Sunday, August 22, 2010

Solar Pricing at Historical Lows

Industry continues to rise...

Last January saw solar panel pricing hit historical lows worldwide. As a result and despite the economy, the solar photovoltaic industry is having a pretty good year both at the commercial and residential levels.

Granted, the California Solar Initiative's rebates have triggered down to rather meager levels and some say this has tempered the fall of panel pricing in the state with the country's largest monetary stake in solar power. This writer disagrees.

Competition in California for solar business has never been fiercer. Since the nation's financial debacle nearly two years ago, scores of electrical contractors around the country who lost new-construction or repair work or simply ignored PV, have now jumped into PV with both feet.

PV and Growth

Furthermore, as the solar industry is one of the few growth sectors in the nation's staggering economy, PV equipment makers and marketers continue streaming into California and neighboring states. Fueled by the federal solar investment tax credit and renewable energy standards demanded by state governments on utilities, the PV picture gets rosier. Finally, the cost of electricity continues to rise, though at a rather stilted pace for the time being. In short, everybody who's anybody in solar is in or coming to California. And it's spreading.

Solar and Wall Street

Solar stocks, as can be seen in this blog's weekly update, have traveled much the same path as other tech issues. To be sure, solar stock prices are down from pre-crisis levels in 2008 but so are virtually every other stock on Wall Street. Still, there have been more solar start-ups and few failures worldwide and more foreign PV manufacturers are setting up plants stateside. Besides, after a generation of stupendous growth in the stock market, investors are eschewing risk and looking more to bonds for safety, anyway.

Solar Financing

When this writer began selling solar installations in 2002, most prospects had plenty of home equity. They could get an easy $50,000 home equity line of credit with a simple phone call to their bank. Those days are gone, of course, so the PV industry had to get creative. Since then solar manufacturers and dealers have answered the soft market with leasing options, same-as-cash unsecured "bridge" loans, and more standard--and unsecured--term loans.

So, believe it or not, it's a good time to go solar.

How good is it? Find out in my next post.


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