I believe Solar manufacturers will do better in coming days because many countries have started moving away from nuclear power plants. Even in India people are opposing creation of new nuclear power plants. And I believe solar is the only viable alternative to nuclear energy. I feel this is great to enter these stocks.
Compared to chips, xtalline Si semiconductor based Solar PV technology is far simpler in design or mfg. which is why China has caught up so quickly. But PV is still a technology under development ( new materials & configurations ) to achieve grid parity and still requires a lot of subsidy and patience.
The development of relatively simple devices like PV in the US provides a lower return compared to doing it in China ( engineering cost there still only about 40 % of the US ). So the "smart" money is staying away from investing in Solar development in the US and actively siphons out US developed PV technologies to China !
The only way to compete with China in PV is to develop technologies that totally sidestep their current capacity in conventional Si wafer based cells and panels, and delivers a lower cost / watt after installation. However the key to lowering cost of PV Solar is no longer just in the cells themselves but in assembling the panels and in their installation.
Paradoxically the Obama Admin's political compulsion to create a lot of Green jobs in the short term has emphasized on the installation of panels made with current technologies ( often from China ) at the expense of R&D & have actually driven up installation costs in the US !
Even if funding for PV R&D in the US once again starts to flow, to protect any IP from China, all operations will have to be guarded ( doubtful ) from China's friends in the US.
No it's because the whole industry was based upon incentives from governments across the globe. When the "Global Warming" hoax was finally uncovered with the email leaks and clearly cooked data the money started to dry up. There is still a big push by the greenies to fund these projects but the reality of economic feasibility is starting to kick in. Add on top of this the Chinese are still going full blast with their cheap solar incentives for plants the domestic Solar companies are getting hurt badly.
The political connected loans is just an unfortunate reality of "free money" and a bunch of spineless politicians and greedy executives peddling the wares.
It is really bad time for the Solar companies. Is the cost competition for the solar panel the primary factor? Or is it bacause of the technology is not yet upto the mark?
I think, the industry badly needs a technological breakthrough.
Solar is facing a tough time not only because of the Chinese companies but also from the higher cost based technology. The short term viability is expensive and given the nature of solar power; uncertain.
First Solar also just recently sold 2 of its solar energy farms which had just started construction in September 2011 to satisfy a Government condition for receipt of federal funds for 3 projects. Only 2 started construction and qualified for ~$2Billion in loan guarantees.
Tellingly, On September 30, 2011, GE and NextEra agreed to purchase Desert Sun Solar Farm from First Solar just one day after the DOE approved a $646Million loan guarantee.
Because of no loan guarantee on the third project, they are attempting to sell it as well and are having trouble finding buyers.
What would give First Solar another blow would be to find connections between either the executives or directors to fund raising (bundling) for Obama similar to what was uncovered at Solyndra. The GE participation in the purchase is already suspicious in light the close relationship of Jeffrey Immelt and the Obama administration.