Solar Industry Snapshot: SunPower, LDK Solar

Written by Jennifer Kho

Solar shares lifted alongside the Dow Jones Industrial Average and other indices Monday.

By midday, the Dow had gained 2.4 percent to 9068.62 points, while the Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 2.7 percent to 966.18 points, and the Nasdaq rose 1.3 percent to 1,733.48 points. Crude oil futures also grew 3.3 percent to $74.25 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. (Update: Tuesday, Oct. 21: " Stocks Add to Losses")

A number of solar stocks grew more than the average suggested by those indices, with SunPower Corp. ( SPWRA) rising 15 percent to $54 per share, First Solar ( FSLR) gaining 7 percent to $144.62 per share and Suntech Power Holdings Co. Ltd. ( STP) increasing 4.5 percent to $22.72 per share.

And solar companies beamed out a series of announcements as shares climbed. Here are a few that caught our eye:

  • Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski next week plans to unveil a proposal to make Oregon the first U.S. state to adopt a solar feed-in tariff, according to the Portland Business Journal. Unlike systems in a number of states that allow solar-energy producers to roll back their electricity bills, potentially paying little or nothing for electricity, Kulongoski's plan would allow generators to actually make money on the electricity they feed into the grid, the newspaper reported.

    The feed-in tariff system is based on a German program that helped make the country the No. 1 solar market in the world. (Don't miss "SolarWorld COO: U.S. Needs to Amp Up Solar Policy") The city of Gainesville, Fla., already is considering a similar system.
  • Energosolar Hungary Equipment Manufacturing Ltd. said Monday it has shipped a commercial amorphous-silicon manufacturing line to its customer, Bulgarian-based Solar Pro. The line is expected to have the capacity to produce 18 megawatts of amorphous-silicon thin-film panels annually when it fully ramps up by the middle of next year, according to Energosolar. The company is slated to complete the first phase of the installation by the end of this year, but didn't disclose the expected capacity of the first phase. Energosolar said it already has production lines running in Hungary and China, with a total of approximately 60 megawatts of capacity, and hopes to add another 120 megawatts of capacity next year.
  • Munich-based Wacker Chemie AG said Monday it plans to build a new silicon factory, capable of producing up to 10,000 metric tons annually, in Nuenchritz, Germany, by the end of 2011. The company expects to produce the first batch of silicon from the plant in the first quarter of that year. Wacker said it has budgeted approximately ¿760 million ($1.01 billion) for the project. Combined with plans to increase an expansion at another factory -- this one in Burghausen, Germany -- from 7,000 to 10,000 metric tons of capacity, the company expects to reach the capacity to produce 35,500 metric tons of silicon by the end of 2011, up from 10,000 metric tons today.

    As many companies work to increase production of silicon for solar power, some analysts have forecast that the supply of solar equipment could grow faster than demand in the next few years, driving down prices.
  • LDK Solar (LDK) announced Monday it has signed yet another multiyear contract to supply solar wafers to a customer. The agreement calls for LDK to deliver 70 megawatts of solar wafers to Italy-based Helios Technology over seven years, according to LDK, which added that Helios would pay part of the contract value in advance.

    The company on Friday said it had also signed a three-year contract to sell 90 megawatts of wafers to "a leading energy solutions supplier" in the United States. According to that announcement, the unnamed customer agreed to supply at least 300 metric tons of polysilicon toward the wafers and to make a prepayment, as well as to pay a penalty if it backs out of the agreement. LDK shares grew 8 percent to $21.72 per share Monday, in spite of a lowered price target -- to $17 per share from $35 per share -- from Goldman Sachs, which reiterated a Neutral rating for the stock. (Don't miss "China Watch Mail Bag: LDK Solar Dimming" on TheStreet.com TV)
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