Dec. 11 - Solar panel installations surged in third quarter, but most solar stocks are in the dark. Sasha Salama reports.
The sun is shining on solar installations in the U.S. just as SolarCity prepares to go public. A new report from the industry's trade group says the number of solar panel installations in the U.S. jumped 44 percent in Q3 compared to the year ago. More panels were installed on people's homes than ever before with California leading the way, followed by Arizona, New Jersey, Hawaii and Colorado. In the past six years, the number of companies that install solar panels has grown nearly 20-fold and that's helped the consumer. Rhone Resch of the SEIA: SOUNDBITE: RHONE RESCH, PRESIDENT AND CEO, SOLAR ENERGY INDUSTRIES ASSOCIATION "As we've increased the number of companies that are trained to install solar systems, they're competing against each other and they're lowering the costs." But that competition has been squeezing the bottom lines of solar companies and hurting their stocks. Some experts say the biggest obstacle for the solar industry going forward is how to bring down the cost of labor for installing these panels. Angelo Zino of S&P Capital IQ: SOUNDBITE: ANGELO ZINO, EQUITY ANALYST, S&P CAPITAL IQ "The best way to do that is to have more efficient panels so that less panels need to be installed on your rooftop. That's going to be a challenge here in the coming years." The challenge for the consumer, meanwhile, is how to lower the $20,000 upfront cost of buying a solar panel grid. Experts say that's why leasing has become such a popular option.