's supposedly cheap and non polluting. In reality, coal-fired power plants are the single-most polluting source of greenhouse gas emissions; natural gas, although cleaner burning, is still the bastard gas of fossil fuels and emits GHGs when burned; and nuclear power has never been "too cheap to meter" as it was once touted and nuclear waste is still a chronic problem. But PV panel manufacturers have been forced to make it on their own in the uneven power market.

Until now.

The stimulus package creates a new 30% tax credit for facilities and equipment used to manufacture renewable energy-generating components, such as solar panels. Finally, the actual makers--not just the end-users--get an break.

It gets better. Taxpayers purchasing PV systems can redeem the 30% tax credit as a cash grant if they do not have a sufficient tax liability to offset. Furthermore, the tax penalty for subsidized energy financing will be repealed.

Finally, the stimulus commits $11 billion to new technologies contributing to a more efficient energy grid, the "smart grid"; $6.3 billion for energy efficiency and conservation grants; and $2.5 billion to fund energy efficiency and renewable energy research.


Friday, February 13, 2009

Solar Stock Update: Close to Dow

Stimulus ambivalence...

The Dow dropped 430.46 points since the end of trading Monday, 5.2% down. The techy NASDAQ was less drab with a 62.2 point drop; 3.6% off since Monday. All but four solar stocks dropped this week averaging 5.41% down for all twenty in this index.

It seems the country is ambivalent about the economic stimulus as it's been hammered, chewed and emasculated by the Republicans who appear as though they won last November. Obama's bipartisan reach has been a failure but not from lack of effort. The Dems finally must realize the GOP sees bipartisanship as compromise and compromise implies weakness, a perception they used ruthlessly when they actually did control Congress awhile back. If Repubs feel they were left out of the stimulus planning--as they questionably claim--their tactics could totally backfire. The Dems might re-realize it was they who won big last November and rightfully assert themselves. But then, probably not.

Week of: February 9-13, 2009

Monday Friday Up/Down % Change
Dow Jones DJIA 8280.87 7850.41 -430.46 -5.20
NASDAQ 1591.56 1534.36 -62.20 -3.60

Akeena Solar AKNS 1.82 1.81 -.01 -.55
Amtel Systems ASYS 4.199 3.38 -.819 -20.51
Applied Materials AMAT 10.20 9.51 -.69 -6.77
Canadian Solar CSIQ 5.58 5.00 -.58 -10.40
ECD (UniSolar) ENER 28.16 28.95 +.79 +2.80
Entech Solar ENSL.OB .33 .35 +.02 +6.06
Evergreen Solar ESLR 1.77 1.66 -.11 -6.22
First Solar FSLR 148.94 144.45 -4.49 -3.02
GT Solar Int. SOLR 5.50 5.13 -.37 -6.73
JA Solar JASO 2.99 2.66 -.33 -11.04
Kyocera KYO 68.40 64.00 -4.40 -6.44
LDK Solar LDK 11.15 10.65 -.50 -4.49
MEMC Elect. WFR 15.65 16.11 +.46 +2.93
Renesola SOL 4.00 3.58 -.42 -10.50
Satcon SATC 1.32 1.28 -.04 -3.04
SolarFun SOLF 5.07 4.53 -.54 -10.66
SunPower SPWRA 35.94 35.00 -.94 -2.62
SunTech STP 10.14 9.46 -.68 -6.71
Trina Solar TSL 8.35 8.54 +.19 +2.27
Yingli YGE 5.98 5.76 -.22 -3.68
Percent change all 20 stocks this week:



Monday, February 9, 2009

Stimulus Update: Solar Still Positioned Well

The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) distributed an email update to members today concerning solar power in the national economic stimulus bill. The message continues to bode well for solar power although final legislation is still pending.

It was just last fall that SEIA and all of us in the "trenches" were groveling just to get the federal solar tax credit through Congress and the White House. Now, partly because the industry can create many green--and non-exportable--jobs fast, solar may reap several stimuli in the new legislation. These include:

The DOE Grant Program: This grant program (options to take a 30% cash grant in lieu of the tax credit) currently is not in the Senate version but it could be preserved during joint conference negotiations. SEIA is also pushing the grant program for utility-scale projects over 25MW for PV and 10MW for solar thermal.

A 30-Year PPA: SEIA is recommending the federal government to enter into 30-Year power purchase agreements to secure good long-term for solar on federal buildings and land. Neither house includes this in their bills but it could gain traction in joint conferencing.

Repeal Subsidized Energy Financing: Both House and Senate versions repeal a penalty for subsidized (rebate or state tax credit) so homeowners and businesses qualify for the full federal tax credit.

Home Water Heating: Both versions lift the $2000 tax cap on residential solar water heating systems.

Loan Guarantee Program: The new loan guarantee program is a vast improvement over the present Title XVII that could ideally include a program for "new or significantly improved" renewable energy products using advanced solar technology.

