In the wake of Japan's nuclear disaster and EU member nations winding down nuclear programs over the next two decades, solar companies look poised for a period of growth over the long term, despite concerns of excess supply in the Chinese polysilicon market. The past few months have been rough on the sector, providing opportunity for long term investors. Here are 11 names we think any alternative energy investor should consider. As always, use the list below as a starting point for your own due diligence.
Yingli Green Energy Holding Co. Ltd. (NYSE:YGE): This vertically-integrated photovoltaic manufacturer, based in Baoding, China, took a major hit over the past months. YGE has a P/E ratio of 5.51. Furthermore, the company was selected to supply photovoltaic products for approximately 70% of China's new Golden Sun Program, an initiative that will add 272 megawatts of solar energy into the country's power grids.
The company received an advance payment of roughly 35% of the total purchase price in December 2010 and is expecting the other 65% (approximately $1.4 billion) in the second half of 2011.
GT Solar International, Inc. (SOLR): Stock for this U.S.-based manufacturer of photovoltaic panel construction equipment has appreciated to twice its original value in the last year alone. However, at $12.19 per share upon closing Thursday, SOLR stock is still a relative bargain in the semiconductor field. With the dramatic projected growth of the industry and heightening efficiency standards, the company hopes to profit from increasing capital investment in the near future. SOLR boasts a 130.90% return on equity over the last year and has a considerable 9.67 P/E ratio.
Additionally, GT Solar International, Inc. received a $41 million order for furnaces from an Asia-based customer near the beginning of March — the fourth order of its kind so far this year.
Canadian Solar, Inc. (NASDAQ:CSIQ): Manufacturing solar modules, power systems and other specialized solar products for customers in over 30 countries, this Ontario-based solar technology giant appears poised for long-term growth. CSIQ shares traded at $9.14 upon closing yesterday, hoping to recover from a fall off their YTD high of almost $17 a share in February. Canadian Solar, Inc. recently announced an engineering, procurement and construction agreement with SkyPower Limited to construct a monstrous 30 megawatt solar field in Ontario capable of powering 50,000 homes over the next 20 years.
With a P/E ratio of 7.88 and a 1-year target estimate of $12.48, investors with long-term time horizons should take note of the current pullback of this stock.
First Solar, Inc. (NASDAQ:FSLR): The world's largest solar panel producer announced plans to construct a $300 million, 500 megawatt solar field in Arizona that will effectively double the U.S. solar energy production capacity. FSLR stock, with a P/E ratio of 16.59, traded at $116.31, continuing to fall off its recent spike that saw shares valued over $170 in February.
Additionally, General Electric (GE) announced Friday morning that it plans to construct a $600 million solar factory to compete directly with First Solar, Inc., pressuring the industry leader to take strides to maintain its supremacy.
JA Solar Holdings, Co., Ltd. (NASDAQ:JASO): The Shanghai-based solar cell manufacturer is optimistic that decreasing polysilicon prices will help alleviate high production costs and enable the company to offer more competitive construction deals. JASO stock dropped to $5.09 yesterday.
With a low 3.18 P/E ratio and a one-year target estimate of $9.32, JA Solar Holdings shares appear to be a cheap with short and long-term prospects. The industry quality leader has a 13.1% average return on equity over the last three years.
JinkoSolar Holding Co., Ltd. (NYSE:JKS): Another Chinese solar energy producer is enjoying the industry's bright prospects. JinkoSolar Holding Co., known for its dynamic vertically-integrated corporate structure, has a P/E ratio of 3.02 and shares appreciated to $23.50 yesterday. Despite its high volatility — the 52-week range has wavered from $8.80 to $41.75 — the company has outperformed its expectations and has a one-year target estimate of $35.93.
JK Solar Holdings also boasts high efficiency ratings for its monocrystalline and multicrystalline modules, a factor that could become more significant as production costs decrease industry-wide.
ReneSola Ltd. (NYSE:SOL): The leading manufacturer of solar wafers is based in China and sells products to many of the world's most successful solar module producers. The company grew its revenues by 136.2% to $1.2 billion in 2010, with profits topping $169 million. Additionally, ReneSola plans to ship 400-450 megawatts to new and existing customers in 2011, a significant increase from last year's total of 291.1 megawatts.
With a P/E ratio of 2.77 and a one-year target estimate of $14.78, SOL stock is a cheap buy that has great potential for growth in 2011. We also wrote about ReneSola in "9 Great Stocks Trading Under $10."
SunPower Corporation (SPWRA): Even the older kids want to come out and play and SunPower Corporation, founded in 1985, is no exception. Share values for the San Jose-based manufacturer of high-efficiency photovoltaic cells dropped to $21.27 yesterday. While many names in the solar sector have taken a hit recently, SunPower shares have steadily risen over the past six months. With SunPower projecting its global network of dealers to double in size by the end of FY 2011, the company's diverse customer base will continue to grow and expand its presence in Europe.
Additionally, SunPower recently announced a deal to install solar panels capable of producing 11 megawatts of power on the roofs of schools and businesses in Tucson, Arizona, which should increase its visibility in the short run. Combined with the company's strong preference for short-term contracts, SPWRA is positioned for growth in the near future.
Suntech Power Holdings Co., Ltd. (NYSE:STP): The world's largest producer of silicon solar modules has already established a strong claim as a top solar energy producer. The company has offices in 13 countries, customers in 67 more and was the first solar producer with the capacity to generate over 1 gigawatt of power annually (capacity now tops 4.35 GW).
The company may have to contend with the reduction of alternative energy production incentives in Italy — the country was responsible for 14% of STP's revenues last year — and it will need to adjust to new leadership: David King replaced Amy Zhang as the company's CFO last week. But given Suntech's $9.82 one-year target estimate and its precedence for steady growth, this stock may present a valuable opportunity for investors with long-term aspirations.
Trina Solar, Ltd. (NYSE:TSL): This China-based producer of mono- and multi-crystalline photovoltaic modules has plunged recently. That being said, TSL offers a P/E ratio of 4.71 and a one-year target estimate of $36.66 per share.
Trina Solar produced twice as many photovoltaic modules in 2010 as it did in 2009 and perhaps more importantly, it has been able to sustain this growth. TSL shares have an enviable PE below 5 and, at $19 per share are hovering just above the 52-week low of $17.
MEMC Electronic Materials Inc. (WFR): MEMC has been designing and developing silicon wafer products for over 50 years, weathering economic downturns as they come. But even a strong history can't immunize a company from natural disasters and a rare opportunity may arise for investors to capitalize in the near future. Within the week, inspectors are planning to assess damage to MEMC's Japan manufacturing plant from the recent earthquake.
With a P/E ratio of 51, MEMC is focused on long-term growth. Still, its presence in the semiconductor industry outside of solar technology may help to buffer the effects of negative events within the solar-based divisions of the company.
Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.