Solar companies reported their first quarter earnings this past week and their stocks took a hammering. As the market closed on May 7, First Solar (NYSE: FSLR) saw its share price down 5.75%; SolarCity (NYSE: SCTY) was off by 9%; and SunPower Corp. (NYSE: SPWR) was down nearly 3%.
But the sell-off was short-lived. First Solar’s quarterly revenue of $950 million beat analysts’ estimates of $800-$900 million. That translated into an earnings per share of $1.10, far above the $0.50-$0.60 that Wall Street expected. The company offered a very upbeat analysis for the rest of the year.
And that reflects the trajectory for the industry as a whole – the future is very bright. To be sure, solar still makes up a small share of the electric power industry, accounting for less than 1% of generation last year. But, investing is about growth, and in the energy sector nothing is growing like solar.
Costs Go Down, Growth Goes Up
After years of stratospheric hype and little to show for it, solar is finally poised for a takeoff. The U.S. installed 4,751 megawatts in 2013, a 41% jump from the year before. The Solar Energy Industries Association predicts that the sector will expand by another 26% this year as well, adding another 6,000 megawatts of capacity. Put another way, solar grew 418% between 2010 and 2014. Try finding a growth rate like that elsewhere.
Much of it has to do with the dramatic fall in the cost of a photovoltaic module. The…