Solar stocks surge on news of Japan’s nuclear woes

Fears of nuclear power send solar stock prices through the roofWhile the markets in general were down Tuesday, solar and renewable energy stocks surged to recent highs as news of nuclear woes in Japan circulated.

Solarworld AG (OTC US) was up almost 15 percent to $14.93 by 2 p.m. EST. SunPower (SPWRA) was up nearly 10 percent to $15.91; First Solar (FSLR) was up 5.6 percent to $155.22, and LDK Solar (LDK) was up 7.7 percent to $12.48 per share.

These steep increases were particularly striking given the dramatic drops seen in the world stock markets in general.

U.S. Stocks dropped about 6 percent on Monday and opened on Tuesday down another 2.3 percent, according to news reports. The Dow Jones Industrial Index had dropped 1.7 percent, 209 points, by midday Tuesday. This on top of an 18 percent decline in the Tokyo Stock Exchange, which saw the biggest drop since the financial crisis of 1987, according to international news outlets.

Japan is in turmoil after a March 11 earthquake, now declared 9.0 magnitude by the U.S. Geological Survey, and tsunami that claimed at least 2,700 lives. At least another 3,700 people are still missing, according to news reports.

As the world’s third-largest economy, Japan’s economic woes could dramatically impact the world. Some analysts speculate this might lead to an international sell-off of stocks.

But analysts like Adam Krop, vice president of equity research at Ardour Capital Investments, believe one reason the solar and renewable energy stocks are not only being spared by the sell-off but are actually thriving is that the industry will be in demand as fears surrounding the vulnerable state of Japan’s nuclear power plants grow.

Japan is currently fighting meltdowns at several of its nuclear power plants, trying to keep reactors from overheating, according to news reports.

While the world looks on and hopes for the people of Japan, the nuclear issues there have forced some hard conversations about the world’s energy future.

“We think this could have positive implications for solar,” Krop wrote in an e-mail.

He said there are a few reasons the current situation could favorably impact solar stock prices: First, because “it’s likely to set off political discussions worldwide to improve nuclear facility safety measures that could increase the cost of nuclear energy.” Second, the nuclear situation is likely to “push governments away from nuclear for future energy needs and more toward renewables.”

Krop said there is already evidence of this happening. Germany just imposed a three-month moratorium on extending the lifetime of nuclear power, Krop said, and representatives there are calling for a more rapid deployment of renewable energy technology.

While current events have separated solar stocks from the rest of the world market, lifted them up above the sinking economic news internationally, they will continue to be vulnerable to changes in subsidy programs, Krop said.