The prospects of solar power have been growing day by day, so some are wondering when the technology -- and the industry -- will truly come into their own. According to Dr. Ernest Moniz, the new Department of Energy secretary, that time frame is "underestimated," meaning that it should come sooner than many expect. There are several indicators that are pointing to that, as well. As several Chinese solar companies are hitting the wall because of a panel-supply glut, some of the weaker companies are on their way out. This is clearing the way for the stronger candidates to get pricing on panels again. First Solar recently announced that it could not take orders for new panels until after the third quarter, because all panels to be built until then are contracted out. 

There's another aspect of the solar industry that's taking root: distributed power. Companies like SolarCity are showing that it is indeed possible to make money in the residential solar business, something that has been a struggle in the past. Tune into the video conversation below between Fool analysts Joel South, Taylor Muckerman, and contributor Tyler Crowe as they discuss some of the other emerging trends in the solar industry.

Companies all across the energy space are emerging as high flyers that could change the entire industry. Find out which energy stock The Motley Fool's Chief Investment Officer determined is his best pick of the year in the special free report: "The Motley Fool's Top Stock for 2013." Just click here to access the report and find out the name of this under-the-radar company.


The article Time Frame for Solar Is Underestimated originally appeared on

Joel South has no position in any stocks mentioned. Taylor Muckerman has no position in any stocks mentioned. Fool contributor Tyler Crowe has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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Most of the dust may be already settled in the solar industry. I feel that First Solar will no longer exist before too long unless it comes up with much higher efficiency as well as high durability as Sunpower's. I fear that rooftop installments will not be as hot as large solar projects . Creative financing like lease programs really mask the real high cost of installing a watt on the roof. I still hold out hopes for commercial roof installments like big box stores and similar large rooftop opporunities. As for residential rooftops, I am not really excited , though. The cost is still way too high and too much overhead costs to justify such small lease contracts. I just couldnt pick up my phone to call any rooftop solar contractor yet becasue I know that the real costs is very high. Only very wealthy homeowners with huge utiltiy bills will stand to gain the most from solar rooftop installments as you know that they are often charged at the highest kilowatt brackets lke 40cents per kilowatthour as opposed to middle class homeowners who pay around 15-20 cents per kilowatthour. Utilities will monetize toward the favor of the wealthy homeowners who will save the most ! As for large projects above megawatt scale, I favor Sunpower over First Solar because Sunpower can yield far more kilowatthours per area over First Solar. I suspect that First Solar is favored by Wall Street not for its lowest cost per watt but its abiility to gobble up as much real estate as possible with inferior solar panels. You can compare First Solar to those mobile home landlords who are not as concerned about what will become of the mobile homes on site as the land underneath that will grow in value over the years. In case, you dont recall, many mobile home parks were sold for really tidy sums by those REIT investors. Mobile home dwellers were being kicked out screaming! More to the point, I really doubt that most of the First Solar 's large scale projects on completion or under construction will not be permanent solar farms. Give it 20 years and the solar panels will be removed and recycled at First Solar's plants and disposed of elsewhere . I hope that Sunpower will be able to wrestle leadership away from First Solar on large scale solar farm projects with greater support by investors who are more interested in more permanent solar farms that last as long sa 100 years or more if not forever. It is possible that advancements will be made on efficiency and durability of solar panels and I dont see First Solar as focused on this as Sunpower does. First Solar is simply a contractor to REIT investors who use First Solar as a phony solar proxy for maximum real estate grabs . REIT investors doesnt want the highest efficient solar panels which will mean less real estate will be needed for comparable costs in capital expenditures. I urge solar energy investors to shun First Solar in totatlity. I doubt that First Solar will be able to leapfrog Sunpower's efficiency.

July 05 2013 at 2:06 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply