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What happened

Shares of solar manufacturer First Solar, Inc. (FSLR 2.60%) plunged 19% in August, according to data provided from S&P Global Market Intelligence, after reporting earnings that failed to excite investors.

So what

Second-quarter results released last month weren't exactly terrible, and I went into the numbers in depth here. Management expects to earn $4.20 to $4.20 per share this year, which isn't bad in a highly competitive solar environment.

But First Solar did nothing to ease fears that 2017 will be awful. If you look at its project backlog, there are just 303 MW of projects due to be completed in 2017 and 40 MW in 2018. In 2019, that figure skyrockets to 810 MW, showing that there's demand for solar but only after a chasm beginning next year.

Now what

First Solar is running into weak utility demand because utilities have already met their mandates for the next couple of years. And the company doesn't have exposure to the growing distributed energy market that may have a decent year in 2017. To top it off, it is investing in more efficient solar panels and a more complete solar system design that includes the option for energy storage, causing customers to push purchases back until the new products come out.

Add it all up and First Solar could have a rough 2017 and even 2018 before the industry's growth picks up in 2019 and beyond.