More Action in Solar Stocks (TSL, STP, GTAT, YGE, LDK, FSLR)

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Shares of several of the solar PV makers are trading higher today, most likely due to today’s options expirations. Shares of Trina Solar Ltd. (NYSE: TSL) are up more than 7% as are shares of Suntech Power Holdings Co. Ltd. (NYSE: STP). Solar manufacturing equipment maker GT Advanced Technologies Inc. (NASDAQ: GTAT) is getting a boost of more than 6% to its share price today as well.

Yingli Green Energy Holding Co. Ltd. (NYSE: YGE) is up more than 2% and even LDK Solar Co. Ltd. (NYSE: LTD) is posting a gain of 1.5%. US maker First Solar Inc. (NASDAQ: FSLR) is also up about 2% in mid-afternoon trading.

Bloomberg reports an interesting story out of Germany, where equipment maker Manz AG predicts that some of the biggest makers of LCD screens will enter the market for thin-film solar panels within three years. First Solar currently rules the thin-film market, and produces cells at a cost of $0.69/watt. The global market for solar PV panels totals about 30,000 megawatts annually.

Manz believes that when the market for solar panels reaches 100,000 megawatts, massive firms like Samsung Electronics, LG Electronics, and Foxconn will convert their LCD production to thin-film solar. Manz also claims to be close to selling its first orders for production equipment to make a variant of thin-film panels using CIGS — copper, indium, gallium-selenide — technology.

There are a couple of loose ends in Manz’s forecast. First, as government subsidies for solar power generation get smaller and disappear, new financing schemes will have to take the place of those subsidies. There has been some development on this front, but it will need to grow almost exponentially in order to drive a tripling of demand.

Second, most of the growth after 2012 is expected to come from China. By the look of things now, China intends to continue installing solar generation, but the country is not going to outsource its panel supply to Korea nor is it going to allow Foxconn to put its other domestic makers out of business.

Though Manz strikes an encouraging note about new demand and supply for solar PV, the company’s forecast seems awfully optimistic.

Paul Ausick

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