What happened

Shares of Array Technologies (NASDAQ:ARRY) tumbled 63.8% in the first six months of 2021. But the story of that drop can mostly be told from one day -- after the manufacturer of ground-mounting systems used in large solar energy projects reported earnings. 

So what

Array's stock plunged 46% the day after it released its first-quarter earnings for the period ended March 31, 2021. Disruption from the pandemic impacted the company's results.

Array CEO Jim Fusaro addressed why earnings were lower than Array's internal expectations, noting "higher than expected logistics costs." But uncertainty looking ahead is what caused investors to sell in droves. 

Two people walking next to some solar panels.

Images source: Getty Images.

Array CFO Nipul Patel added that the company was pulling back previous guidance for the full year, "given the continuing increases we are seeing in steel and freight costs as well as our ongoing review of open contracts to assess what costs we will pass on to customers."

Now what

Array's solar panel mounting systems use steel supports, electric motors, and associated components to improve efficiency by moving the panels throughout the day to optimize orientation to the sun. The company said in the first-quarter report that steel represents almost half of the company's cost of goods sold. It also aims to operate with a low steel inventory. That means when steel spot prices rise, the company takes a hit on profits. 

Domestic steel prices rose about 60% in the first six months of 2021 but are up almost 300% since August 2020. In response, Array inked an agreement with leading domestic-steelmaker Nucor (NYSE:NUE) that it announced the same day as its first-quarter earnings release. Details of the supply agreement weren't released, with Array simply saying, "Nucor will supply Array with torque tubes and rolled steel for Array's production of clamps, foundations and brackets, and other components."

It's likely safe to assume that in return for the additional business in the growing renewables sector, Nucor is offering Array either a contract price or possibly a discount to market prices. Either way, it gives Array more visibility for its largest input cost moving forward.

With solar project development likely to continue at a brisk pace, Array may be in a good position for investors to take advantage of the decline in the share price with upside potential from here. 

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.