Written by Rachel Barron and Jeff St. John

It's been a hectic week. The markets have swung wildly and Sens. Barack Obama and John McCain have set out to win over undecided voters during a presidential debate. Meanwhile, the Solar Power International conference in San Diego brought in a record number of people.

Organizers said the event, which started Monday evening in San Diego, Calif., attracted 22,500 attendees from at least 70 countries. Last year, 12,500 participants attended the conference in Long Beach, Calif.

Participants got a chance to listen to market leaders and discuss the impact the financial market crisis and the recently approved eight-year solar tax credits will have on the solar industry.

For example, First Solar ( FSLR) CEO Michael Ahearn warned that the crisis could potentially result in the higher cost of building solar power systems, but he also said the recent passage of tax credits that help utilities, businesses and homeowners install solar energy systems will make it easier for companies like First Solar to expand in the United States.

California's "governator" Arnold Schwarzenegger also made an appearance to say that despite the economic tough times, a focus on solar and the environment must continue.

Solar Industry Roundup

And while the conference has been going on, a lot of solar news also has been released. Here's some of the latest solar news:

  • Solar-equipment manufacturer GT Solar (SOLR) said Thursday that it signed a $46.8 million contract with Taiwanese cell maker Top Green Energy Technologies Inc. The deal calls for GT Solar to provide silicon production equipment to Top Green. Although the deal marks the first Taiwan-based customer for GT Solar, the company already has important ties in Asia, such as Chinese wafer manufacturer LDK Solar (LDK). In September, LDK said it had signed a $32 million deal to buy silicon reactors from GT Solar. By the close of Thursday's market, GT Solar's shares were up $1.87, or 14.36 percent, to $14.89 per share.
  • SunPower Corp. (SPWRA) on Thursday reported a third-quarter net income of $22.4 million, or 26 cents per share, up from $8.4 million, or 10 cents per share, for the same quarter last year. Excluding one-time items, the San Jose, Calif.-based solar company posted an operating income of $73.3 million and a diluted net income of 60 cents per share, beating Wall Street analysts' expectations of 56 cents per share, according to Reuters Estimates. The company reported third-quarter revenue of $377.5 million, compared to $234.3 million in the same quarter last year.
  • Marlboro, Mass.-based Evergreen Solar Inc. (ESLR) on Thursday posted a third-quarter net loss of $23.85 million, or 18 cents per share, compared to a net loss of $3.7 million, or 4 cents per share, in the same quarter last year. That loss came despite an increase in third-quarter revenues to $22.1 million, up from $18.2 million in the same quarter last year.
  • California regulators on Wednesday released the final draft of a statewide plan to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. In addition to a provision to strengthen emission limits from new cars, the draft calls for utilities to boost the amount of solar power and other renewable energy they use, according to the Los Angeles Times. The plan, which also includes a cap-and-trade program to limit emissions, was first revealed in June. The California Air Resources Board is slated to consider the plan in December.
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