Solar Sector: What's Driving New Projects?

by: Chris Cather

Upstream solar module manufacturers like Evergreen Solar (ESLR) and First Solar (NASDAQ:FSLR) sell to developers of residential, commercial, utility scale and government segment solar projects.

What’s driving those projects?

Mike Niver, Director of Project Finance at SolarCity, the California-based provider and installer was a panelist at the Novogradac Financing Renewable Energy Conference in Washington, D.C. in mid November. Already a strong solar brand with an established presence in California, SolarCity is ramping up for expansion. Niver looks for three conditions when targeting new states: favorable subsidies, plenty of sun, and retail rates he can compete with. All vary dramatically from state to state.

SolarCity expanded its residential segment to Oregon in October and Colorado in December as a result of those state’s robust subsidy regimes. Evergreen and First Solar are two of SolarCity’s module suppliers for the residential and other segments.

Along with China, ESLR and FSLR view the US as an “emerging market” and will undoubtedly keep their eye on the evolving state solar subsidy landscape.

Disclosure: Author owns share in the Claymore/MAC Global Solar Energy Index ETF (NYSEARCA:TAN), which has holdings in FSLR and ESLR.