NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- First Solar (FSLR) -- whose shares have gained 27% this year, outpacing the broader market -- is pushing ahead to maintain its position as the leader in the U.S. solar market leader and the global leader in the thin-film technology that most Chinese companies have abandoned.
The company has claimed a 21% efficiency level in its research labs, but its average production panel still converts only 17% of sunlight into electricity. Most of the market relies on silicon-based systems, and the vast majority of production now comes from China.
Read More: 4 Stocks Warren Buffett Is Selling in 2014
First Solar's was pulling back 1.2% to $69.08, trimming its 2014 advance to 26%, easily outpacing the S&P 500 SPX, which has gained 7.5% this year.
Solar analysts are bullish on First Solar. Technicians see the stock putting in a reverse head-and-shoulders bottom that could drive it to $80, while fundamental analysts are happy about the company's contract to build a 250-megawatt power plant in Nevada for NextEra Energy (NEE) and completion of a company-owned plant in Texas selling electricity on the spot market.
Still, political obstacles for solar remain. Those are focused on the intermittent nature of solar power and the need for back-up systems. Some utilities are also seeking to impose charges on homes and businesses with panels for access to the grid. But at the same time, utilities continue to invest heavily in large solar projects.