Solar market watch: Investing in solar companies

It’s always nerve-racking when you’re trying to decide where and how to invest money. While the market remains in turmoil, investors and potential investors are asking questions like: “Which stocks will give me the best return on investment?” and “Who has the best business strategy going forward?” But the solar market is a growing industry where some strategic investments still make sense.

Zacks Equity Research said that “the alternative-energy industry was hit hard by the Great Recession and essentially remains in a recovery mode. And while stock prices of alternative energy companies have recovered from their lows, valuations still remain quite attractive by historical standards.” The research went on to state that “a major growth area in this space is solar energy. The U.S. has a lot of catching up to do, despite enormous potential, to get anywhere close to the global leaders.”

Zacks Equity Research said in August 2010 that the following companies stand to gain in the short term from favorable market conditions in China: Sunergy Co. Ltd., LDK Solar Co. Ltd., ReneSola Ltd., Solarfun Power Holdings Co. Ltd., Real Goods Solar Inc. and Trina Solar Ltd. The only United States-based company in that group is Real Goods Solar. Zacks cautioned that some of the United States-based manufacturers, like First Solar Inc. and and SunPower Corp. had benefitted heavily from markets in Europe, including Germany, Italy, and Spain. But the company predicted those markets are now slowing down, which could impact those companies’ stocks in the future.

Bloomberg Businessweek has a different viewpoint than Zacks. It contended that with 23 gigawatts (GWs) of new solar power in the works in the United States, demand for solar power “is expected to grow 75 percent in 2011, compared with 2010.” Bloomberg contended, PV “makers FirstSolar and SunPower have large pipelines of utility-scale projects and will be dominant players in the U.S., starting in 2011.”

The story also asserted that people interested in solar companies should consider investing in other related companies.

Just like any market, the alternative energy industry has its ups and downs. But with much of the world investing heavily in renewable energy projects, investing in renewables should be a consideration when diversifying a stock portfolio these days.