Archive for March 2009

HGCapital acquires 3 Spanish solar plants from AIG Financial Products

March 30, 2009

HgCapital’s Renewable Power Partners Fund has invested in three Spanish solar photovoltaic (PV) plants with a total output of 35.5 MW. HgCapital  is the largest fund for European renewable power projects. It purchased the stake from AIG Financial Products Corp. and from 360 Corporate, a Spanish investment banking firm, for an undisclosed amount.

The Spanish portfolio includes two fixed-axis projects (17.5 MWp) and one project single-axis tracker project (18MWp). All projects qualified for the Spanish PV tariff between May and July 2008. The first two projects were developed by Proener (10 MW),  in Castile-La Mancha, and City SolarAG (7.5 MW), in Murcia. The third plant was developed by SunPower in Extremadura.

These PV projects are HgCapital’s first Spanish and first solar investments, and follows HgCapital’s pan-European and pan-technology renewable energy investment strategy. Spain is one of HgCapital’s current priority markets for renewables investment. Jens Thomassen and Luigi Pettinicchio executed the transaction for HgCapital.

Jens Thomassen said: “This is an important strategic investment for HgCapital in creating our first renewables portfolio. It extends our diversification to solar and into Spain in general, where we expect to make further strategic investments. Tightening credit conditions and falling power prices mean there will be a decline in new renewables installations in Europe so we are pleased to have invested in three plants which are operating and generating income”.

Tom Murley, head of HgCapital’s renewable energy practice said: “This is a continuation of our long-held, consistently applied strategy of investing in high quality projects across Europe. The PV projects in this investment use the best equipment and benefit from excellent solar radiation. I am also pleased at our arrangement with 360 Corporate, which adds local content and presence.”

Spain and the US to cooperate in renewable energy and energy efficiency issues

March 23, 2009

During a visit to the US last week, the Spanish Minister of Industry, Tourism and Trade, Miguel Sebastián, held a meeting in Washington with the Energy Secretary, Steven Chu. During the meeting, both discussed various aspects related to energy dependence, security of supply, energy efficiency and renewable energy.

One of the topics discussed was the mutual interest in developing the Energy Services Companies, or ESCOs, industry. The U.S. government is actively promoting this industry and wants it to play an even more important role in energy efficiency. In addition, Miguel Sebastián detailed the plans in place for the adoption of electric vehicles in Spain, a mode of transportation also backed by President Obama, who has set a  goal of having a million plug-in hybrid vehicles on the road by 2015.  Spain maintained its commitment to put in circulation a million electric cars by 2014.

Sebastian stressed the Spanish position in the global market for liquefied natural gas (LNG) a fuel which requires no pipelines connecting producer and consumer. Spain currently receives two thirds of its natural gas supplies through LNG tankers, as a way to diversify its sources of supply.

Mnister Sebastian and Secretary Chu

For his part, U.S. Secretary of Energy showed interest in the methods of CO2 sequestration and storage that are being used in Spain. In this sense, the Spanish minister elaborated about the projects implemented in the country, such as the pilot plant to be built in Compostilla (Leon).

At the same time, Sebastian conveyed to the U.S. secretary the willingness of Spain to cooperate and reach agreements with the U.S. on renewable energy issues and to help the stability of energy supply, a cooperation that would benefit both countries. Spain already has standing agreements of this sort with Russia, Morocco and Algeria. Finally, the Spanish Minister proposed the creation of a permanent working group to explore and identify areas of energy cooperation that will be launched in the coming months.

This group will exchange experiences in three key energy areas: solar, electric vehicles and biofuels. The Secretary of Energy and Nobel Laureate Stephen Chu, received this proposal favorably. Finally, the Spanish Minister cordially invited his U.S. counterpart to visit Spain to see for himself some of the landmark projects developed in Spain, such as the  plants in operation using pioneering solar thermal energy storage methods.

Trends in Renewable energy deals in 2008, by PWC

March 22, 2009

The first edition of Renewables Deals, an annual review by PricewaterhouseCoopers of deal-making in the renewable energy sector has some interesting conclusions:

– The impact of the credit crisis was felt in terms of value of deals dropping even though number of deals held up

– PWC sees a growing trend for deals for manufacturing and technology assets higher up the renewables value chain.

European deals, seven out of eight of which were for wind assets, dominated the 2008 renewables top ten deals table. Much of the renewables deal activity in Europe was for assets on the Iberian peninsula. Together, Portugal and Spain accounted for US$8.1bn of deal value, giving them a 55% share of European deal volume. In particular, just two Portuguese deals added US$4.2bn to the 2008 totals – the US$2.8bn float of a 25% stake in EDP Renováveis, the wind power arm of Portuguese power group EDP, and Babcock & Brown’s US$1.4bn disposal of wind farm assets.

