Will Solar Ever Shine? First Solar, Inc. (FSLR), SunPower Corporation (SPWR)

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Maybe if the folks at The Superdome in New Orleans had taken a page out of the playbook of the New York Giants, Washington Redskins, or New England Patriots, they would have had solar panels installed at the stadium and they could have prevented the power failure that interrupted play for more than half an hour in Superbowl XLVII. Indeed, the aforementioned trio of football stadiums have thousands of NRG Energy Inc (NYSE:NRG) solar panels installed throughout their campuses, according to the company’s annual report, which is a good thing because New York’s Met Life stadium is hosting next year’s championship game.

First Solar (FSLR)Solar is entirely absent in New Orleans. NRG Energy recently donated a solar-powered playground at the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Charter School for Science and Technology in an attempt to educate and inspire the next generation for solar. The installation includes hundreds of solar panels that will produce 112 kilowatts of power, which the company says will produce 33 percent of the schools electricity during peak times.

Solar Performance

Solar stocks as a sector are off to a good beginning in 2013. The Market Vectors Solar Energy ETF has advanced 10% year to date and had been up as much as 18% in 2013, as pointed out by The Wall Street Journal. If history is any teacher, however, that doesn’t bode well for the sector because in the last two years solar stocks were off to a similarly strong start but ended the year with double-digit declines.

It’s still early on in 2013 but all that’s ahead appears to be more roadblocks. Demand for all of 2012 was a meager 25-to-30 gigawatts, according to Matt Feinstein with Lux Research is cited in the WSJ. Plus, a possible trade-war is looming with China over a possible polysilicon tariff that — should the Chinese decide to impose — would make it more expensive for U.S. solar producers to make panels.

NRG’s Story

For its part, Princeton, NJ-based NRG Energy is a hybrid in that it produces both alternative power and fossil fuel-generated energy. NRG recently completed its stock-for-stock merger worth $1.7 billion with Houston, Texas-based Gen On, which operates coal plants, to create the largest competitive power generation company in the U.S. Taken as a whole, NRG has several business segments, including 1.) selling electricity in the open market; 2.) retail electricity; 3.) alternative power including solar and wind-generated electricity; 4.) electric car fuel.

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