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This Week in Solar

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It's been a busy week in the solar sector. Earnings have been pouring in, and while they haven't been great, we are starting to see leaders emerge from the fog.

Amid all of the news, here are a few stories that may have slipped through the cracks.

Finding an advertising niche
In the U.S., solar products aren't really advertised prominently, but slowly we're starting to see manufacturers push solar through advertising. Yingli Green Energy (NYSE: YGE  ) was a major sponsor of the World Cup last summer, a relationship that will continue in 2014, and this week Canadian Solar (Nasdaq: CSIQ  ) announced it had formed a partnership with the Fulham Football Club.

I'm not sure what the correlation is between soccer and solar power, but manufacturers seem to like it.

Maybe crazed soccer fans were also contemplating how to be more energy efficient as they were playing those god-awful vuvezelas?

Is advertising a positive for solar? I guess time will tell.

Putting their money where their mouth is
Executives are always trying to put a positive spin on their companies no matter what is going on. But the best way to tell what they're really thinking is by watching if they're buying or selling shares of their own stock.

Five different First Solar (Nasdaq: FSLR  ) executives showed their confidence in the company by buying shares of stock on the open market recently.

This follows word that three other manufacturers --  LDK Solar (NYSE: LDK  ) , JA Solar (Nasdaq: JASO  ) , and Renesola (NYSE: SOL  ) -- would be buying back a combined $310 million of their own shares.

Maybe solar executives really do believe in this solar stuff after all?

Losses and progress?
We've covered most of the sector's earnings reports this week, but one divisive company also reported earnings. Energy Conversion Devices (Nasdaq: ENER  ) saw some progress, but losses continued to mount at the innovative company.

Revenue was back from the dead in the first quarter, climbing to $73.1 million, but the company still lost $42.1 million, or $0.84 per share, in the fiscal fourth quarter. More importantly, Energy Conversion Devices burned through $24.2 million in operating cash and an additional $38.4 million to purchase property and equipment.

Foolish bottom line
We have begun seeing leaders separate themselves as First Solar, Canadian Solar, and Yingli Green Energy reported solid, but not flashy, earnings this quarter.

Laggards began to fall behind, and while Evergreen Solar was the first casualty to the solar shakeout, it probably won't be the last.

Keep up with what's going on with solar stocks with My Watchlist. It's solar stock analysis all in one convenient location. Feeling extra lazy? Sign up for My Fool Daily, and we'll bring our Foolishness straight to your inbox.

Fool contributor Travis Hoium owns shares of First Solar and LDK Solar. You can follow Travis on Twitter at @FlushDrawFool, check out his personal stock holdings or follow his CAPS picks at TMFFlushDraw.

Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of First Solar. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Read/Post Comments (3) | Recommend This Article (3)

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Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On August 28, 2011, at 8:34 PM, xetn wrote:

    Nothing like a government subsidy to warm a ceo's heart. The real problem with solar is it is not reliable nor is it sustainable. It will never replace coal, gas, or nuclear because it is not a replacement energy source, only an adjunct.

    Without government subsidies, there would be little demand or manufacturing.

  • Report this Comment On August 29, 2011, at 3:33 AM, lowmaple wrote:

    The pollution lobbyist for coal make sure they will not need subsidies

  • Report this Comment On August 29, 2011, at 12:07 PM, OutperformOrDie wrote:

    I'm always amazed when people say solar is not sustainable or reliable and is not an energy replacement source. It's simply not true.

    I am the operations manager at a solar company in San Diego and I have to say, feed in tariffs aside, I'll be so happy when subsidies go away. They're the bane of our existence and are not significantly helping push the industry forward. For the little bit of subsidy money they provide, it creates so much more work and confusion for both the solar company and the customer.

    Solar power is here to stay, folks. The price of solar has already dropped 50% over the past few years and it's more affordable now than ever. Jump on the bandwagon, I've had a system for over six years and my bill is $5 a month for grid connection.

    Whether you like it or not, solar will be a major player in our energy mix for the near, intermediate and long term future.

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