Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Out of the spotlight, solar will thrive (FSLR; QCLSF; STP)

A US energy policy that largely ignores solar power will, ironically, help the sector by giving it time to catch up with demand. That's good for investors, too.

From MSN Money:

Government neglect could make 2008 and 2009 the best years ever for solar companies -- and for those who invest in them.

That's right. Long-term prospects for the solar industry are actually brighter because the energy bill that President Bush signed Dec. 19 didn't launch a crash program to expand solar-energy use or even extend solar tax credits that will expire in October.

The solar industry had a problem in 2007, and it wasn't a lack of demand. Global solar production, measured by the megawatts of power that solar cells and modules produce once they're hooked up to the grids, climbed 57% in 2004, according to investment bank Jefferies International. And it increased 30% in 2005, 35% in 2006 and a projected 13% in 2007.

See a problem there? Young growth industries facing a virtually untapped market shouldn't show slowing growth rates. If solar has the potential its supporters say it does -- and I agree it does -- the industry's growth rate should be accelerating, not dropping. (Global solar installations, which always lag equipment production and which are growing from a smaller base because of that lag, climbed a projected 60% in 2007.)

Not enough raw materials

So what happened? Beginning in 2005, demand for silicon from solar-wafer, solar-cell and solar-module makers overwhelmed supply from the companies that provide silicon to the solar and semiconductor industries....MUCH MORE