Photo: pgegreenenergy, Flickr, CC
As Long as They Keep SunPower Doing What it Does Best...
SunPower, the Californian photovoltaic panel maker, is falling into the embrace of France's giant oil company Total. The Total Group is launching a "friendly tender offer through a wholly owned subsidiary for up to 60 percent of SunPower's outstanding Class A Common shares and 60 percent of SunPower's outstanding Class B Common shares at a price of $23.25/share for each class." Shareholders of SunPower might be happy since this is over 45% more than the shares were selling on the open market, but what does this mean for the solar power industry?
"The world future energy balance will be the result of a long-term transition in which renewable energies will take their place alongside conventional resources," said Philippe Boisseau , President, Total Gas and Power Division. "Over the past years, Total has built up sizeable renewable energy activities. Today, Total is executing on its strategy to become a major integrated player in solar energy. We evaluated multiple solar investments for more than two years and concluded that SunPower is the right partner based on its people, world-leading technology and cost roadmap, vertical integration strategy and downstream footprint."
"Solar is becoming a material addition to the new generation portfolio around the world, with more than 40,000 MW of solar photovoltaic power installed globally," continued Werner. "Total and SunPower will collaborate to ensure that solar becomes a platform for an efficient, competitive and sustainable energy future. Already, SunPower's high-efficiency, high-reliability solar photovoltaic power plant costs are competitive with other new resources." (source)
The first thing this means is (hopefully) increased resources for SunPower, and a better ability to survive the boom-bust solar cycle. Total has already agreed to offer $1 billion in credit support to SunPower over the next five years, and hopefully it'll keep R&D; investments into new PV technologies at good levels.
Conspiracy theorists might be alarmed by this; many people have a visceral dislike of seeing oil companies buy renewable energy companies. I'll admit that this has often been my first reaction... But with more thought, I realize that I'd rather see oil companies spend money on clean energy than on just more oil, and that if these companies are to ever transition to low-carbon energy production, they have to start right now. I'm not under the illusion that the Exxons of this world will suddenly invest massively in wind and solar. But as long as they make honest investments in alternative energy, why not?
In any case, solar isn't competing directly with oil as long as we don't electrify more of the transportation sector... What would be really surprising is if a coal company made a big investment in wind or solar.
See also: Google Invests $168 Million in 392MW Mojave Desert Solar Thermal Plant
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