This article originally ran on RealMoney at 11:06 a.m. EDT; it's being republished as a bonus for TheStreet.com readers.
Many market participants dread the inevitable market corrections that we suffer periodically, but if you have been building some cash reserves, they can provide some great opportunities. When the market is running like it did this past fall we often find ourselves struggling to buy stocks that have run up too much and too quickly.
When the market is undergoing a correction we can begin to stalk some of our favorites that we might have missed earlier. My main task during times of market struggle is to look for those stocks that are going to outperform once things improve.
During the most recent downturn I had an opportunity to look very hard at solar energy stocks. The group became very active a few months ago and a number of stocks in the group -- such as
(FSLR - Get Report)
(TSL - Get Report)
(ASTI - Get Report)
-- made big moves but have pulled back with the broader market in recent weeks.
This group looks like one that has the potential to regain its momentum in a better market, particularly if oil and energy prices stay strong, which doesn't seem that unlikely. So what stocks do I pursue in the group? Do I want to buy the ones that have corrected the most or the ones that have held up well?
Typically the ones that hold up best tend to lead when conditions are better. They have some underlying demand, and those folks are generally willing to pay up more aggressively when conditions improve.
In a sector like solar energy, I prefer a stock that has particular broad exposure to the industry rather than one that is focused on a more narrow niche. That way I can avoid specific issues that may not be indicative of the group as a whole.
So what is the best way to gain broad exposure to solar energy without buying a dozen stocks? There are a couple of exchange-traded funds that may make for good plays and that I will track in my
ETF Shark Alerts Newsletter
, but the one thing virtually all solar energy companies have in common is that they use something called polysilicon to manufacture solar cells.
There are some companies developing alternative approaches to producing solar cells, but it is limited and it's estimated that it will constitute only 20% of the market four to five years from now. For now, polysilicon will remain the key ingredient for solar cell manufacturers, and the key here is that there is a major shortage of the material. DigiTimes estimates that the shortage of the substance will likely triple in the next few years and will persist beyond 2010.