The solar industry has had a rough go in 2010. Sector giant First Solar (Nasdaq: FSLR) did all right with market-beating returns over the last 52 weeks, but photovoltaic hopefuls Evergreen Solar (Nasdaq: ESLR) and Suntech Power Holdings (NYSE: STP) have lost more than 30% of their value. Former Cypress Semiconductor (NYSE: CY) division SunPower (Nasdaq: SPWRA) (Nasdaq: SPWRB) fared even worse, falling 43% over the same period.

But the hard times could be over for SunPower. The stock is actually up 3% today thanks to an impressive third-quarter report. Non-GAAP earnings improved from $0.15 per share to $0.26 per share quarter over quarter while revenue increased by 43% to $551 million. For the next quarter, management sees further improvements with a 67% sales jump and double the earnings at the midpoint of the guidance ranges. Those are sequential figures -- quarter over quarter -- but most businesses would be happy to see jumps like that on a yearly basis.

A new factory -- a joint venture with flat-panel display expert AU Optronics (NYSE: AUO) -- is coming online in the upcoming period. That's what's driving the higher sales and profit projections as the company has more orders than it can fill at the moment. CEO Tom Werner says that his solar panels are among the most efficient power generators in the industry and likes to tout the cost advantages over thin-film alternatives in particular. The new factory is said to produce even more advanced cells than the two existing facilities, driving up efficiency metrics while reducing the production costs.

And if you've held off on buying SunPower shares because you can't decide between the series A and B shares, you'll be glad to hear that the company is looking to simplify its structure in the coming year. Cypress has to agree to whatever action SunPower is taking on those shares as there may be tax implications for the former mothership, but one way or another, SunPower expects to convert everything into a single class of shares in the next couple of quarters.

Given the results and projections at hand, it looks as if SunPower has turned a corner. The stock trades at less than eight times forward earnings and 0.8 times trailing sales -- could this be the right time to take a position? Discuss in the comments below while I make the smaller commitment of placing an "outperform" rating on SunPower in our CAPS system. You can follow my all-star lead by clicking here.

Fool contributor Anders Bylund holds no position in any of the companies discussed here. Cypress Semiconductor, First Solar, and Suntech Power Holdings are Motley Fool Rule Breakers selections. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. You can check out Anders' holdings and a concise bio if you like, and The Motley Fool is investors writing for investors.