NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- The solar sector attracts its fair share of bearish investors, and Nasdaq has released its latest data on where the short interest is targeted among stocks in the solar sector.


Data released on Wednesday by the Nasdaq Stock Market breaks out some of the biggest targets of bearish sentiment in the solar sector in the period between Feb. 26 and March 15.

Thursday was a good day for First Solar ( FSLR - Get Report), with two Street firms, Morgan Stanley and Kaufman Brothers, starting coverage of First Solar at a buy.

The analyst ranks remain divided on First Solar. While the latest coverage initiations at buy sent First Solar shares up more than 2% on Thursday, First Solar continues to bear the largest short interest on a percentage basis among S&P 500 stocks, at just under 31.5% of its float.

In the most recent shorting period tracked by Nasdaq, however, First Solar was not among the S&P 500 stocks that experienced a significant change in its level of short interest.

The top short interest on Nasdaq, in fact, was located far from the alternative energy sector. The biggest short interest increase among S&P 500 stocks was toolmaker Stanley Black & Decker ( SWK). The toolmaker just reached a 52-week high on Tuesday.

The biggest decrease in short interest among S&P 500 stocks was Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway ( BRK.B).

Even though First Solar remains an S&P 500 shorting favorite, the U.S. solar company doesn't have the highest short interest as a percentage of float in the solar sector.

Not surprisingly, the U.S. solar firm with the highest float-based short percentage is also one of the solar industry's most under-stress players.

Short interest on Energy Conversion Devices ( ENER) made it the 16th-most shorted stock on Nasdaq in the most recent period, though total short exposure to Energy Conversion actually decreased by 2.8% in the most recent period to 32.9% percent of its float, or by 458, 000 shares.

Energy Conversion Devices is among the U.S. solar stocks fighting for its survival in a crowded solar market, and its building integrated photovoltaic (BIPV) niche continues to experience weak demand. While Morgan Stanley rated First Solar a buy on Thursday, Morgan Stanley rated Energy Conversion Devices a sell as part of its new clean-tech coverage universe.

First Solar, while first among S&P 500 stocks in terms of short interest as a percentage of float, is two spots below Energy Conversion among Nasdaq short favorites, in 18th place. Short interest on First Solar only increased by 0.8%, according to Nasdaq.

SunPower is not far behind First Solar and Energy Conversion among most-heavily shorted Nasdaq stocks.

SunPower shares are 22nd on the Nasdaq list with a 31.2% short interest, and short interest also decreased by more than 2% for SunPower in the most recent Nasdaq data period to 16.5 million shorts.

It is a tight race between First Solar and SunPower for most short interest among solar stocks, with First Solar edging out SunPower with 16.9 million shorts.

It was not as tight a race for the solar stock that saw its short interest drop by the biggest percentage. GT Solar ( SOLR) short interest decreased 10% as a percentage of its float, or a little over 1.4 million shares, in the most recent Nasdaq report.

GT Solar shares slumped from $5.93 on Feb. 26 -- the beginning of the Nasdaq short tracking period -- to $5.11 on March 15, the end of the Nasdaq short track. GT Solar shares remained at the $5.11 level at the close on Thursday.

There was negative market sentiment on GT Solar in recent weeks, coinciding with a stock sale by an insider venture capital backer of GT Solar.

Solar is in good company when it comes to the market's nefarious shorting of alternative energy plays.

Wind stocks American Superconductor ( AMSC) and A-Power Energy Generation ( APWR) were both high on Nasdaq's short interest tracker.

A-Power Energy has seen its fortunes go up and down with its big West Texas wind farm project. The recent announcement that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was working with A-Power to build a wind turbine manufacturing plant in Nevada was a good move to withstand recurrent political pressure about alternative energy contracts not creating U.S. job growth.

Short interest in A-Power decreased by more than 20%, or by 1.4 million shares, to near 5.6 million shares by March 15. From Feb. 26 to March 15, A-Power's share price dropped from $13.51 to $11.85.

A-Power has its fourth quarter earnings coming up on March 31.

A-Power and GT Solar had two of the biggest short interest percentage declines among alternative energy stocks in the most recent Nasdaq report.

American Superconductor, on the other hand, saw short interest increase by more than 8%, to a level of 28.4% of its float.

Many solar investors like to believe in the thesis that it is up, up and away with the Chinese solar plays and down and biting the dust with the U.S. solar stocks.

However, the largest increase of short interest among solar stocks was Chinese solar player JA Solar ( JASO).

Short interest on JA Solar increased by a little more than 3.4 million shares between Feb. 26 and March 15 -- the 10th-largest increase among Nasdaq stocks -- to a little under 16.7 million short positions.

Short interest represents just under 26% of JA Solar's float, and the 16.7 million short positions placed JA Solar right in between First Solar and SunPower in terms of absolute solar short interest.

Not that JA Solar was alone near the top of Nasdaq short leaders from the solar universe. U.S. solar dog Evergreen Solar ( ESLR) made the Nasdaq list of largest short increases too.

Evergreen Solar was well below JA Solar, in 34th place among Nasdaq stocks that experienced increased shorting. However, as far as total solar shorts go, Evergreen Solar was well ahead of JA Solar.

Evergreen has recently faced questions concerning its viability as an ongoing concern. However, it also recently received to somewhat bullish holds from analysts, arguing that Evergreen Solar has been priced for bankruptcy, yet the analysts believe it has a good shot at recovering if it can execute on its ongoing manufacturing transition to China.

There were more than 26 million short positions on Evergreen Solar in the most recent Nasdaq short tracking period, and that was up by 6.6%, or 1.6 million shares. The total short interest as a percentage of Evergreen Solar's float was 13.8% on March 15.

This list of alternative energy shorts is long and extends well beyond the most commonly commented on solar stocks.

RF Micro Devices ( RFMD) and Hoku Scientific ( HOKU) are also favored stocks for those pesky solar shorters.

Semiconductor firm RF Micro Devices is not a straight solar play, but recently trumpeted its latest thin film solar panel efficiency breakthrough in the press, though it's yet to reach the stage of commercialization.

Short interest on RF Micro Devices increased by 9%, to two spots behind Evergreen among largest short interest increase on the Nasdaq. Total short interest on RF Micro Devices shares went up to 22.6 million, an increase of just under 2 million shares.

From March 1 through March 15, RF Micro Devices' share price went from $4.26 to $4.86. It was even higher at the close on Thursday, at $5.12.

Hoku Scientific's share price has mostly been on the rise since Feb. 26, from a closing price at the beginning of the Nasdaq short period of $2.26 to a closing price of $2.72 on Thursday.

Hoku short interest decreased by 25% during the Feb. 26 to March 15 period, or by roughly 312,000 shares. The biggest pop for Hoku's stock occurred on March 12, when shares opened at $2.32. By the following Monday, March 13, Hoku shares opened at $2.64.

-- Reported by Eric Rosenbaum in New York.


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