An 11-Bagger With a Suntan

There's no other way to say it: I'm white. And, when I say white, I mean practically transparent. Which means the sun and I haven't exactly been the best of buddies. Lately, though, I've come to rethink that position.

Sunny green skies
Blame California. Last month, the state public utilities commission approved a $2.9 billion initiative to harness 3,000 megawatts of solar power over the next 11 years. Getting there, regulators figure, will require one million installations of rooftop solar panels. They'll be everywhere, too -- homes, businesses, farms, schools, and public buildings, according to Reuters.

The Rule Breaker in me perked up at the news. I wasn't alone. For example, SunPower (Nasdaq: SPWR  ) rose as much as 11% -- to $38.04 a share -- in the 24 hours after the announcement of the California initiative. Evergreen Solar (Nasdaq: ESLR  ) saw similar gains, rising as much 14% over the same period. (Find our list of budding Breakers here if you're a member. If not, take a risk-free trial and get immediate access.)

How to find an 11-bagger
Since then, neither stock has done much. Evergreen, however, has performed the better of the two, up roughly 4% from the highs reached in the aftermath of California's public sunbathing. Can the momentum continue? At least one investor has decided not to wait to find out.

According to VentureWire, clean technology investor RockPort Capital Partners, which participated in a May 2003 private equity deal for convertible stock, has sold its stake in Evergreen for a reported 11-bagger. Specifically, RockPort co-founder and General Partner Chuck McDermott told VentureWire that his firm sold its stake in Evergreen at $12.08 per stub after investing at $1 a share.

Lathered up in cash
If you're like me, you missed this multibagger. Well, don't worry. More may be on the way. VentureWire reports that, in January, RockPort closed its second clean-energy venture fund, taking in more than $260 million from limited partners. That's more than double the size of its first fund.

Such enthusiasm from venture investors is a positive sign. But it isn't the only one. Indeed, while demand for solar power has grown by 20% to 25% per year for the past 20 years, adoption appears to be accelerating. That's according to a wonderfully useful website called solarbuzz.com, which reports that installations of photovoltaic cells -- panels or other devices designed to transform ultraviolet rays into electricity -- were up 62% in 2004. California's reach for the sky, and new federal tax credits that would allow for as much as $2,000 in deductions for solar-sourced home improvements, should continue to boost the numbers. Moreover, if energy prices remain high, the rate of implementation and industry economics should only become more attractive.

Another multibagger under the sun?
This is one of the reasons we're spending time covering the solar industry at Rule Breakers. It's a market that David Gardner and his team of Foolish analysts believe will create firms capable of reshaping the economics of energy in the decade ahead, producing market-crushing returns as a result. (Indeed, investing in such firms from other industries has helped the Rule Breakers portfolio beat the market by more than 20% as of this writing.)

Which firms will rise to the top? I wish I knew. But I'm willing to bet that the current heavies in the space -- Sharp, Kyocera (NYSE: KYO  ) , BP (NYSE: BP  ) , and Shell Solar, a division of Royal Dutch Petroleum (NYSE: RDS-A  ) -- will play a role.

If you're also interested in finding the next great solar stock, I suggest you first bookmark solarbuzz.com. No place on the Web provides a better overview of market demand, per-kilowatt-hour pricing, and global developments. Once you've done that, move on to the list of publicly traded solar firms at a website called sustainablebusiness.com. That will at least get you started.

Or, if you lack the time or desire to go it alone, let us help. Click here to take a trial to Rule Breakers now and you can poke around for 30 days on our dime. Whatever you choose, just remember: The sun may burn, but it tans, too. And your portfolio has been looking a little pale lately.

Fool contributor Tim Beyers plans to be a sun worshipper for decades to come -- but only in his portfolio. Tim didn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this story at the time of publication. You can find out what else is in his portfolio by checking Tim's Fool profile. The Motley Fool has an ironclad disclosure policy.


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