April 7, 2011

Should Nuclear Energy Producers Invest in Alternatives?

Posted in energy policy tagged , , , , , , , at 11:28 am by realitytax

That’s a daunting potential, in some people’s minds. There’s recent interest in nuclear companies “Hedging Their Bets” by investing in Wind/Solar assets. Could they be planning to stifle competition? I don’t think so.

With lesser known French and British firms competing against key U.S. players such as Exelon (which invested $900 million to acquire John Deere Renewables) or the mega-conglomerate General Electric ($600 million to build a solar factory) they are all assuredly anticipating substantial ROI or risking their shareholders wrath.

If the U.S. is relying increasingly on energy from wind and/or solar sources, demand will likely be to move it beyond the borders of the property where it’s generated along the existing grid. Grid providers have incentives to maintain access, and I’m heartened to think that if any business invests substantially in any asset or resource they have at least some market-based incentive to protect that investment and reaping monetary return than letting it go to waste, just as those who provide and maintain the grid want reliable sources to deliver for their customers.

(Reuters) – General Electric Co made a big push in solar power, saying it will invest $600 million to build a new factory as it pursues what it thinks could be an up to $3 billion business by 2015.

By Scott Malone and Matt Daily
BOSTON/NEW YORK | Thu Apr 7, 2011 12:16pm EDT

Of course, none of that technically precludes simply holding those assets away from the market to drive up demand for nuclear power, which represents a potential return on the investment – a traditional bottom-line goal. So let’s agree that GE, Exelon, Areva, and others investing large sums aim to stay in business.

Nellis AFB Solar Panels
It follows that as nuclear becomes either unacceptable or even less cost-effective (and increasingly there’s actuarial data supporting the latter in the wake of the Fukushima disaster) that corporate growth, vitality, and “business success” will require savvy, competitive utilization of resources and assets, which now include literally hundreds of millions of dollars each of wind and solar investments.

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July 30, 2009

Why is First Solar included in the ERRI fund?

Posted in economic indicator, economic recovery, ERRI, Obama administration, U.S. Economy tagged , , , , , at 6:35 pm by realitytax

Tempe, Arizona based First Solar, Inc. (FSLR) designs and manufactures solar modules using a thin film semiconductor technology. The 2′ x 4′ (60cm x 120 cm) modules employ a thin layer of cadmium telluride semiconductor material to convert sunlight into an average rated power of approximately 73 watts (a single-junction polycrystalline thin film structure that uses cadmium telluride as the absorption layer and cadmium sulfide as the window.) First Solar provides a variety of integrated services to its customers: solar power system design, procurement of permits and balance of system components, construction management, monitoring and maintenance.

Beginning in 2009, First Solar is expanding its focus from sustainable commercial solutions into the Residential Market. In a forward-looking, eco-sensitive “cradle to grave” model, First Solar finances and manages the collection & recycling of Photo-voltaic First Solar Modules.

FSLR shares fell from a little over $300 in late July of 2008 to just over $85 in November of that year as the reality of the credit and mortgage crisis had sunk in, and share prices were again low in March when much of the market struggled. Investor sentiment is typically positive when the 50-day moving average is rising, especially if it’s also above the 200-day moving average. With that in mind, the 200-day numbers have trended down since October 2008, when the more volatile 50-day average had “crossed below.” The 50-day emerged above the 200-day in late May. Other technical indicators, such as the Chart pattern, complete a “mixed” outlook (arguably neutral or slightly better) as you might expect for a company reliant on the still-reeling building industry. Earnings for the 2nd Quarter are due out today.

With $14.6 billion in market capitalization (a Mid-Cap stock) First Solar valuation tumbled during the latter months of 2008, tracking the broader markets as global reverberations of what started out as a problem in the U.S mortgage lending industry spread throughout the world stock markets. FSLR is used within the ERRI fund to represent alternative energy. The market recovery can’t be measured solely by tracking retail clothing, the financial sector, and old-style energy companies/utilities; mid-cap companies in the alternative energy business face a competitive landscape as their customers weather the credit crunch, but clearly there is growing sentiment in favor of wind and solar power generation.

Despite a glut in the supply of solar panels world-wide, First Solar recently announced a venture to build France’s largest solar panel manufacturing plant, with an initial annual capacity of more than 100MWp. This new venture will support the recently announced goal of the French government to become a leader in sustainable energy technologies. The plant is projected to employ over 300 people during the second half of 2011. FSLR valuation will reflect investor confidence in solar and alternative energy production versus reliance on fossil-fuel/carbon-based sources, given the current U.S. administrations focus on “greening” up the economy and the energy sector.


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