Ascent Solar: A "Green" Company On The Rise?

There's a fascinating conference taking place in San Francisco today and tomorrow: The Pacific Growth Equities Clean Technology and Industrial Growth confab. It falls right in the middle of our "Green is Universal" special week-long coverage and the timing couldn't be better. A who's who of public and private players in clean tech.

I had the opportunity to spend some time with Matthew Foster, the CEO of Ascent Solar . He's in from the company's headquarters in Denver. You'll remember thatI wrote briefly about his company following our coverage Nanosolar: the upstart San Jose solar company that's attracted over $100 million in venture funding because of its unique "spray-on" printing process for a new breed of flexible solar panels.

Ascent is an intriguing play. I never make stock recommendations, and won't begin now. Especially for a newcomer in a new sector that, pardon the pun, is so white-hot right now. So keep that in mind. Public for about 17 months, the company grew out of decades-old technology that got its start at Martin-Marietta.

Foster is a jovial fellow who stopped by our live-shot location complete with visual aids and samples of his company's flexible solar panels. These aren't the rigid, fragile, glass panels we're all familiar with; but a flexible material that prints out on massive rolls 2,000 feet thick. The material can be rolled out on roof tops, incorporated into roof tiles. When I suggested they could be perfect for "solar louvers," or building blinds, Foster thought that sounded like a nifty idea.

Investors apparently like what they've been seeing. This was a $3 stock in January, and now sits about a dollar shy of its 52-week high, trading today at around $23. The market-cap is still pretty tiny, at around $231 million.

But that isn't dampening Foster's enthusiasm. He tells me the company, despite its public status and the enormous pressure to speed things up, is trying hard to stick with its slow-and-steady approach to innovation and manufacturing. Production will be coming soon, and Ascent hopes to start by doing about 1 megawatt of panel production a year, and then grow from there.

Just yesterday, stockprofit.comissued a technical trading alert, noticing a strong long-term up-trend. The stock is making higher highs and higher lows above a rising 200-day moving average. The company is clearly enjoying some nice momentum, along with so many others in the sector, including SunPower, First Solar and others.

And while Foster tells me his company presents an opportunity for investors to see the kind of stock return that was once only reserved for venture capitalists who got in early enough to bank massive upside, that might be overselling the true opportunity here. Especially since shares are up 8-fold over the past 9 months (if that's not a VC-type of return, I don't know what is!) But the company does have what some believe is a "disruptive" technology and it is on the verge of widescale production, or so Foster tells me.

A company certainly worth watching and one that caught my attention during my brief stay at the conference this morning. In an upcoming post, I'll focus on some of the initiatives going on here in Silicon Valley as this region tries to do for eco-innovation what it's already done for so many other technologies.

Questions? Comments?