Babcock & Brown sold several European wind farms as the parent investment group sought to reduce debt levels. In the first, Spanish infrastructure company FCC paid S$1.15bn for the company’s wind farms portfolio in Spain. Three months later, in November 2008, the Enersis portfolio of wind farms in Portugal was sold to a consortium of investors led by Magnum Capital for US$1.45bn. A second notable Spanish wind power deal saw RWE subsidiary, RWE Innogy Holdings acquire wind power operator Urvasco Energia in a deal worth US$394 million.

However, the bulk of deals in Spain, 10 out of a total of 12 transactions, were for solar assets, headed by a US$394 million purchase of Gamesa Solar by private equity firm First Reserve Corporation. Solar power deals accounted for 30% of all European renewables deals and 20% of total deal value in 2008. Spanish deals took the lion’s share of European solar deal value – US$2.1bn of the US$3.5bn total.

Nevertheless, it is wind power that dominates the European renewables deals tables, more so than any other major region, accounting for 60% of total European renewables deal value. Hydro accounted for the largest North American deal value in 2008, but this was almost entirely attributable to one deal.

After hydro power, wind and solar power delivered the highest value deal segments, accounting for $1.4 billion and $1.3 billion of deal value respectively, PWC says.

The biofuel sector delivered the largest number of North American renewables transactions–22 deals totaling $1.1 billion. Of these, 20 were in the US and the remaining two were in Canada.

The 20 North American wind power deals in 2008 were split evenly between the US and Canada, but the majority ($977 million) of the $1.4 billion total wind deal value was in the US, PwC adds.

Looking ahead, PWC sees a trend of emerging worldwide players that will come not just from the increasing involvement of large diversified players such as GE and Bosch. Already we are seeing companies from utility company origins, such as Iberdrola Renewables and EDP Renováveis, as well as renewable sector players, such as Suzlon Energy, building an increasingly global presence.

Vice President Al Gore Touts Spain’s Leadership in Energy and Infrastructure

March 20, 2009

Vice President Al Gore recognized Spain as one of the world’s top innovators of renewable energy and high-speed rail transportation.

Speaking at the Spain-U.S. Business Sustainability Conference on March 17, Gore cited improved energy and climate technologies as the key to solving three of the most pressing global issues – the global economic crisis, climate crisis and security crisis. He said that if you looked for the common thread between the three, it is an overdependence on outdated, heavily polluting carbon-based technologies.

“The convergence of the problems is very clear,” Gore said. “Green infrastructure is the option of choice to solve the climate and economic crisis. We need sources that are free forever, like the sun, wind and earth. Spain is one of the leading countries in all of these areas.”

Al Gore, speaking at the Spain-US Business Sustainability Conference

He also stressed the close working relationship between U.S. and Spanish businesses and their role in helping speed the creation and adoption of advanced, green technology.

“Renewable energy production, high-speed transport systems and infrastructure construction and management are the best ways to stimulate the global economy and help address the climate crisis,” Gore continued. “We need leadership in both the political and business sectors. The close working relationship between Spain and the U.S. in these areas is a model for all others to follow.”

His Royal Highness, Felipe de Borbón, reiterated Spain’s political commitment to solving environmental problems, stimulating investment in these sectors, promoting business cooperation and ensuring Spain remains at the forefront of renewable technologies.

“This conference is a major milestone in the relationship between Spain and the United States, both in the private and public sectors,” said the Prince. “The idea of sustainable growth should underlie the solutions for Spain’s economy and environment. Only by working together with U.S. businesses and government as well as coordinating our needs and priorities can we get our countries, and world, back on track.”

Rockford Construction joins with Spanish company Berge to help develop wind farms

March 16, 2009

Madrid, Spain-based Bergé Logística Energética and Grand Rapids-based Rockford Construction last week announced the formation of Rockford Bergé, an organization combining wind farm construction with comprehensive logistical services. 

Rockford Bergé will focus its initial efforts in Michigan with plans to service the entire Great Lakes region. Rockford Bergé is a one-of-a-kind company in Michigan, offering construction and logistical services for clients who wish to construct wind farms,” said Mike VanGessel, president and CEO of Rockford Construction. “With this unique combination of expertise, Rockford Bergé will provide utilities and municipalities that wish to develop wind farms with a cost-efficient, deadline-oriented partner.”