Government Procurement: Both bills include funds to increase installations of government buildings.

Altogether, if House-Senate conferences preserve key solar provisions, some 67,000 jobs and 1GW of solar power avoiding a million tons of greenhouse gases would be achieved in 2009 alone. Next year, the industry would create 119,000 jobs adding 2GW of solar power and avoiding 3.2 million tons of carbon emissions.

The Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee and the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming both are working on bills aimed at instituting a national renewable electricity standard.


Friday, February 6, 2009

Solar Stock Update: Upbeat

17 out of 20 are up!

The first week of February was favorable to 17 of the 20 solar stocks in this index. A couple of reasons could account for this. Projects planned last year but were postponed until the federal solar tax credit was renewed are now completing contracts. Also, investors might be encouraged from what appears a strong possibility the economic stimulus now being finalized by the Senate includes a 30% cash grant option in lieu of the 30% solar tax credit now in effect. With fewer tax-equity investors (and business owners with lower tax liabilities due to a down economy) the cash grant could jump-start solar projects that otherwise would not make financial sense (see previous post below). We'll know for sure any time now.

Of course, these gains could disappear in a day next week but any good news is worth savoring this winter.

Week of: February 2-6, 2009

Symbol/Name Monday Friday +/- % Change

DJIA/Dow Jones 7936.75 8280.59 +343.84 +4.33%

NASDAQ 1494.43 1591.71 +97.28 +6.50%

Akeena Solar AKNS 1.92 1.79 -.13 -6.78%

Amtel Systems ASYS 4.07 4.22 +.15 +3.68

Applied Mat. AMAT 9.41 10.45 +1.04 +11.05%

Canadian Solar CSIQ 5.06 5.34 +.28 +5.53

ECD (UniSolar) ENER 23.96 25.73 +1.77 +7.38%

Entech (WW) ENSL.OB .365 .38 +.015 +4.10%

Evergreen Solr ESLR 2.07 1.91 -.16 +7.73%

First Solar FSLR 138.27 146.30 +8.03 +5.80%

GT Solar Int. SOLR 3.34 5.27 +1.93 +57.78%

JA Solar JASO 2.48 2.77 +.29 +11.69%

Kyocera KYO 64.92 69.08 +4.16 +6.40%

LDK Solar LDK 11.25 10.63 -.62 +5.52%

MEMC Elect. WFR 13.04 15.54 +2.50 +19.17%

Renesola SOL 3.52 3.83 +.31 +8.80%

Satcon SATC 1.35 1.32 -.03 -2.23%

SolarFun SOLF 4.64 4.86 +.22 +4.74%

SunPower SPWRA 31.88 35.64 +3.76 +11.79%

SunTech STP 8.96 9.90 +.94 +10.49%

Trina Solar TSL 7.74 7.74 0 0

Yingli YGE 4.99 5.79 +.80 +16.03

Average % change for all solar stocks this week: +9.09%

NOTE: All above stocks have market capitization of $100M+ except Akeena Solar, Amtel Systems and Entech Solar. This listing is strictly informational and implies neither endorsement or disapproval of any stock listed. Comments and suggestions are always welcome.


Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Stimulus: 30% Solar Tax Credit or Cash Grant?

The U.S. Senate's version of the stimulus package includes a new grant plan enabling renewable energy producers to take a 30% cash grant from the U.S. Treasury in lieu of the 30% investment tax credit currently in effect. The proposal, presented by Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), aims at addressing the precarious position of the tax equity market. Expectations for a refundable ITC had been very low in the Senate's version but now, as both the Senate and House stimulus bills include this investment option, the likelihood of inclusion in the final bill looks good.

As a result of the current economic situation, the availability of tax-equity investors for solar and other renewable energy projects has dropped considerably. Some three-quarters of companies involved in tax-equity investing (power purchase agreement investor groups) are no longer contracting such deals.

"The squeeze in the tax equity market threatens to severely slow down the construction of new facilities for renewables. I strongly support the Senate package which would enable firms to carry back their tax credits for five years. But I also would support doing more, as long as we protect the American taxpayer," said Sen. Bingaman who chairs the Energy & Natural Resources Committee and is a senior member of the Finance Committee.

"This grant proposal threads the needle by offering an opportunity for developers to monetize the production and investment tax credits but does so in a commonsense way. Of course, no one is forced to accept a grant under the proposal; any project developer can still choose to get the traditional PTC or ITC route," said Bingaman.

The senator developed his approach after consultation with numerous renewable energy developers and financiers. Industry members have praised it as a workable solution. Utility-scale solar developers can also benefit from Bingaman's version because their longer build-out schedules, such projects were basically left out of the House provision.

The Obama Administration is still hoping for Congress to be finished with the stimulus bill by mid-month, a daunting task for the next ten days.

(This story is a summary derived from articles in the Feb. 4, 2009 Futures and Commodity Market News and the PV Tech Newsletter.)


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