A Week’s Worth of News Items from the Alternative Energy Front

There was a scattershot of interesting news this week on the alternative energy front. A sampling includes:

  • A123, a lithium-ion battery maker characterized as “shaky” in a New York Timesheadline this week because it

    Chevrolet Spark photo courtesy of leasetrader.com

    has been running short of money, recalling batteries and has failed to complete its new Livonia, MI factory, announced on June 12 a “breakthrough” in its technology which the Times said could “well determine the fate” of the company. The breakthrough is “a new chemistry that could permit the creation of a simpler, lighter, longer lasting battery pack that does not require a system to cool or heat it.” (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/12/business/energy-environment/a123-us-backed-battery-maker-claims-breakthrough.html?ref=a123systemsinc). General Motors still believes in A123 and selected it to supply the batteries for the all-electric Chevrolet Spark minicar expected to debut in 2013. A123 traded for 98 cents on June 8 and closed June 15 at $.

  • As usual, there was good news and bad news for the solar panel business. The good news, as reported in the Wall Street Journal, citing a study released June 12 by the Solar Energies Industry Association and GTM Research: The market for solar panels in the U.S. should double in 2012. About 3,300 megawatts of solar panels are expected to be installed in 2012, making the U.S. the world’s fourth largest with a 11 percent share of the global market, according to the WSJ. The bad news: the new tariff is expected to be installed on panels imported from China will slow growth in 2013.
  • Also on the solar energy front, the California Energy Commission unanimously approved new guidelines requiring new homes and commercial buildings to have “solar ready roofs.” That doesn’t mean the roofs will all need to have solar panels installed, only that they need to be designed to accommodate a solar power system installation.  According to reports on AOL.com, citing the Los Angeles Times and the Sacramento Bee, the new rule won “begrudging approval” from the commercial building industry, but was applauded by utilities and environmental groups.
  • Because a federal tax credit that subsidizes the wind industry is expected to end at the close of 2012, many of the small companies in the various facets of the wind turbine industries (makers of towers, blades, gearboxes, etc) could find themselves in dire straits, according to Bloomberg BusinessWeek. The story cites a report by the American Wind Energy Association that suggests an estimated 10,000 workers in the U.S. will be terminated “in anticipation of the slowdown,” according to the story. GE, the market leader in the wind energy business, is already closely scrutinizing its business partners to see which might be winners or losers that won’t be around next year.

We have covered both solar power and wind power in recent weeks. Looking back at the companies we mentioned, here are the biggest gainers in each since we last checked:

For wind power, which we last covered on June 1, the winner is St. Louis-based Zoltec Companies (Nasdaq :ZOLT, http://www.zoltek.com/ which makes carbon fibers used to reduce weight in turbine blades so they spin faster. ZOLT closed at $7.95 on June 1 but then moved up to close at $8.36 on June 15. 

For solar power, which we last covered on May 18, the winner is Ontario, Canada-based Canadian Solar (Nasdaq: CSIQ, http://www.canadian-solar.com/ ), which sells a variety of solar products. Last summer CSIQ traded for over $12 but by late August it had dropped to about $6.75. It closed May 18 at $2.70, down 25 cents on the day. On June 15 it cloased at $3,49, up 22 cents on the day. Its market cap has jumped from $117 million to almost $151 million.

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