The Week’s Top Green Business Stories (CPST, DE, FSLR, ESLR, VE, WMT)

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Many alternative energy stocks themselves may sometimes represent little more than highly leveraged bets on the price of oil.  But there is still big business in the world of clean tech and green technology.  This week saw some interesting developments in the world of green business.  In the news were Capstone Turbine Corp. (NASDAQ: CPST), Deere & Company (NYSE: DE), First Solar, Inc. (NASAQ: FSLR), Evergreen Solar Inc. (NASSDAQ: ESLR), and Veolia Environnement SA (NYSE: VE).  Even Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (NYSE: WMT) got in on the lower carbon news.

Capstone Turbine Corp. (NASDAQ: CPST) may have pulled a rabbit out of the hat for recent secondary offering buyers.  Last week the company sold 38.1 million shares at $1.05. This was effectively a 15% discount from the $1.24 close.  Share closed at $1.15 on the day of the pricing and slowly stepped down to $1.08 closes on Wednesday and Thursday.  Yet on Friday we saw about 150% normal volume and the stock magically closed at $1.19 on no real news.  This is not unheard of exactly, but it is not the norm.

Deere & Company (NYSE: DE) announced this week that it has hired Goldman Sachs to review strategic options for its wind energy business.  In short, a sale of the unit is coming.  So the company hopes, despite it saying “no formal decisions have been made and no agreements have been reached about the company’s long-term investments in wind energy projects….”  Deere has been involved in wind energy projects for the past five years and claims 34 existing wind energy projects in seven states with operational capacity of 706 megawatts.  Deere also claims many wind energy projects in development…  Call this one whatever you want, but that is called an exit attempt.  More breaking wind.

First Solar, Inc. (NASAQ: FSLR) announced on Friday evening that several of its officers executed transactions this week in First Solar shares in a February 22 to 26 trading window which comes four times per year.  Chairman Michael Ahearn sold 1.5 million shares (over $150 million) in the open market as part of his planned share sale; CEO Rob Gillette purchased 10,000 shares in the open market with personal funds, and EVP of Marketing and Product Management T.K. Kallenbach purchased 1,000 shares in the open market with personal funds.  This won’t be one of the greatest receptions, but what is most likely to be highlighted here this week is that First Solar broke the $100 barrier and came all the way back up to $105.75.  There has been serious technical damage done to the chart here and the stock price needs to get back up about $10 more for the damage to not be confirmed…. The sentiment had changed going into earnings, but the new chart cares not.  Stay tuned.

“Texas Has a —–House In It!”  Actually, that is ‘Solar’… This week TXU announced a new initiative with SolarCity to lease solar roofing modules for the home.  This is not everywhere yet and Texas is not California.  Selling electricity back into the grid is generally much more rewarding in California than in Texas.  What will make this very different is that green consumers (yes there are some environmentally conscious consumers in Texas) will get to avoid much of those extremely high start-up or install costs associated with buying solar panels to power a house.  This is a potential game-changer for the Texas market and SolarCity may have rounded up yet another solid solar project here that makes solar power extremely affordable.  The company’s PR form confirmed in an email that SolarCity offers the proven solar module technologies offered by Evergreen Solar Inc. (NASSDAQ: ESLR), First Solar Inc. (NASDAQ: FSLR) and Sanyo.  Evergreen Solar is one of the oldest public solar stocks that has been stuck in the $1.00 arena forever and this one closed down this week.

Veolia Environnement SA (NYSE: VE) is generally thought of as specializing in waste and water, yet this week it launched the Veolia Innovation Accelerator as “a large-scale on-ramp program for the sourcing, deployment and acceleration of the best clean technologies, working with the most innovative start-up companies and investors in the sector.”  The announcement at the Cleantech Forum XXVI said that the VIA
focus will include bio resources; drinking water; waste water; waste sorting, recycling and recovery; sustainable and green cities; energy generation and optimization; transportation; health and environmental performance; carbon capture and storage (CCS); and energy storage.

Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (NYSE: WMT) this week did perhaps its biggest PR effort ever for the green movement.  The company issued a press release announcing a goal of eliminating 20 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions from Gits global supply chain via a collaboration with suppliers and environmental experts to develope, measure and independently assessment carbon reductions…. The target date: by 2015. The world’s largest retailer says this represents “one and a half times the company’s estimated global carbon footprint growth over the next five years and is the equivalent of taking more than 3.8 million cars off the road for a year.”

Bloom Energy this week emerged directly into the public demonstrating its solid oxide fuel cell technology that generates clean power on site from almost any fuel source.  Technically this was not new as it has many anchor trial customers…. Bank of America, Coca-Cola, eBay, Google, Staples, Wal-Mart and more.  This week marked the availability of its Bloom Energy Server™ for distributed power generation that allows customers to efficiently create electricity on site on a 24/7 basis using almost any sort of fuel in a clean electrochemical process.  While these systems can cost $700K, the company believes a 40% to 100% carbon reduction and a 3 to 5 year payback timeframe is the result.  Many reports issued praise this week, but many also question this as possible hype.  Here is 24/7 Wall Street’s take… Bloom Energy is in the prep-stage for an IPO despite some mixed data there.

JON C. OGG