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

Renewable Energy Stocks By Dollars Per Watt

Dollars per watt ($/W) is a lousy measure of the economics of solar, but it persists. Most likely, it persists because it seems familiar. We can pay $4 for a watt of solar, or $4 for a Iced Hazelnut Macchiato at Starbucks. Unfortunately, while the analogy may seem apt, this is a lot like knowing you’re getting a Macchiato without knowing if it’s a Tall, Grande, or Venti.

The actual energy production from a solar system depends greatly on a number of factors, including location, orientation, mounting structure, shading, string configuration, and choice of inverter.

Nevertheless, dollars per watt persists.  You’ll find it even in industry reports like US Solar Market Insight from GTM Research, as seen in this graph of annual PV installations and cost in dollars per watt:

Dollars of Stock Per Watt

Knowing that I can’t beat them, I decided to join them.  I used dollars per watt to provide a rough guide of how much solar an investor gets when buying the stock of publicly traded companies that own or finance solar: SolarCity (NASD:SCTY), NRG Yield (NASD:NYLD) and Hannon Armstrong Sustainable Infrastructure (NYSE:HASI) in a recent article about solar leases.

Here, I take it a little farther, and look at $/W for all renewables.  Below I also include wind farm owner and developer Pattern Energy Group (NASD:PEGI), geothermal company Ormat Technologies, Inc (ORA:NYSE) and hydropower and wind partnership Brookfield Renewable Energy Partners (NYSE:BEP.)   I dropped Hannon Armstrong from the list because I was not able to obtain sufficient information from the company about the renewable projects it has financed in time for publication.

The following chart shows how much of each company’s stock you would have to buy to get a watt of each type of renewable energy production:

Note that one weakness of $/W is that the numbers are not additive.  If you spend $43 on a share of NRG Yield, you will be effectively buying a little over 2 watts of wind power and a little over 6 watts of solar.  You can’t get the solar without the wind.  If you only want one watt of any renewable energy, the green bars show that you could spend about $2.50 on either Brookfield or Pattern, $3.63 on Ormat, $5.05 on NRG Yield, or $13.89 on SolarCity.

Of course, renewable energy is not all you get when you buy these companies.  With SolarCity, you also get the solar installation business, and Ormat has a significant business selling equipment and services to other geothermal companies.  Most of NRG Yield’s business is not renewable at all: it also provides heating and cooling in commercial facilities, and has significant natural gas generation.  About 3% of Brookfield Renewable Energy Partners’ generation is from two natural gas co-generation facilities acquired “as part of larger hydro portfolio transactions many years ago,” according to a company spokesman.

While dollars per watt can be easy to grasp when thinking about just one technology, the metric starts to suffer when we consider a portfolio of several businesses.  Things become a little clearer when you consider watts bought per dollar spent.  The following chart shows how many watts of each type of business you would get if you bought $100 worth of each company’s securities:


Dollars per watt is at best a rough starting point when evaluating a bid for solar on your home, or for evaluating companies that own renewable energy generation.  On the other hand, it works well with the intuition we’ve honed with years of trips to the grocery store and coffee shops.  That intuition may make these charts useful as you develop your understanding of renewable energy power producers.

Disclosure: I and my clients own HASI and BEP. I have short call positions in NYLD and PEGI, and short put positions in PEGI.

DISCLAIMER: Past performance is not a guarantee or a reliable indicator of future results.  This article contains the current opinions of the author and such opinions are subject to change without notice.  This article has been distributed for informational purposes only. Forecasts, estimates, and certain information contained herein should not be considered as investment advice or a recommendation of any particular security, strategy or investment product.  Information contained herein has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but not guaranteed.

This article was originally publihed on AltEnergy Stocks and was republished with perission.

Lead image: Dollar bill via Shutterstock

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



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...

US, China Solar PV Players Team Up, Invest $100M in Chile, Uruguay and Japan

Andrew Burger Private equity infrastructure specialist Hudson Clean Energy Partners and Hong Kong-based independent power producer ...


Fronius Shifting the Limits in Solar-Plus: It’s not just about products, it’s about solutions.

Fronius USA, who just recently launched the all-new Fronius SnapINverter line this past...

IREC Announces Changes in Regulatory Team

The Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC), a not-for-profit organization which for...

IREC Awarded New Funding to Advance Digital Credentials

The Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC) proudly announces funding for an innovat...

$100 Discount on 5-day Advanced PV Project Experience Workhop

Upcoming 5-day Workshops: Nov. 7 - 11 Feb. 6 - 10


NY Gov. Cuomo Pledges to Create Carbon Market use Solar, Wind to reduce Climate Change

This week former Vice President Al Gore joined with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) to sign the Under 2 MOU, a directi...
clean energy

In Clean Energy, The Truth Matters

A group of about 20 protesters gathered outside the Sheraton in Burlington, Vt., early on Oct. 8 as attendees arrived...

Industry Focus: Cleantech: 1366 Technologies joins Solarcity in New York

1366 is set to build a factory just up the road (OK, it is a long road – NYS Thruway) from Solarcity.  The...


Tom Konrad is a private money manager and freelance writer focused on Peak Oil and Climate Change as investment themes. He manages portfolios for individual clients and is Head of Research for the JPS Green Economy Fund (http://jpsgreeneconomyfund...


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...


Saving Vs. Gaining

Whenever I do a national keynote speech or customized coaching session f...

SPI Brings Out The Best In Solar

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

Join us at the New Solar Power Northeast

From the team that produced Solar Power Southeast and the sold out P...


Renewable Energy: Subscribe Now

Solar Energy: Subscribe Now

Wind Energy: Subscribe Now

Geothermal Energy: Subscribe Now

Bioenergy: Subscribe Now