The US-Spain connection in renewable energy

The Wall Street Journal reflected recently on how some of Spain’s biggest renewable-energy companies have been planting their flag in the U.S., with big deals by utility Iberdrola, energy conglomerate Acciona, and wind turbine maker Gamesa.

On the wind side, Acciona announced last month it has acquired exclusive rights to develop 1300MW worth of wind assets in the states of Illinois, Iowa and Wisconsin, USA. The development will take place through an acquisition of projects from EcoEnergy, LLC, an alternative energy solutions developer. Acciona expects to install approximately 150MW or more in 2008 from this pipeline. It will be supplying its own wind turbines for each of these development projects from its new US production facility in Iowa.

As a another proof it has been busy this summer, Acciona also announced another deal, this time in solar power. It secured $266 million in financing from Spanish and Portuguese banks for its Solar One project in Nevada, the world’s third-largest solar plant.

As for Gamesa Energy USA, it could have as much as 1500 MW installed in the US by 2010. It has 8 wind farms in different stages of completion, 2 of them in Wisconsin and a further two in North Western Illinois.

The string of acquisitions by the third musketeer, Iberdrola, has been well covered here, and elsewhere, the latest of which being the purchase of the New York based utility Energy East.

But proving that the flurry of deals and acquisitions is a two way street, the US solar technology company SolFocus Inc., Mountain View, Ca., has announced it has reached an agreement to acquire a Spanish company called InSpira specializing in a key technology that makes solar power more efficient.

061115.jpg HPCV system by Inspira and Daido Steel

Madrid-based InSpira makes solar trackers, mechanical telescopic arms that follow the sun across the sky and focus the sun’s rays onto all sorts of solar power devices, making them more efficient. Trackers can boost yields by 40% — a huge difference when most commercial solar panels only get between 10% and 25% of the sun’s energy. Trackers are especially crucial to the most advanced kind of solar power devices, known as concentrators: if the sun’s rays are off by more than 1-2 degrees, no power is generated.

According to Keith Johnson, from WSJ, the strategy of SolFocus chief executive Gary Conley with this deal is to kill two birds with one stone. He will get access to a leading maker of tracker technology, boosting SolFocus’ bid to make cost-efficient solar power, though he vows to honor InSpira’s supply deals with rivals such as Germany’s Concentrix Solar GMBH. He will also get a bridgehead in Europe, where subsidies and government support for solar power and other renewable energies are far ahead of the U.S. (See here our previous post on the activities of SolFocus in Spain)

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