Over the years, we've made a boatload of cash on solar.
Take a look at a list of our top solar winners from 2005 to 2009:
2005 – World Water & Power Corporation (OTCBB:WWAT) – 53.34%
2006 – XsunX, Inc. (OTCBB:XSNX) – 312% gain
2007 – World Water & Power Corporation (OTCBB:WWAT) – 415.79% gain
2008 – First Solar (NASDAQ:FSLR) – 70.1% gain
2009 – Yingli Green Energy (NASDAQ:YGE) – 179.78%
We're still plowing through 2010, but our most recent solar pick that we alerted our Green Chip Stocks Premium members to is already up more than 20% in just one week.
And there's plenty more to come.
There's no doubt — even when the solar bears come out to play — that industry momentum remains strong for solar, especially in China and the United States. But this momentum is not being monopolized by the public companies from which you and I consistently profit.
In fact these days, it seems that some private solar firms are landing a heck of a lot more institutional money and government incentives than some of the strongest public solar companies in the market are.
Now typically, we only focus on public companies here at Green Chip. After all, we're here to make money — plain and simple.
But that doesn't mean we should turn a blind eye to the private solar companies that are making waves.
Let's face it: Just because these companies aren't publicly traded doesn't mean they won't have an effect on our picks.
So let's take a look at four solar companies that have done quite well at stealing the solar spotlight...
Using proprietary cylindrical modules and CIGS (Copper Indium Gallium Selenide) thin-film technology, Solyndra claims that it can provide the lowest system installation costs on a per-watt basis for the commercial rooftop market.
The company made headlines last year after it was announced that it would be the first company to receive an offer from the DOE loan guarantee for a $535 million loan.
Beyond the DOE loan, Solyndra has raised about $800 million in private equity, making it one of the most capitalized startups in history; the company has a ton of contracts, and its backlog passed $2 billion last year.
The company actually has an IPO planned, although last month, PricewaterhouseCoopers suggested that there was substantial doubt about Solyndra's ability to continue as a going concern.
While this is not uncommon for startups, the news didn't bolster support for the IPO. And because the company has landed so much funding, the bar has been raised. We'll see how it pans out.
Solar City provides solar power system design, financing, installation, and monitoring services for homeowners, businesses, and government organizations.
In an effort to provide an affordable solar option for its customers, Solar City offers a solar lease program where a large upfront payment is not necessary. It also allows consumers to lock in on one rate, while utility rates continue to climb year after year.
This is a winning formula for expanding residential solar, and Solar City has garnered a lot of attention over the past year or so.
The company serves more than 500 communities in Arizona, California, Colorado, Oregon, and Texas.
Just two months ago, it created a $90 million fund with U.S. Bancorp to finance solar projects. In total, the two have collaborated on three separate funds to finance nearly $200 million in solar projects in the U.S.
Solar City also landed $60 million in financing for solar installations with Pacific Venture Capital, a subsidiary of PG&E.
It is not unlikely that this could be one of the most popular solutions for consumers wishing to go solar.
Nanosolar is a developer of CIGS technology. The company has raised more than a half billion dollars, and last year began mass producing its CIGS solar cells and assembling them into modules at its German facility.
A couple of years ago, Nanosolar was getting a lot of media attention. However, reluctance to share data on its production processes and costs raised a few eyebrows.
But last September, the company issued two white papers about its technology, and also revealed some of the customers that contributed to its $4 billion worth of contracts.
Today, Nanosolar claims a solar cell efficiency of 16.4 percent (in the lab), which has been confirmed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
Still, like Solyndra, a lot of faith and capital has been ponied up for this still somewhat mysterious solar outfit. So expectations are high, and skepticism remains strong.
We'll know more about how this one pans out later this year.
eSolar is a developer of concentrating solar power (CSP) systems.
Using small, flat mirrors, heat from the sun is reflected to a tower-mounted receiver that boils water to create steam. The steam then powers the turbine.
This particular system is developed using mass-produced components and is designed for rapid construction and scalability. Essentially, this is a "pre-fab" CSP that allows for design and manufacturing efficiencies which offer significant cost savings.
The company made headlines earlier this year after it announced that it would be licensing its technology to Chinese electrical power equipment manufacturer, Penglai Electric. Penglai expects to build 2 gigawatts of CSP plants in the next ten years.
While eSolar does currently boast a 5 MW plant in Lancaster, CA, it's now focusing primarily on equipment manufacturing and licensing its technology. The feather in eSolar's cap is its software, which allows for the movement of its reflective mirrors (heliostats) so that the production of the heat is optimized.
eSolar was included in MIT's Technology Review's list of the world's most innovative companies.
The Next Great American Energy Company that Is Publicly Traded
There's no doubt that competition in the solar space is alive and well. And as long as the market demands increased efficiencies with decreased costs, we don't expect this healthy competition to disappear anytime soon.
And this holds true for all forms of new power production.
We still maintain that you'll get the biggest bang for your buck from those little-known, under-the-radar plays that the suits on Wall Street only report on after guys like us do all the early, heavy lifting.
But that's fine with me... Because this just allows us to get you in early, before the trend-chasers push these stocks up into the stratosphere.
It's how we've been profiting from day one, and it's how we'll continue to profit going forward.
In fact, my colleague, Nick Hodge has just posted his latest report on a new under-the-radar play that he's calling the Next Great American Energy Company. You can read more about that one here.
To a new way of life, and a new generation of wealth...