This Week in Solar

Hey there, solar Fools.

Before we get into the week's solar news, let me bring you up to date on the Bureau of Land Management's solar farm moratorium. The BLM clearly received some persuasive feedback, and promptly reversed itself last week. The bureau continues to accept applications for future solar development on federal land.

Early in the week, GT Solar set its IPO terms. This company, headquartered in New Hampshire of all places, provides solar manufacturing equipment across the full photovoltaic (PV) production chain, from polysilicon reactors to module fabrication lines. GT did $244 million in sales through the fiscal year ending March 31, and customers include LDK Solar (NYSE: LDK  ) and Yingli Green Energy (NYSE: YGE  ) .

If you've avoided investing in the solar producers themselves, and would prefer to own a company that sells them the "picks and shovels," GT might be an interesting candidate. I plan on reading through the prospectus this weekend, and I'll share my thoughts soon.

Intel (Nasdaq: INTC  ) has seeded another solar investment. After spinning off a crystalline PV player, the company is now targeting thin-film technology. That says to me that even mighty Intel has no idea which technology is going to win out. I'm glad to be in such esteemed company.

In more recent days, SunPower (Nasdaq: SPWR  ) and First Solar (Nasdaq: FSLR  ) both led key developments on the domestic front.

With great fanfare, SunPower announced that it's landed the largest solar PV power plant deal in the country: a 25-megawatt installation for FPL Group (NYSE: FPL  ) in Florida. This is tiny compared to the solar thermal installations being thrown up out West, but investors were definitely cheered by the news, bidding the stock up more than 14% yesterday.

With no fanfare whatsoever, First Solar quietly advanced its own utility-scale agenda. On Thursday, the firm received approval for California's first thin-film power plant. Because thin-film technology is less efficient than traditional PV, the Edison International (NYSE: EIX  ) plant will crank out only 7.5 megawatts initially, but it is expandable to a capacity that would nearly match SunPower's installation.

So who's got the edge here? It's early to say, but let the most reliable and lowest balance-of-system cost provider win.

Intel is a Motley Fool Inside Value stock recommendation.

Fool contributor Toby Shute doesn't have a position in any company mentioned. The Motley Fool has a sunny disclosure policy.


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