The term “full-service solar company” seems applicable as San Jose-based SunPower (SPWR :NASDAQ) announced today they have purchased Greenbotics, a manufacturer of robots that efficiently clean solar panels.
While terms of the deal were not disclosed, the all cash transaction becomes the seventh acquisition for SunPower.
The acquisition of the Davis, CA-based company makes a lot of sense for SunPower as the efficiency of solar panels lessens when they are dirty. Greenbotics’ robots use less than a half a cup of water to clean panels – making them more efficient than the traditional manned power washer method.
Cleaning solar panels via robots is not a unique business model as Richmond, CA-based Alion Energy while Menlo Park-based QBotix has developed robots to adjust the angle of solar panels to track the sun, ensuring the best angle for maximum efficiency.
SunPower believes that if its customers employ Greenbotics’ Clean Feet robots, they can improve the efficiency of their panels by up to 15 percent. For a 100 megawatt solar utility farm, that’s a lot of energy.
Shares of SunPower were up 11.11 percent in afternoon trading.
Sometimes it’s all about making the deals to develop the project as OwnEnergy announced today that it has sold the Two Dot Wind Farm in Montana to NJR Clean Energy Ventures. There’s only one catch: the 9.72 megawatt (MW) wind farm has yet to be built.
According to OwnEnergy, the project is in “shovel-ready status” meaning that NJR only needs to purchase six GE (GE :NYSE)1.62 MW wind turbines and have them installed to complete the project.
Developing a wind farm project to “shovel-ready status” is not an easy task, just ask the folks at Cape Wind.
Today’s deal has an incestuous side as NJR is OwnEnergy’s largest shareholder. But despite the close relationship and OwnEnergy’s history of developing community-scale wind projects, this is the first deal between the companies.
Home energy monitoring continues to be a growing market as Redwood City’s EcoFactor announced today that it has closed a $10 million Series B round with major energy producer NRG Energy (NRG :NYSE) joining the list of investors.
Previous inevestors Claremont Creek Ventures, RockPort Capital Partners, and Aster Capital also joined the round.
EcoFactor has developed cloud-based software that enables homeowners to program their thermostats via the Internet. But instead of just providing homeowners with an Internet accessible dial, EcoFactor’s software looks at a homeowner’s energy usage patterns, weather conditions, and demographics to automatically provide the correct thermostat settings.
Adding NRG Energy to its investor list is an interesting move considering EcoFactor is already working NV Energy (NVE :NYSE) and Comcast (CMCSA :NASDAQ) to offer its service. Bringing in NRG Energy should provide EcoFactor with access to the company’s 2 million homes it services through Reliant, Green Mountain Energy Company and Energy Plus.
It will be interesting to see if NRG Energy, NV Energy, or Comcast eventually acquires EcoFactor as we would be awfully surprised if they were even allowed to sniff at an IPO.
The U.S. residential solar market still looks an attractive revenue stream to China’s solar companies as Canadian Solar (CSIQ :NASDQ) will be offering a residential financing program for potential customers.
Working with Admirals Bank in Boston, Canadian Solar’s residential customers will be able to borrow up to $40,000 for a solar installation, subject to credit approval.
Chinese solar manufacturers trying to a capture a share of the lucrative residential solar market in the U.S. is nothing new. Suntech Power Corporation (STP :NYSE) gave it a run, even building a production plant a few miles from local competitor First Solar’s (FSLR :NASDAQ) headquarters. But that hasn’t worked out well for Suntech as they shut the doors to the Goodyear, Arizona plant earlier this year.
But offering financing isn’t the only key to cracking the U.S. market. Solar City (SCTY :NASDAQ) success can be attributed in part to a strategic marketing program that demystifies the solar investment while making it look attractive to the average homeowner. Until Canadian Solar displays the marketing chops to compete with current competitors while offering competitive prices despite the high tariffs, Solar City investors will probably continue to sleep well at night.
Shares of Canadian Solar were down 2.35 percent today while shares of Solar City were up 2.02 percent.
They may not have been awarded the entire project, but at least JinkoSolar (JKS :NYSE) was awarded one third of it. JinkoSolar will be supplying 20 megawatts (MW) of solar modules to State Grid Corporation of China.
JinkoSolar’s 20 MW is part of a 60 MW phase of a much larger project. The overall project will feature 500 MW of wind power, 100 MW of solar power, and a 110 MW power storage system. The overall project is supposed to serve as a platform for scientific research and a model for renewable energy projects.
JinkoSolar has to feel pretty good about being selected by the State Grid Corporation of China. They must believe the solar manufacturer, unlike some of its domestic competition, will be around to deliver the solar modules in Q4 2013.
Shares of the high flying JinkoSolar were down .22 percent in afternoon trading.
If you can’t develop them, buy them. At least that’s what’s happening with this large-scale solar utility project as First Solar (FSLR :NASDAQ) has purchased the 250 megawatt (MW) Moapa Solar Project in Nevada from K Road Power Holdings LLC.
The Moapa project is unique as it is the first large-scale solar project to be built on tribal land in North America. The 2,000-acre project is expected to start construction in Q4 2013 and is expected to be completed by the end of 2015. The solar project will be located on the Moapa River Indian Reservation in Clark County, Northeast of Las Vegas, Nevada.
Acquiring the project is a solid victory for First Solar and not just because of its size. By developing the first large-scale solar project on tribal land in North America, this deal potentially opens the door for similar ones in the United States.
As of the April 2000 census, the Moapa River Indian Reservation didn’t crack the top 50 largest Indian reservations by land holdings. The Navajo Reservation topped the list with over 24,000 square miles of land in Arizona, New Mexico and Utah followed by the Uintah and Ouray Indian Reservation with almost 7,000 square miles in Utah and the Tohono O’odham Indian Reservation with almost 4,500 square miles in Arizona. All of these Indian reservations have the location, and potential, to develop large-scale solar projects.
Despite the large project acquisition, shares of First Solar were only up .42 percent in afternoon trading.
Just when it appeared that Suntech Power Holdings (STP :NYSE) had developed a plan to satisfy its creditors and help it rise from its financial difficulties, the company suffered another blow today. Suntech announced that Italian courts have seized 37 solar parks constructed by Global Solar Fund (GSF), an investment fund of which the China-based solar manufacturer is an 88 percent owner.
The 30 megawatts of power seized accounts for 21 percent of the fund company’s power generation capabilities.
The Court of Brindisi seized the plants due to improper operation of the solar plants related to authorization issues for the solar parks and matters related to the improper collection of feed-in tariffs.
Suntech said they will try to work with GSF to continue operating the solar plants.
With Suntech hoping a newly appointed CEO and a credit restructuring plan will help the resuscitate the solar manufacturer from its previous investment missteps, another setback like this will not help renew investor confidence in the company.
Shares of Suntech were surprisingly unchanged in afternoon trading.