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Outlook for Solar in the U.S. and Canada Brighter in 2013

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Outlook for Solar in the U.S. and Canada Brighter in 2013

Solar installations in the U.S. increased by 33 percent in Q1, representing nearly half of all new electric capacity added during that period, according to Bloomberg.

Washington-based Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) said in a statement issued Tuesday that it expects 5.3 gigawatts to be installed in 2013. This is more than 1.5 times the 3.3 gigawatts installed in 2012.

More importantly, this increase is being driven by solar installations in homes and businesses, according to Shayle Kann, vice president of research at Boston’s GTM Research, which wrote the SEIA report.

An increase in availability of third party financing for home installations by companies like Solarcity (NASDAQ: SCTY) has helped according to the report.

Kann pointed out that financing is the biggest obstacle to growth in home and business solar. As a result, crowdfunding is also increasingly seen as a way to boost project financing.

GigaOM noted the growing popularity of solar leases, lower prices of solar panels, and efforts to lower marketing costs as reasons why installations have picked up. The residential solar market, for example, grew 53 percent from Q1 2012 to Q1 2013.

At the same time, although government incentives still play a role, that role will diminish as programs end, GigaOM said, citing the SEIA report.

State incentives, for example, in California have ended in two of three large utility service areas yet solar installation continues to expand. One secret seems to be the fact that solar companies say they can generate electricity at competitive rates through the federal tax credit alone, which covers 30 percent of the price of a system.

One area hit by declining state incentives is the commercial market segment. Businesses and other non-residential customers want the shortest payback possible along with energy savings. This is hard to achieve when subsidies decrease.

Other positive signs in solar include the announcement, Tuesday, by First Solar (NASDAQ: FSLR), according to The Associated Press that it plans to sell 8.5 million shares of common stock. Proceeds from the sale will be used for general purposes, including acquisitions and investments.

First Solar expects annual net income of $4 to $4.50 per share and $3.8 billion to $4 billion in revenue in 2013. According to FactSet, analysts anticipate income of $4.20 and revenue of $3.87 billion.

Bloomberg reported, Monday that Canadian Solar (NASDAQ: CSIQ) plans to build a 130 megawatt solar plant in Ontario for Samsung Renewable Energy. This will be the biggest Engineering, Procurement, and Construction contract in the company’s history, bringing in $304 million for this project alone.

When finished, the plant will generate enough electricity for 13,750 homes.

At the time of this writing, Jim Probasco had no position in any mentioned securities.

 

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