Well, the best thing we solar fans can say about this trading week is that it's ending early. Declines in the shares of companies like ReneSola (NYSE: SOL ) have been downright Hobbesian in their brutality. Besides the obvious share-price pain, what else happened in this holiday-shortened period?
Things kicked off Monday with that mainstay of solar PR, the supply agreement. In one case, LDK Solar (NYSE: LDK ) announced that it has signed a decade-long wafer supply contract with Canadian Solar (Nasdaq: CSIQ ) . The contract begins in the middle of next year, with 40 megawatts' worth of material. That brings Canadian Solar up to 70% feedstock coverage in 2009, which isn't too tenuous, but the company still has a ways to go to sew up adequate silicon supply.
A more interesting announcement emerged the same day from Solarfun Power (Nasdaq: SOLF ) . The company has entered an eight-year polysilicon supply deal with GCL Silicon subsidiary Jiangsu Zhongneng -- the supplier behind Trina Solar's (NYSE: TSL ) treasure trove. I turned a skeptical eye toward that Trina deal, because Zhongneng has already failed to deliver contracted supply to none other than ... Solarfun Power.
In January, Solarfun's chairman said his company was "obviously disappointed in Zhongneng's lack of commitment." Now we see Solarfun further embracing its recently noncommittal partner. We can interpret this development in one of two ways. Either Zhongneng has gotten its act together, and is now a reliable partner, or Solarfun is finding polysilicon so tough to come by that it has little choice but to give the young gun another shot.
The latter interpretation isn't too much of a stretch, based on recent reports that Chinese polysilicon start-ups are having production problems. A Friedman, Billings, Ramsey (NYSE: FBR ) analyst last week noted that these Chinese players are turning to MEMC Electronic Materials (NYSE: WFR ) for silane gas. The Prometheus Institute, a solar energy research outfit, predicts that out of dozens of new entrants, "few of them will ultimately be successful, both technically and financially."
These clues to the current Chinese blues reinforce my conviction that it's a bit early to celebrate the end of the silicon squeeze.