GE was poised to be First Solar’s major nemesis. But now GE has become one of First Solar’s largest shareholders by selling its thin film solar technology to the panel giant.
Chinese solar giant Hanergy is acquiring its third thin film solar company and this time its Arizona-based Global Solar Energy.
VC-backed LED startup Luminus Devices has been sold off to a Chinese lighting company. Following in the footsteps of solar, electric cars, and batteries, LED technology is now also getting bought up by Chinese players.
Fisker is the latest electric car maker to reach out to Chinese investors and auto tech giants for investment and acquisition. And it’s also the latest electric car company to struggle and face a discounted value.
In today’s New York Times is a piece detailing the deal in which Hanergy bought thin film solar maker MiaSole, a Silicon Valley solar company that gobbled up $550 million in VC in its quest to advance thin film technology. While no one knows exactly what Hanergy paid for MiaSole, the article suggests Hanergy spent $30 million to pay off MiaSole’s creditors and about $120 million for the company itself, which is widely regarded to have some of the most advanced thin film technology.
Speaking of the deal, Stephan Dolezalek from VantagePoint, one VC firm that had invested in MiaSole, said:
“Unfortunately we were not able to find somebody that was just going to be a partner. What we found in Hanergy was someone who was large in and of themselves but also had the Chinese government backing and so provided a combination of scale and government backing but was only willing to do so in a complete acquisition of the company.”
This is becoming a familiar theme right now as cleantech companies that have developed valuable IP from hundreds of millions of investment can’t find a corporate partner in the U.S. to help them move forward through scaling production and the slog toward being price competitive with utility rates. So they look east to China where there are interested parties, happy to pick up the IP at rock bottom prices.
Blaming the Chinese for seeing an opportunity isn’t really the point, though it can be argued that generous government subsidies there drove solar panel prices down and contributed to the decimation of the U.S. solar industry. At least now the technology won’t die and while Hanergy will keep manufacturing in the U.S., it also has plans to build a factory in China. Which is understandable, given that China is proving not just to be the center of solar manufacturing but the most exciting future end market for solar panels.
Solar panels that can be integrated right into roofs and walls could provide a bright spot in a difficult solar market over the next five years, according to a new report from Pike Research.
I’ve written before about the cleantech asset fire sale and how I expect that we’re at the beginning of the trend of aggressive Asian conglomerates picking up European and American R&D on the cheap. Well, the next deal was reported this morning as China based Hanergy will pick up MiaSole for a song ($30 million). MiaSole sunk almost half a billion into thin film solar panel research and manufacturing but just couldn’t compete. It’s sobering to think about how much of a research investment was made and how little money that accumulated research now fetches on the global market.
Hanergy joins other big Asian players that are scooping up cleantech assets, including LDK Solar (Sunways), Hanwa (Q-Cells), and Wanxiang Group (A123 Systems). No doubt these deals don’t sit well with the American taxpayer, who paid for the R&D at many of these companies through DOE grants or loan guarantees. But we’re living in a time where the Chinese government offers unflinching credit and support to its cleantech companies, resulting in protection of their own IP while giving them opportunities to go after foreign IP. Throw in cheaper labor and flexible factories that are skilled at manufacturing at scale, and you have a very aggressive competitor.
After making a public appeal for investors, MiaSole has found a suitor in Hanergy, a large renewable energy company in China that just bought another solar equipment maker in Germany. The $30M sales prices of MiaSole shows how cheap solar manufacturing assets can be picked up.
Hanergy, a Chinese solar manufacturer, has been making news lately, first with the purchase of a German solar company and then on Wednesday with a 3-year deal to make and install solar panels on Ikea’s stores on China. But who is Hanergy?