We've talked a fair amount in the past about the importance of low-cost solar cell/module manufacturing. First Solar (Nasdaq: FSLR) has achieved this with its cheaper thin-film solar technology, while SunPower (Nasdaq: SPWR) has chosen to push the envelope in terms of cell efficiencies. But there's another element to the full cost of solar, and that's installation.

Akeena Solar (Nasdaq: AKNS), a major domestic solar-panel installer, has put together an attractive solution it calls Andalay. And I do mean attractive: The Andalay panels sport a sleek, uniform black surface when installed side by side. You can see a video of one of these systems being rigged up on the Andalay website, complete with celebratory high-fives.

Given their aesthetic appeal and relatively simple, low-cost installation, it's not too surprising to see a company like Suntech Power (NYSE: STP) taking a shine to Akeena's panels. On Wednesday, Suntech agreed to license and distribute Andalay panels in Europe, Japan, and Australia, with a sales target of 10 megawatts for 2008.

What is somewhat surprising is the full-on explosion in Akeena shares yesterday. A handful of megawatts is pretty small potatoes, so one needs to view this small step as just a sign of more -- much more -- to come. That's certainly a possibility, but the stock now looks to be priced like it's all sunshine ahead.

I've seen one argument that Akeena occupies a highly enviable position in the solar value chain, the idea being that the company's direct contact with end users will give it unique insight into customer needs. The way I see it, people want their electricity as cheap as possible -- what further insight do you really need? The race to grid parity is above all else about technology, not marketing. With no discernable competitive moat when it comes to intellectual property, Akeena does not look like an attractive investment to this Fool.

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Fool contributor Toby Shute doesn't have a position in any company mentioned. The Motley Fool's disclosure policy is also sleek and shiny.