This Week in Solar

By Travis Hoium Markets Fool.com

The solar industry had a fairly good week, at least as far as the stock market was concerned. First Solar (NASDAQ: FSLR) and SunPowersaw their stocks soar, and for the time being, the future for solar looks bright.

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Beyond the headlines, there were a few important announcements and earnings reports. So, let's dive into the week.

Image source: Getty Images.

AES Makes a big solar acquisition

Independent power producer AES Corporation (NYSE: AES) made a big move Friday by announcing the acquisition of solar developer sPower. The equity portion of the deal will be split with Alberta Investment Management Corporation and will cost $853 million in cash. In addition, $724 million of non-recourse debt will be included in the acquisition.

sPower has 1,274 MW of solar and wind projects either operating or under construction in the U.S., and a 10 GW pipeline. This will add to AES' growing energy-storage business, where it's been a leader in developing storage solutions for utility applications across the country. This could be a leader to watch in the renewable IPP space.

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Earnings continue to roll in

First Solar was the biggest player to report earnings this week, which I covered in depth here. Its results didn't tell us a lot about the industry given the investment First Solar is making in upgrading manufacturing equipment, but the fact that management is making progress on upgrades, and is very bullish on the future, is an incremental positive.

JA Solar (NASDAQ: JASO) gave an initial look at results, saying it shipped 5.1 GW to 5.2 GW of solar panels, 200 MW over its guidance. Revenue for the year will be $2.18 billion to $2.33 billion, which comes in slightly below what analysts were expecting. When results are released on March 16, investors should watch for gross margin trends and shipment guidance for 2017, which could give some clues about where one of the industry's largest players sees upcoming demand coming from.

Silver Spring Networks (NYSE: SSNI), a smart meter networking company, also reported earnings that didn't look very strong. Revenue for the quarter dropped 66.7% to $66.3 million, and the company swung from a profit of $61.9 million to a loss of $14.0 million, or $0.27 per share. The company added over 50% to its backlog, to $1.165 billion, so there was some positive news. As Silver Spring Networks tries to move more to the Internet of Things and software as a service (SaaS), there could be some bumps along the way -- and last quarter looks to be one of those bumps.

News and notes

Vivint Solar (NYSE: VSLR) announced this week that it has passed 100,000 customers, no small feat for any solar company. Less than six years after being launched, the company is one of the top residential solar installers in the U.S., and is in the six-figure club for customers.

JinkoSolar (NYSE: JKS) said it has been awarded a 29.6 MW contract to supply solar panels to a Donfeng Nissan facility in Guangzhou, China, which will be the largest canopy, or carport, project in the world. When completed, the project will cover the size of 27 football fields, and will provide cover for more than 10,000 cars.

Speaking of carports, SunPower also announced a 4.6 MW deal to build primarily carports for the Cajon Valley Union School District in San Diego County, California, at 24 sites. This expands on the company's No. 1 market position in commercial solar in the U.S.

That's all for this week in solar, but check back next week for more coverage of this fast-evolving industry.

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Travis Hoium owns shares of First Solar and SunPower. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.