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Last Week in Solar

By Travis Hoium – Oct 17, 2016 at 5:26AM

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A big vote is ahead for SolarCity, and a big project began construction in Brazil.

Image source: Getty Images.

Last week in solar started with the presidential debate, where solar energy was at least mentioned by both the Democrat and Republican candidates. In fact, Republican candidate Donald Trump was the only one who mentioned solar by name. At the very least, it was good to see the solar industry get a little airtime in the presidential election. 

With that, let's get to the substantive actions that solar companies took last week. 

SolarCity sets buyout vote date

Nov. 17, 2016, is the day investors will be voting on whether or not SolarCity (SCTY.DL) will accept a buyout offer from Tesla Motors (TSLA 1.73%). It'll be a highly anticipated vote, given all of the questions surrounding the buyout and the information we will hear in the next month. 

Elon Musk has set Oct. 28 as the date Tesla Motors and SolarCity will introduce some kind of new energy product. The solar roof has been talked about publicly, and a Powerwall 2.0 product has been rumored, as well. Whatever is introduced, we're likely to see Elon Musk's vision of what the future will look like if these two companies are combined. 

It'll be hard to give an answer as to whether the buyout deal is good for either company until we get third-quarter financial results, as well as see these new products. I've argued that the buyout is a bailout for SolarCity, and others have argued that the price isn't high enough.

Whichever side of the vote you sit on, results from the past quarter will be key, and so will the vision of the future. If Elon Musk can wow investors again, the buyout could end up being a good deal for everyone. The next two weeks will be very important for both companies. 

A big project gets under way in Brazil

Canadian Solar (CSIQ 2.37%) announced last week that it has begun construction on a 191.5 MW project in Brazil with EDF Energies Nouvelles. Eighty percent of the project was also sold to EDF EN do Brasil, a subsidiary of Canadian Solar's partner. 

These large projects are key to keeping module sales coming out of manufacturing plants, and project sales will help the balance sheet heading into what could be a rough few quarters for the solar industry. Chalk this up as an incremental positive for Canadian Solar going forward. 

Trackers becoming the dominant power plant design 

A new report from GTM Research called The Global PV Tracker Landscape 2016 showed that utility-scale projects are increasingly using trackers worldwide. Tracker installations are expected to grow from 5 GW in 2015 to 12.6 GW in 2016 and nearly 40 GW by 2021. 

Image source: GTM Research report The Global PV Tracker Landscape 2016.

Trackers get more energy production out of each acre of solar panels, so it's logical that their use is growing. What's interesting for investors is that a small number of companies are supplying a vast majority of trackers. NEXTracker, Array Technologies, First Solar (FSLR 2.54%), and SunPower (SPWR 2.59%) accounted for 72% of trackers in 2015. 

This could become important because both First Solar and SunPower are moving toward more of a supplier model around the world rather than developing projects themselves. If they remain leaders in the tracker market, they could create a bigger market for their own panels and other services, as well. At the very least, it's encouraging to see the tracker market growing for both companies. 

Travis Hoium owns shares of First Solar and SunPower. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends SolarCity and Tesla Motors. We Fools may not 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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