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This Week in Solar

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The solar industry has been pretty quiet for the past few weeks, but that may be about to change. Energy is becoming a hot-button political issue, and there are a number of green energy companies ready to hit the public markets. The first one hit the market this week, and there may be more in store.

An inverter for the little people
Enphase (Nasdaq: ENPH  ) is off to a roaring start after joining the market this week. The stock was up as much as much as 29% during trading after opening at $6, the low end of its range.

I commented last week that Enphase was entering a very crowded inverter market that has seen little success for public companies. Satcon Technology, Power-One (Nasdaq: PWER  ) , and new inverter entrant American Superconductor (Nasdaq: AMSC  ) have all seen their stocks plunge as competition and price pressure heat up.

Enphase has already seen how rough the market can be to inverters. The company initially thought it could raise more than $100 million and priced its stock at $10 to $12 per share. The final IPO at $6 was a dramatic reduction and left the company with a market cap of about $273 million.

BrightSource Energy, the maker of solar thermal power plants, has an IPO planned for April 11, so this is just the start of the new entrants into the solar market.

Another efficiency record
I'm not sure how it's a record every time a company develops a new solar cell, but this one is noteworthy. SunPower (Nasdaq: SPWR  ) put its third-generation Maxeon solar cell into production this week. The cell will deliver up to 24% efficiency, and the modules made from this cell will exceed 20% efficiency.

The battle to improve efficiency has become increasingly important to solar manufacturers that are trying to stay a step ahead of the competition.

Oil subsidies are on the table
Congress voted this week to keep $20 billion of subsidies for oil companies in place. Some of the money would have been diverted to "green" energy like solar, so it was a slight blow financially for the solar industry.

This puts energy back on the political agenda, and it's sure to be at the forefront in the upcoming election. Solar industry players may want the subsidies they used to have back, but at least an end to oil subsidies is in the discussion.

If you're concerned about oil prices and are looking for some stocks that will profit from high prices, check out our report that highlights three such stocks. It's free while it lasts.

Fool contributor Travis Hoium owns shares of SunPower in personal and managed accounts. You can follow Travis on Twitter at @FlushDrawFool, check out his personal stock holdings, or follow his CAPS picks at TMFFlushDraw. The Motley Fool owns shares of Power-One. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

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