This Week in Solar

On Monday, Suntech Power (NYSE: STP  ) kicked things off by announcing it had chosen a site near Phoenix for its first American manufacturing plant. The company's U.S. head of business development pointed to the weight of solar panels as a justification for moving production closer to the American end market.

It's a good thing I wasn't drinking milk when I read that. I hate it when milk spurts out my nose and all over my computer screen. That is the biggest whopper I've read in the business press in quite some time. The real answer is in the label to be slapped on these panels: "Made in America."

Speaking of Arizona, ex-First Solar (Nasdaq: FSLR  ) COO Chip Hambro has joined the board of Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) -backed eSolar. That is a major addition for the fledgling concentrated solar power company, which struck a promising partnership with NRG Energy earlier this year.

Hambro's former employer took a step forward with its planned 2-gigawatt Chinese plant this week, signing a framework agreement with the Ordos City mayor. Never heard of Ordos? Check YouTube for an eye-opening video on "China's empty city." This is indeed a strange piece of the Middle Kingdom.

SunPower (Nasdaq: SPWRA  ) easily had the worst week in the solar world, disclosing accounting irregularities that really socked its stock price. The most distorted figure appears to be the second quarter's operating expenses, understated by some $14 million. The company reported $9.9 million in operating income that quarter. If you ascribe to the cockroach theory of accounting shenanigans, in which one visible cockroach is evidence of many more, then SunPower is a company to avoid. Many analysts have advised clients to do just that.

Remember LDK Solar's (NYSE: LDK  ) little flap with Q-Cells? The company has taken care of any possible liquidity scare by selling 15% of its polysilicon plant to a local financial institution. It's a convenient bailout for LDK, but I do wonder how that $219 million investment will work out for the bank.

In other China news, the Golden Sun program extended subsidies to 294 different projects totaling 642 megawatts of capacity. That exceeds the previously announced upper bound for the program by 28%, and the target is expected to expand to 1.5 gigawatts by 2015. Suntech claimed 20% of the 91 megawatts' worth of rooftop projects covered under the program.

Of course, this was a big week for Chinese solar earnings reports as well. Canadian Solar had a peppy report, and China Sunergy and Solarfun Power (Nasdaq: SOLF  ) also fared well, but Trina Solar (NYSE: TSL  ) trumped them all.

Google, First Solar, and Suntech Power are all Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendations. Charge up your portfolio with a free 30-day trial of any of our newsletters.

Fool contributor Toby Shute doesn't have a position in any company mentioned. Check out his CAPS profile or follow his articles using Twitter or RSS. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.


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  • Report this Comment On February 02, 2010, at 3:13 PM, MyAIC wrote:

    Follow-the-Leader: Why Isn’t Arizona First in Solar Technology?

    Now, I have nothing against foreign companies – global competition makes us all better off. I recognize that all is fair in love, war, and business. Any company that brings more jobs into our beleaguered state is welcome. But here’s the question: why is Suntech not an Arizona company? How is Arizona not the home base for solar energy firms, their headquarters, R&D facilities, manufacturing plants, and generating stations?

    http://www.arizonaic.org/blog/177-why-isnt-arizona-first

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