The solar sector continues to traverse a bumpy road due to the oversupply of panels and the economic uncertainties clouding Europe and North America. However, the industry’s largest players appear to be gradually getting their act together by focusing on new markets and solutions for utility scale projects. Here’s a quick overview of some of the factors that influenced solar stocks this week.
Utility Scale Projects and Emerging Markets
First Solar (NASDAQ:FSLR) continues to make good on its strategy of driving growth in utility scale solar projects, inking two sizable contracts this week. The company signed a MoU with Indonesia’s PJB Services to build 100 MW of solar power capacity in the country. First Solar will supply its cadmium-telluride thin-film panels and systems and also carry out engineering, procurement and construction (EPC). The company will also be responsible for operations and maintenance activity for the plants. First Solar has also won a contract in Dubai to supply 13 MW of panels and EPC services to a government backed project. 
Given the growing number of solar plants under its maintenance, First Solar opened a global power plant operations center in Arizona this week, to monitor and control its solar projects around the world, allowing it to quickly identify problems and reduce maintenance costs. The company said that it was maintaining 14 plants at present and expects the number to grow to 23 by the end of this year.
Another large solar firm, Yingli Green Energy (NYSE:YGE) made progress in expanding into emerging markets, announcing that it had supplied 40 MW of multi-crystalline solar panels to Latin America’s largest solar power plant located in Peru. The company is the sole supplier of panels to the project. 
Capacity Rationalization Moves
Given the surplus supply of solar panels and its consequent effects on pricing, firms are pruning down on their manufacturing capacity to focus on improving utilization and building operational efficiencies. Sunpower (NASDAQ:SPWR), which manufactures high efficiency crystalline solar panels, announced earlier this week that it would be temporarily idling half of its cell manufacturing capacity and 20% of its panel manufacturing capacity in the Philippines. The move is part of the company’s efforts to return to profitability, following sequential losses over the last two quarters.Notes: