A Solar Energy Secret Uncovered: Real Goods Solar

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Last Friday shares of Real Goods Solar Inc. (NASDAQ: RSOL) virtually doubled. Shares are up another 50% so far today and have been trading around $6 a share after posting a new 52-week high of $6.43 earlier. That’s still about 30% below the solar PV installer’s 2008 IPO price of $9.25, but after languishing below $2 a share for more than a year, no one’s complaining.

Another pure-play solar energy installer, SolarCity Corp. (NASDAQ: SCTY) has also posted a new 52-week high this morning. Like Real Goods, SolarCity put up quarterly results that included a larger net loss than in the same quarter a year ago. SolarCity managed to snag more revenue than it did a year ago, but that mark eluded Real Goods, which saw an 8% drop in year-over-year revenues.

Real Goods has signed a deal with homebuilder Lennar Corp. (NYSE: LEN) to install solar PV at some of the homebuilder’s new communities in California, with a potential to expand to other areas of the country.

Both Real Goods and SolarCity operate exclusively in the U.S., so neither is taking advantage of the expanding solar market in Japan. SolarCity and Real Goods both offer solar PV systems that have no upfront cost for home and business owners willing to sign a 20-year power purchase agreement.

Other than the fact that Real Goods has remained in the background since is IPO 10 years ago this month, there’s really not an awful lot of news or data to warrant such a steep, quick jump in the share price. But installation of solar energy is where the profits will be for the near term. SunPower Corp. (NASDAQ: SPWR), First Solar Inc. (NASDAQ: FSLR), and MEMC Electronic Materials Inc. (NYSE: WFR) all have installation operations as well, so there is stiff competition from large firms to say nothing of local installers. But it’s where the money is right now, and with stabilizing prices for solar modules, margins and profits could be about to get better.

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