This Week's Solar Recap

SolarCity's market share jumps, crowdfunding for solar expands, and LDK Solar moves closer to death -- this week in solar.

Jan 11, 2014 at 11:00PM

The solar industry had another busy week, even if that didn't mean a lot of movement for most of the industry's stocks. As I highlighted earlier this week, large solar projects continue to drive a lot of demand for the industry, and some of China's largest manufacturers won some major projects over the past couple of weeks. These projects eat up a lot of manufacturing capacity and are helping drive sale prices and margins up, which will help earnings all year.

Elsewhere, we've seen new developments in residential solar, crowdfunding, and one of the world's largest solar projects.

SolarCity's dominance continues
GTM Research released data this week that showed SolarCity's (NASDAQ:SCTY) residential solar market share rose to 32% in the third quarter of 2013. The fact that SolarCity leads industry isn't a surprise, but the disjointed nature might be. The three largest companies in the industry did less than half of the country's residential solar installations, so this is far from a mature market.  

It's likely that SolarCity will continue to gain market share in 2014, but it will also run into some resistance against the overall growth of the industry as it gains share. Management expects to increase MW installed by up to 90% this year, which may mean around 50% market share for SolarCity by the end of the year. If that can be done, it would be an incredible feat for a company that's still very young.

Crowdsourcing goes global
Last month, I highlighted how a new crowdfunding offering from Mosaic is creating new ways for investors to get exposure to solar as well as developers to finance projects. This week, Mosaic took that concept global after winning a $1 million prize from Verizon Powerful Answers to develop a mobile app and expand loans into Africa, Brazil, India, and Asia.  

The funds are intended to build solar projects in underserved markets and allow investors around to world to fund these projects. Think of it sort of like Kiva, but for solar projects.  

Funding solar projects has always been a challenge, and Mosaic is trying to make the process more reachable to small investors. This is a step in that direction. Keep an eye on this company's progress because it could affect how larger projects are funded in the future.

News and notes
Here are some of the other noteworthy developments you may have missed this week.

  • Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE:BRK-B) subsidiary MidAmerican Solar and SunPower (NASDAQ:SPWR) connected the first portion of the 579 MW Solar Star project in California to the grid. This is just the first 57 MW of the project, and the rest will be completed by the end of 2015.  
  • Suntech Power director, CEO, and CFO Weiping Zhou resigned from the company, another sign that a company that once had more solar capacity than any other is close to death. The company is still working out what creditors will get in a restructuring, and it's likely we've seen the last of this brand in the solar market.  
  • LDK Solar (NASDAQOTH:LDKSY), the other solar manufacturer not paying its bills, announced another forbearance arrangement this week, meaning it still won't pay interest due last August. It's only a matter of time until LDK Solar goes through some sort of insolvency or bankruptcy, and this is a stock that shouldn't be touched with a 10-foot pole.

That's all for this week in solar. Check back on fool.com for more solar coverage next week.

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Fool contributor Travis Hoium manages an account that owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway and SunPower. He also owns shares of SunPower and has long January 2015 $5, $7, $15, $25, and $40 calls on SunPower. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway and SolarCity. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't 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.

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