The solar energy industry is making a major comeback. Solar stocks have been soaring across the board in 2019, and it looks like the solar sector is going to be able to keep it up, based on analyses of both majorly improved performance and extremely positive long-term projections--a winning combo.
So far this year, according to “multimedia financial services company” the Motley Fool, “First Solar (NASDAQ:FSLR), SunPower (NASDAQ:SPWR), Sunrun (NASDAQ:RUN), and Vivint Solar (NYSE:VSLR) are all up over 40% [as of April 21] and Chinese manufacturer JinkoSolar (NYSE:JKS) has nearly doubled.”
Despite the booming growth of JinkoSolar, Chinese installation is actually expected to see a decrease in market share over the next few years, from over half of the market in 2017 to just 19 percent by 2023. This is not because solar installation is expected to wane in China, however, but because solar is expected to grow exponentially in developing countries as the technology becomes more affordable and therefore more accessible.
One such country is South Africa, where a major energy crisis, brought on by years of mismanagement and high-level corruption, has left the energy grid devastated. Rolling blackouts are devastating the national economy to the tune of $284 million every day, pushing the populace to look for alternative solutions. This is where solar comes in. South Africa averages 2,500 hours of sunshine a year, which makes solar an obvious choice for a nation looking for sustainable solutions, especially now that it’s not so prohibitively expensive for a cash-strapped country like South Africa.
Despite observable cultural and societal trends like the South African solar revolution, exact numbers to quantify solar growth are somewhat hard to come by. As the Motley Fool points out, it’s hard to get exact figures on the number and size of solar installations around the world, since many countries don’t keep detailed data on total installed capacity. That being said, many analysts are making bold predictions for what could be a record-breaking year. Bloomberg New Energy Finance, for example, “expects solar installations to grow from 109 gigawatts (GW) in 2018 to 125 GW to 141 GW in 2019, or enough to power 23.1 million U.S. homes.” Related: Trump’s Hardline On Iran Catches Markets Off-Guard
This growth in the solar industry, particularly in the United States, is a much-needed turnaround after two years of job losses and hard-hitting tariffs imposed by the Trump administration in January 2018, which slapped a 30 percent tariff on imported solar panels to be decreased by 5 percent each year. The tariffs were intended to boost manufacturing within the U.S. but instead brought on a loss of approximately 18,000 jobs by the end of 2018. Now, in part thanks to state initiatives like California’s new solar mandate, jobs are projected to grow by 7 percent in 2019.
Solar energy has become far cheaper than many traditional resources. “In most of the U.S. today, it's cheaper to build a new solar or wind farm than to simply keep an existing coal plant running”, reports CBS News. One reason for this is that solar panel technology has greatly improved, but it’s mostly thanks to an economy of scale now that solar has been much more widely adopted.
What’s more, for solar panel manufacturers who have long grappled with razor-thin profit margins, if any, it’s looking like growing demand for solar energy is finally going to translate into rising profits as industry growth takes the edge off of price pressure. Solar panels are also getting more and more efficient, and as the Motley Fool puts it, “these technology improvements will help expand differentiation, increase margins, and if all goes well increase profits.”
By Haley Zaremba for Oilprice.com
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