In December of last year, the Nikkei Business Daily reported that Sharp had finally sold off Recurrent Energy, an active solar project developer, to Canadian Solar for approximately $247 million. A spokesperson for Recurrent Energy informed Greentech Media at the time that Canadian Solar had not bought the firm and that other bidders were still in the race. 

Today, it's finally official. Canadian Solar has acquired Recurrent Energy from Sharp Corporation for $265 million. (We heard this from Recurrent, not the Nikkei Business Daily.)

According to a release, the acquisition adds 4 gigawatts to Canadian's existing 4.5-gigawatt project pipeline and "represents an estimated revenue opportunity of at least $2.3 billion for Canadian Solar under a build-and-sell business model."

Greentech Media spoke with Recurrent's COO David Brochu on Monday night. He stressed that Recurrent will be operated as an independent subsidiary, and while its procurement will continue to be competitive, as with any other developer -- Canadian certainly has an "opportunity" and "a platform." Recurrent remained independent from Sharp's solar business, building its pipeline with the use of external modules -- and was highly successful in doing so.

Brochu added that Recurrent has 1 gigawatt in late-stage projects scheduled to be completed by the end of 2016 that are eligible for the U.S. federal Investment Tax Credit. 

This type of acquisition seems like part of the ongoing trend among upstream solar manufacturers to move downstream and capture some of the value in installation and project development. This charge was led by First Solar and SunPower, and later by MEMC's acquisitions of SunEdison and Axio Power, as well as by Hanwha's downstream plays.

But Recurrent's people emphasized the "arm's length" cushion between the developer and module-maker, as opposed to it being a vertically integrated shop. 

"The acquisition of Recurrent is an important milestone for us, as it significantly expands and strengthens our position in the North American market, and places Canadian Solar firmly among the leading global solar energy companies," said Shawn Qu, CEO. Qu added, "At the same time, this transaction broadens our strategic options to extend our business model from development and construction into potential ownership and operation of solar power plants as we work to create additional value for our shareholders."

Sharp paid $305 million for a 100 percent stake in Recurrent Energy in 2010. It was purchased from venture capital investors including Mohr Davidow Ventures and Hudson Clean Energy Partners.

Sharp has been a solar-cell producer for 50 years and was once the world's largest producer of cells and panels -- prior to China's domination of the market. But Sharp has been ambivalent about its solar business, and rumors of Recurrent's sale have been rampant. Sharp recently closed down its solar manufacturing and also retreated from a solar JV with Italian energy company Enel.

Recurrent has developed and sold more than 680 megawatts of solar PV projects and secured more than $4 billion of project debt and equity financing since its founding in 2006.  

Solar project developers with strong project pipelines are now a hot property with the end of the federal Investment Tax Credit looming and YieldCos needing new projects.