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Mixed Greens: Solar stocks surge on sunny outlook

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Shares of the two of the world’s biggest solar companies jumped sharply last week – extending a solid start to the year – after suggesting that sales for 2102 would be stronger than previously thought. Suntech, the world’s biggest maker of silicon-based solar panels,  rose 14 per cent to $3.85 on the Nasdaq on Friday, after it lifted its forecast on stronger-than-expected shipments. Suntech said it expects shipments for 2011 year to total 2.09GW, above the previous forecast of 2GW, while revenue is expected to range from $610 million to $630 million for the fourth quarter. Bloomberg said the company’s shares have climbed 74 per cent this year.

“Our sales and operations teams both performed well in the fourth quarter,” Suntech Chairman Zhengrong Shi said in a company statement. “We exceeded shipment guidance and improved our cash position through ongoing management of accounts receivable and inventory.” The company took a charge of $571 million in the third quarter to write down goodwill after a plunge in its market value triggered by declining prices and margins for solar products across the industry, reports Bloomberg. Suntech is due to issue its full-year results on March 8.

Meanwhile, the shares of US-listed solar manufacturer SunPower rose as much as 24 per cent on Friday after reporting better-than-estimated earnings. Bloomberg reports that SunPower climbed as much as $1.83 to $9.31 on the Nasdaq, the highest in nine months, and has gained 49 per cent this year (analysts had expected a loss of 6 cents, according to an average of 13 estimates compiled by Bloomberg). The California-based company, which is majority-owned by French multinational oil company Total SA, said its fourth-quarter profit was an adjusted 16 cents a share on sales of $563.4 million, and expects 2012 sales to be in line with previous guidance of $2.6 billion to $3 billion.

Turbo-charging tidal power

Siemens has stepped up its commitment to the development of renewable tidal power, with the acquisition of a majority stake in a Bristol-based developer of tidal technology. The European engineering giant new solar and hydro division confirmed on Friday that it would complete a deal to increase its stake in Marine Current Turbines (MCT) from its current 45 per cent holding to 100 per cent in the next few weeks. The value of the deal was not disclosed. An industry leader in tidal power, MCT has already developed a commercial-scale demonstration project at Strangford Lough in Northern Ireland, using its SeaGen tidal turbine, and has further projects in the pipeline, including an 8MW Kyle Rhea project in Scotland and the 10MW Anglesey Skerries project in Wales, reports BusinessGreen.

“The acquisition of Marine Current Turbines is an important step forwards for the solar and hydro division,” said Ted Scheidegger, CEO of Siemens’ solar and hydro division. “We will continue to drive the commercialisation of this promising technology which harvests energy from highly predictable tidal streams. Our target is to secure a leading position in this future business.” Tidal power is considered to be a promising green technology, says BusinessGreen, due to the fact that energy supplies can be easily predicted based on tidal flows. Indeed, just two days after the news of Siemens’ MTC acquisition, the UK government released a report by a parliamentary committee stressing the importance of Britain maintaining its lead in the development of marine energy, and recommending a focus on reducing costs and setting ambitious deployment targets beyond 2020.

“Britannia really could rule the waves when it comes to marine renewable energy,” said Tim Yeo, chairman of the energy and climate change committee which produced the report. “In the eighties the UK squandered the lead it had in wind power development and now Denmark has a large share of the worldwide market in turbine manufacturing,” he said. “It should be a priority for the government to ensure that the UK remains at the cutting edge of developments in this technology and does not allow our lead to slip,” he added. Marine renewables are seen providing 20 per cent of current UK electricity demand and the government is targeting 200-300MW of marine capacity by 2020, 1-2GW less than 2010 forecasts.

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