Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Solar Energy Outlook

Nationwide, over 1,000 kilowatts (KW) of solar energy are being installed each day, according to Travis Bradford of the Prometheus Institute for Sustainable Development, who authored a recent op-ed in Business Week.

Yet the fossil fuel industry in Washington still had the power to jettison a $32 billion package to boost renewable energy use, and the realities of a patchwork of state regulations bogs down even those companies, investors, and utilities ready for cleaner, more efficient energy.

Take a state like Arizona. Despite enjoying 300 days of sunshine a year and a requirement that utilities to get 15 percent of their energy from renewable sources, the rate regulations and grid complexities scare off solar manufacturers and even retailers wanting to install solar rooftop systems. According to Bradford:

"The result is that Staples (SPLS), Wal-Mart (WMT), and other companies are deploying solar rooftop systems in California and New Jersey, where the rules are favorable, but won't do the same in Arizona."

We're on the right track with incentives for clean energy solutions, but now we need a more consistent regulatory market, he says. Specifically, Congress should adopt national best practices for interconnection, metering, and rates similar to those in Colorado, New Jersey, Maryland, and California.

A Global Outlook

Worldwide, some solar stocks seem to be faring better. In the July 16 issue, Barron's warns that skyrocketing solar stocks may soon get singed. But in the "Five Great Green Stocks" cover story, solar gets a nod with SunPower (SPWR), a majority-owned spin-off of Cypress Semiconductor. Here's what Barron's has to say:

"Nothing fancy here, SunPower is a well-managed maker and seller of high-efficiency silicon solar cells and panels based on taoday's technology."

Besides leading the market in solar-crazy Spain, SunPower is also starting on the largest solar installation in the U.S.

Other green stocks of note include: Environmental Power (EPG) has technology that cuts methane emissions and is a bet on the implementation of a global warming pollution cap-and-trade system; FuelTech (FTEK) is an installer of air pollution controls that improve the performance of combustion furnaces; and PICO Holdings (PICO) has been acquiring water rights through the Western U.S. and redistributes fresh water to areas in short supply.

The fifth green stock recommended was one that I was pretty excited about. Composite Technology (CPTC.OB) and its wholly owned subsidiary, DeWind, is expected to release a new wind turbine later this year that will challenge General Electric's dominance in the field and help alleviate a significant global backlog. Although GE owns much of the intellectual property on wind turbines and has made it hard for others to compete without paying licensing fees, Composite has developed its own technology. If the technology takes off, Composite would not only be a good bet for investors but could help drive the wind energy industry has a whole across the globe.

1 comment:

Maria Surma Manka said...

More speculation on the solar sector here - that it may be cooling. NY Times "Solar Wins Enthusiasts but Not Money" http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/16/business/16solar.html

Wealthy Daily "Chinese Solar Power May Cool Down" http://www.wealthdaily.net/article.php?id=146&pub=orb.