NEW YORK ( TheStreet) - Solar stocks have been on a bumpy ride in 2014 but the sector is set for a rebound in 2015.
The subsidies-driven solar industry is getting close to providing power for consumers that will be as cheap or cheaper than other sources in 47 U.S. states by 2016, according to Bloomberg. The solar industry worldwide is currently subsidized with $120 billion in incentives, including generous tax credits for solar power installation in the U.S. Those tax credits are set to decline to 10% by 2016 from 30% today and have already been factored into the sunny projections for cheap solar power. According to the federal government only 0.23% of all electricity generated in the U.S. in 2013 was from solar power. By comparison, wind produced over 4%.
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The cost per watt to consumers for power generated by solar has fallen by over 99% since 1977. And the all-in cost of utility-scale solar installation was $0.08 per kilowatt-hour in early 2013, compared with $0.057 per kilowatt-hour for a natural gas power generation plant. While solar continues to get cheaper, the cost of natural gas has stagnated at roughly $4 per MMBtu for the past two years.
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So how best to invest? Trina Solar ( TSL) manufactures solar modules and installs them in its own 'downstream' projects. With 13% operating cash flow margins, Trina is healthy enough to fund top-line growth in the mid-teens for the foreseeable future.
Looking for something bigger and paying a dividend? Try PG&E ( PCG) , a California integrated power company that in 2013 added the most solar generating capacity among U.S.-based utilities. With a 3.6% yield, and a customer base concentrated in a region with abundant sunshine, it stands to benefit from the solar mega-trend for years to come.
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This article is commentary from an outside contributor, separate from TheStreet's news coverage. Barry Randall runs the Crabtree Technology Portfolio on Covestor, an online investing company. Randall is long TSL at publication and does not have a position in any other stocks mentioned in this article.