The World's #1 Renewable Energy Network for News, Information, and Companies.
Untitled Document

Solar: A Fall From Grace for Investors

Solar is no longer the favorite among investors.

The Cleantech Group released its preliminary investment numbers on Tuesday to show that solar, once the top money grabber, ceded that spot to transportation, biofuel and green chemicals during the third quarter of this year. Solar investments accounted for only 4 percent ($70 million) of the $1.6 billion global cleantech investments during the third quarter. Transportation deals made up 21 percent ($320 million), biofuel and chemicals at 16 percent ($256 million), and smart grid at 13 percent ($208 million).

The slide has been happening for several quarters now, fueled in part by the tough times that solar technology developers, from silicon to cell and panel makers, have been experiencing for nearly two years now. A terrible imbalance of supply and demand has pummeled the prices of solar panels, causing them to fall 50 percent during 2011 and around 30 percent so far this year. All major players, from Suntech Power to First Solar, have scaled back production and expansion plans.

Back in 2008, 40 percent of the deal amount involved solar, compared with 12 percent for so far this year.

Many companies that were hoping to move from pilot to mass production during this period found themselves unable to compete or raise enough money to continue. Abound Solar filed for bankruptcy in July this year. Amonix closed its North Las Vegas factory after operating it for just a little more than a year. GE, which vowed to be a major solar panel maker using a cadmium-telluride technology, suspended its plan to build a 400-MW factory in Colorado. MiaSole, after raising somewhere around $500 million, is being sold to Hanergy, a renewable energy project developer in China, for a paltry $30 million

“Solar has really been out of favor, and it’s coming through strongly in our numbers,” said Sheeraz Haji, CEO of the Cleantech Group, during a conference call with reporters on Tuesday.

China, the home base of several of the world’s largest solar equipment makers and a popular place for accessing money from the public markets, saw 10 companies suspending or pulling their IPO plans from January to August this year, Haji said.

Cleantech Group’s finding corresponds with money surveys from other firms. Mercom Capital Group released a third-quarter investment report yesterday showing that venture capital funding fell to its lowest since 2008, reaching only $72 million with 14 deals in the third quarter. Even during the second quarter of this year, investors pumped in $376 million in 32 deals.

While manufacturers, who once made good money, now are suffering big losses, companies that develop and install solar energy projects are having an easier time attracting investments. Cheaper solar panel prices help them to reduce their costs. Plus these developers and installers have continued to benefit from federal, state and local government incentives to promote solar energy generation.

Companies such as Clean Power Finance, SunRun and SolarCity have been able to raise funds for business development and for financing solar panel installations. Charging home or business owners for using solar electricity rather than the equipment and labor costs makes going solar more affordable upfront. Blackstone, a private equity group, announced last month that it will buy home security system and solar installer, Vivint, for over $2 billion.

SolarCity’s pending IPO will be a big test on whether public market investors will view solar companies in the project financing and retail service sector with a truly better bet than those in manufacturing. SolarCity is eyeing a $201 million IPO although it has yet to make a profit

Untitled Document

Get All the Renewable Energy World News Delivered to Your Inbox - FREE!

Subscribe to Renewable Energy World Magazine and our award-winning e-Newsletter to stay up to date on current news and industry trends.

 Subscribe Now



Evaluating the Case for Module-Level Shutdown

Hannes Knopf With 2014 NEC adoption in full swing, many are anticipating what the next version of the code will hold for the PV in...

A Case Study in Energy-Transition Momentum

Tim King South Australia is clearly at the forefront of the global energy transition as it establishes a fast-moving model oth...

Listen Up: Can I Get Solar if my Roof is Shaded?

The Energy Show on Renewable Energy World Rooftop solar panels only work when they are in direct sunlight. So if you have a partially shaded roof, the output o...

US Senate Democrats Unveil Energy Bill That Restores PTC and Extends ITC

Brian Eckhouse, Bloomberg Senate Democrats unveiled a bill that would provide more tax credits for renewable energy while killing some tax ince...


New Officers and Board Members Announced by IREC

A new slate of officers was elected by IREC's board of directors at its recent annual m...

CleanTX Releases New White Paper on the Future of Texas Solar in Texas

We love this new White Paper from our clean energy partners CleanTX Welcomes Jennifer Delony as Associate Editor

PennWell Corporation is pleased to announce that Jennifer Delony has joined the company...

Customized Energy Solutions Executes Agreement with the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (“MassCEC”) and the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (“DOER”) for Important Energy Storage Study

Customized Energy Solutions (CES) has entered into agreements with Massachusetts Clean ...


energy efficiency

Beyond the Trend: Maximizing the Impact of Your Energy Efficiency Solution

A revolution is happening in the energy sector. From the new regulations pushed out earlier this summer by the EPA’s ...

Northeast States Create Cap-and-Trade Program for Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Northeast states have worked together for several decades to address air quality issues and, more recently, climate c...

Why the Solar PV Industry Should Love Geothermal Heat Pumps Pt 2

It’s a marriage made in heaven: Solar PV and Geothermal Heat Pumps Part 2 of a 6-Part Series Prevailing Heati...

Solar Microgrids: the Next Big Thing in Energy Resiliency (Part 1)

There’s nothing like a natural disaster to signal that our electricity grid needs a major overhaul. Take Hurric...


Ucilia Wang is a California-based freelance journalist who writes about renewable energy. She previously was the associate editor at Greentech Media and a staff writer covering the semiconductor industry at Red Herring. In addition to Renewable En...


Volume 18, Issue 4


To register for our free
e-Newsletters, subscribe today:


Tweet the Editors! @jennrunyon



Successfully Integrating Solar: A Proactive Approach

•      What does the increasing solar penetrati...

Solar Power Asset Management and Performance

SEIA and SEPA collaborated with industry leaders to present the first ev...

Solar Power Northeast

  From the team that produced Solar Power Southeast and the sol...


Fast facts: 4 things you need to know about the state of solar fina...

Fast facts: 4 things you need to know about the state of solar financing...

10 Questions You Should Be Asking

Tony Robbins is fond of saying that the quality of your life is directly...

SPI Brings Out The Best In Solar

Phew…...those cross-country flights sure take a lot out of a guy....


Renewable Energy: Subscribe Now

Solar Energy: Subscribe Now

Wind Energy: Subscribe Now

Geothermal Energy: Subscribe Now

Bioenergy: Subscribe Now