Barron's Magazine has published a great overview of the solar photovoltaic industry dynamics worldwide. There's good and bad news. Lets get the bad out of the way first. There's an industry-wide shortage of the silicon needed to produce the common type of solar photovoltaic (SPV) cells. High prices and product shortages are going to be with us for a while. Second bad news item: there's seemingly only one "pure play" SPV producer based in the US. Alas, just when solar power seems ascendant, the US' position turns out to be as dependent on foreign SPV technology owners and makers as it is on foreign oil. Gulp. The situation was predetermined, given the long standing conflict of values between the US and other developed nations. There is some good news for the long view, as reported in the September 19, 2005 Barrons."... venture capitalists have been funding a steadily increasing number of solar-related start-ups, sinking more than $100 million into new solar companies in the first half of 2005...While solar represents a tiny percentage of global power generation, it is growing rapidly. Worldwide, solar power production this year should reach 1.5 gigawatts, double the 2003 level. By 2010, according to CLSA, the total should quadruple to six gigawatts. Industrywide revenue, the firm predicts, will grow from $11 billion this year to $36 billion in 2010..."
In spite of the limited SPV cell availability, creative investment solutions are out there.
"One small company, Sun Edison, has set up an intriguing scheme where it places solar systems on the flat roof of a supermarket or big-box retailer, then sells the power back to them. ... Sun Edison's payoff comes years from now as it gradually buys back the equity and associated income in the equipment".
What's that US pure play you're wondering? Hint: its name is derived from the common term for non-deciduous trees.