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Last Week in Solar

By Travis Hoium - Updated Jul 17, 2017 at 10:38AM

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A big solar project was sold, a manufacturing plant caught fire, and solar joined forces with chargers.

Solar stocks had another good week as we move closer and closer to second-quarter 2017 earnings season. As I've mentioned before, fundamentals in the solar industry appear to be getting better as the year goes on, so we may see some strong results out of the big names in solar. 

Before earnings season begins, we have a couple more weeks of news -- here are the highlights of last week. 

First Solar utility scale solar installation with the sun in the background.

Image source: First Solar.

First Solar completes big sale

EDF Renewable Energy announced the acquisition of 179 MW of projects in Nevada, called Switch Station 1 and Switch Station 2, from First Solar (FSLR 1.62%) for an undisclosed amount. The sale took place in June, so it will be included in second-quarter results when First Solar reports earnings. 

This is part of a larger effort by First Solar to sell projects and focus its balance sheet on component sales. And if the price it got was better than anticipated, we could see increased guidance for 2017 overall. I will also be looking at this as a bellwether for upcoming project sales from SunPower (SPWR 2.96%), which is also trying to unload projects in 2017 and focus its balance sheet on component sales going forward. 

Fire, fire!

JA Solar (NASDAQ: JASO) announced that its cell production facility caught fire in the early morning hours of July 13. No one was hurt in the incident, but it impacted 6% of the company's production capacity. Management didn't give an estimate on when the capacity would be up and running, but said it had insurance for the equipment and that the impact on the business would be minimal. 

Look for more information on this during the earnings report, but this is notable because JA Solar is nearly $900 million in debt and is currently barely above breakeven. A loss of 6% of production could lead to losses later in 2017. 

Solar plus EVs could be a real thing

SolarEdge Technologies (SEDG 3.04%) introduced an inverter integrated with an electric car charger this week. The product integrates solar wiring with the electric vehicle charger and allows for one control system. 

Integrating more solar, energy storage, and EV components together will likely be a big trend in the next few years. And it will help improve performance of home energy systems overall and improve costs as well. SolarEdge is leading here, but look for others to follow closely behind. 

News and notes

Here are a few more notable items from the solar industry last week. 

  • The Department of Energy announced the next round of SunShot Initiative grants this week, and 48 organizations got $46.2 million in funding. Most went to universities or small companies, but $1.2 million is going to SunPower to research new bonding procedures for interdigitated back contact solar cells. These are high-efficiency cells, but they're very expensive, so they're not commercially viable at this point. If SunPower can use this money to make more efficient panels commercially viable, it could be a big win for the company. 
  • Vivint Solar (VSLR) announced that it's expanding into Virginia. This is the 20th state Vivint Solar operates in and should help it boost growth in the future after its shrinking installations over the past year. 
  • Alphabet's (GOOG 1.49%) (GOOGL 1.51%) Google announced that it has signed a 10-year power purchase agreement to buy solar power from a 30 MW power plant in The Netherlands. This is the biggest solar plant in the country and brings Google's renewable energy contracts to 2.7 GW globally. 

That's all for the week in solar, but check back to for more solar coverage heading into a very important earnings season. 

Suzanne Frey, an executive at Alphabet, is a member of The Motley Fool’s board of directors. Travis Hoium owns shares of First Solar and SunPower. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Alphabet (A and C shares). The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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Stocks Mentioned

Alphabet Inc. Stock Quote
Alphabet Inc.
$120.64 (1.51%) $1.80
First Solar, Inc. Stock Quote
First Solar, Inc.
$116.44 (1.62%) $1.86
SunPower Corporation Stock Quote
SunPower Corporation
$26.45 (2.96%) $0.76
Alphabet Inc. Stock Quote
Alphabet Inc.
$121.61 (1.49%) $1.79
Vivint Solar, Inc. Stock Quote
Vivint Solar, Inc.
SolarEdge Technologies, Inc. Stock Quote
SolarEdge Technologies, Inc.
$328.71 (3.04%) $9.69

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