Today in Cleantech

So far the details are limited, but Chinese auto parts maker Wanxiang Group Corp is investing up to $450 million in embattled battery maker A123 Systems. From problems with the Fisker recall, to the explosion at the GM battery lab to recent acknowledgements that the company is heading for a cash crunch, things have not looked good. A bailout from a well financed Chinese company is just what the doctor ordered and yet another sign that the Chinese are far more supportive of cleantech than either corporate America or the U.S. government. A123 Systems is a DOE grant recipient and one can only guess that such a cash infusion could involve the transfer of technology to China or the building of a production facility in China, both unpopular prospects in the minds of Americans. But this is what happens when America’s major competitor in cleantech is ready to make big bets at key times, likely getting good valuations on distressed companies.

Today in Cleantech

Thin film PV leader First Solar may be a casualty in the ongoing tug-of-war between the United States and China in the race for clean technology domination. The Washington Post reports that First Solar’s plan to build a record-breaking 2-gigawatt solar farm in China’s Inner Mongolian desert may be up for grabs, as local Chinese officials have opened the $5 billion to $6 billion project to competitive bidding under intense pressure from domestic solar companies. China’s government is known for using its clout to ensure Chinese manufacturers a majority share of components for wind farms being built in the country, and can be expected to do the same in other green tech sectors. International diplomacy may have played a part as well — China announced the partnership with First Solar in September, in the midst of a big push by a Chinese consortium to win American approval of a plan to build a $1.5 billion wind farm in Texas with Chinese wind turbines. Domestic pressures work in the U.S. as well as in China — U.S. lawmakers have protested the Chinese project, and the consortium recently announced a deal to source the project’s steel from U.S. suppliers. Perhaps First Solar will succeed in negotiating terms with Chinese partners to stay in the project. Whatever the politics involved, the First Solar episode is clear evidence that doing business in China’s potentially enormous green technology markets will require a strong set of local partners — read our report, Carving a Path to Greentech in China, for more on the topic.

First Solar’s 2GW China Project Hits Snag

Looks like bad news for First Solar (s FSLR). The Washington Post reported Thursday that the thin film solar PV leader may not have actually secured that 2-gigawatt solar farm planned for China’s desert, which it announced back in September of 2009.