Rockford Construction was recently ranked as a Top 50 Green Contractor by Engineering News-Record. Bergé has expertise in many aspects of energy infrastructure logistics, including transporting massive turbine parts from around the world. Approximately half of the parts for wind turbines in the United States currently come from overseas as the support industries are being developed in North America.

“Data analysis indicates that Michigan offers some of the best opportunities in the nation to capture wind energy,” said Jorge Gonzalez, Bergé project manager. “Currently, Michigan ranks 22nd in the nation in terms of the amount of power being generated from wind, producing nearly 130 megawatts of power. But it is 14th in terms of wind abundance. That gap between power generation and wind abundance is an indicator of a largely untapped market.” 

The Right Place, a nonprofit economic development organization serving Greater Grand Rapids, helped bring the two companies together. The Right Place, in partnership with the West Michigan Strategic Alliance, commissioned a study on the wind industry in Michigan in 2008. The study identified organizations already in the region, such as Rockford Construction, with the expertise needed to construct wind farms. It also identified needs that would not be met by companies in the region, such as logistics, and found leaders in these categories, such as Bergé, that could fill those needs.

Update on CSP solar projects in Spain

March 16, 2009

– Madrid-based renewable outfit Grupo Ibereolica has signed an agreement with La Coruna, Spain-based energy conglomerate Inveravante to jointly start construction of two 50 MW concentrating solar power (CSP) solar thermal power plants in Andalucia and Extremadura, Spain. The two companies plan to build and operate eight solar projects in Spain. The first two plants will use parabolic through technology and will produce 50MW each. They The 50 MW solar plants will use parabolic technology and be prepared for future upgrading to salt storage and biomass hybridization to increase night production. The agreement calls for Inveravante to replicate the same mechanisms at two additional plants.

– Acciona Energy has started construction on a 50 MW concentrated solar power (CSP) plant at Majadas de Tiétar in Cáceres, Spain, representing an investment of 237 million euros (US$303.7 million). The facility, planned to enter service in summer 2010, will use solar trough technology to produce electricity equivalent to the power consumption of 30,000 homes. In June 2009, Acciona expects to start construction work on its fourth CSP plant, Palma del Río I. Finally, Acciona is also going through administrative procedures for a fifth CSP plant, Alvarado II.

– Abantia will invest 128 million euros in the first CSP plant in Catalonia (in the province of Lleida). With a capacity of 25 MW, it will also be based in parabolic trough technology.

– Aries Ingenieria is building the  largest comprehensive solar power project in Europe, uniting thermoelectric and photovoltaic technology facilities with a combined power of 230 MW in Ciudad Real (Castile-La Mancha). The project, by the name of ASTE, comprises four thermoelectric solar facilities of 50 MW each, with parabolic cylinder and 8-hour thermal storage technology. A state-of-the-art 30 MW photovoltaic solar facility will complete the project.

Isofoton to build a solar module assembly plant in Ohio

March 10, 2009
  • Isofoton initiates the first step for a new photovoltaic module production center in the U.S. that will assemble cells produced in Malaga.
  • This new module plant is an addition to the Isofoton Producing Center in Malaga which deploys the Reis Line, one of the most technologically advanced production lines in the world.

Isofoton, through its subsidiary Isofoton North America, has signed a cooperation agreement with the State of Ohio by which both sides commit mutually to cooperate in the implementation of a new Isofoton production center in the State. This decision is contingent upon negotiation and approval of incentives, site location, and other due diligence.

This signing represents the completion of a long process initiated in 2007 (see our previous story on the subject here), a period during which Isofoton has been conducting pre-feasibility studies to determine the partners that will guarantee the project success, and that has meant many meetings, in several states, at the highest levels. Moreover, the signing is also the first step in a process in which the company will identify strategic utility partners to develop its U.S. business plans.

The Governor of Ohio, Ted Strickland, has highlighted the importance of the agreement in the context of public support to the photovoltaic sector. “We are tremendously excited that Isofoton has committed to expanding into Ohio,” Governor Ted Strickland said. “This commitment demonstrates our globally-recognized research capabilities, the state’s forward-looking energy policy, and our manufacturing strength.” 

Isofoton HQ in Malaga

Isofoton HQ in Malaga

This new plant will carry out the assembly of cells that the company will manufacture in its production center in Malaga, therefore increasing with this start up its productivity in Spain. 

The production from the Ohio plant will be allocated to the US market, so that Isofoton will be able to cover the demand of the dollar zone from a more competitive position. The start of the implementation of the plant is estimated to occur between 2010 and 2011, and will have an estimated production capacity of 60 MW.