I feel like a broken record, but it's been another terrible week for solar stocks. Stocks are down across the board as everyone panics over fallout from European debt problems, Solyndra's demise, and diminishing margins throughout the industry. While I think the sell-off is overdone, the market has proven that thesis wrong in recent weeks.
Beyond the market panic, here are a few of the things that happened in the solar industry this week.
No guarantee for you
First Solar (Nasdaq: FSLR ) announced this week that it wouldn't meet Department of Energy deadlines for a loan guarantee on its 550 MW Topaz Solar Farm. The project is still going forward, but the company will look for other ways to finance it, and is in talks to sell it.
Loan guarantees have been a key driver behind major projects for First Solar and SunPower (Nasdaq: SPWRA ) , but if this is any indication, they don't appear to be a dealbreaker.
Better balance sheets
Chinese solar manufacturers have not only begun buying back shares of stock in the open market; some are also trying to pay down debt. LDK Solar (NYSE: LDK ) announced this morning that it had purchased $10.8 million of debt for a discount to par. Heavy debt loads are a major risk factor for LDK, JA Solar (Nasdaq: JASO ) , and Suntech Power (NYSE: STP ) , which have used short-term borrowings to build out their businesses. As the industry matures, we're slowly starting to see de-leveraging and companies buying back shares. The current moves are small but should lead to better balance sheets going forward.
Solyndra investors and executives are scheduled to be questioned by members of Congress sometime today. But instead of getting some insight into what really happened at the company, we'll likely hear a lot of: "I plead the fifth."
Solar growth here at home
Despite what the market is telling us, solar installations are still growing rapidly in the U.S. Installations will soon pass the 1 GW mark, on their way to 1.8 GW this year, according to Greentech Media. The U.S. market is now one of the largest and strongest growing markets in the world despite the lack of a national plan for solar.