Usually it makes sense to invest in individual companies when you're investing in a "hot" sector. Secular funds have their own risks that can be difficult to measure. First Solar is one of the premier PV players.
The fund gives you a false sense of diversification. If you bought a mutual fund in 2000 in the computer space, you'd have pieces of HP, Dell, Apple, IBM, EMC, Cisco, Intel etc. Did the sector perform the same as the companies in it? Nooo.
As for renewable energy, IMO that ship has sailed for the "pure play" renewable stocks. I'd look at undervalued companies with exposure to renewables that haven't been hyped up. (or included in a sector mutual fund)
Examples for this area?
- GE (who makes the turbines?)
- Trinity Industries (known for rail cars, but makes wind turbine components)
The problem with this sector is that the industry is dependent on government subsidies, and the state of government budgets make that a risky play. Proceed with caution!