Norwegian state-owned utility Statkraft acquired the U.K.-based PV developer Solarcentury this week. The move gives the hydropower giant a solar boost and, for Solarcentury, makes the task of delivering its substantial pipeline a bit easier.
The £118 million ($152 million) deal gives Statkraft access to a 5-gigawatt pipeline of PV projects in Europe and just over 1 GW in South America. Solarcentury has developed 1.2 GW of utility-scale projects since 2013. The 300 MW Talayuela solar plant, in construction in Spain, will add significantly to that number. Solarcentury recently acquired 284 MW of projects in Greece to complement major projects in the Netherlands, France and the U.K.
With financing to make these projects made simpler, and some economies of scale on offer, Solarcentury can expect to build the next 1.2 GW a little faster.
“This deal gives us more resources to look into more opportunities and more possibilities to find the ideal ones that we might like to acquire,” Barbara Flesche, deputy CEO at Solarcentury, said in an interview with GTM.
With talks still underway on how the two companies will be integrated, details on how and where this expedited growth will come haven't yet emerged. That said, certain fundamentals point toward accelerating growth.
“If you have a strong shareholder who will mainly finance on balance sheet, that allows us to start the execution without structuring complex project finance vehicles,” said Flesche. “If you consider the last projects in Spain, getting 200-megawatt and 300-megawatt projects financed requires some work to get everything in place and [arrange] external finance partners.”
Flesche also couldn’t rule out the possibility of Statkraft becoming the offtaker for some projects developed by Solarcentury, though she pointed out that that decision ultimately will be made by Statkraft.
Solarcentury has a few quirks that stand out among its fellow developers. It started out as a commercial and industrial developer and also built a residential solar business, in part through a collaboration with furniture retailer Ikea in Germany, the Netherlands and the U.K. The residential business was sold to Svea Solar, Sweden’s largest residential solar firm, in March of this year for an undisclosed fee.
The company also donates 5 percent of its profits to SolarAid, a charity established by founder Jeremy Leggett, a former oil executive turned climate activist, author and entrepreneur. Solarcentury has been looking for a buyer for at least 18 months since it decided against an initial public offering. Flesche said Statkraft is a good “cultural fit” for Solarcentury and that the firm’s name will likely be retained in some form.
In Southern Europe, not all projects are created equal
Statkraft claims to be the largest generator of renewable power in Europe, courtesy of its substantial hydropower capacity. It has around 20 GW of total power capacity, with 15 GW of that hydro in its home market.
Statkraft is aiming to develop “at least” 8 GW of wind and solar by 2025, with 2 GW of solar and 6 GW of wind. It has more than 400 MW of wind projects in construction and has recently made the final investment decision on the 519 MW Ventos de Santa Eugenia project.
“This acquisition is in line with our strategy to ramp up as a wind and solar developer and become one of the leading renewable energy companies globally,” said Christian Rynning-Tønnesen, CEO of Statkraft, in a statement.
“Just like hydropower and solar power complement each other, Statkraft and Solarcentury are an excellent fit in terms of purpose and people. Joining forces will accelerate our growth and continue to drive the energy transition forward," added Rynning-Tønnesen.
Brian Gaylord, principal analyst with Wood Mackenzie for Latin America and Southern Europe, pointed out that the megawatts contributing to a European pipeline could hold very different values.
“A lot of the value of the development pipeline in these markets will be how shovel-ready [each project] is. There is a definite opportunity here, particularly in Italy and Greece, as there has been some significant under-subscription issues at recent auctions,” Gaylord told GTM in an email.
In Spain, where Gaylord notes that Statkraft had already been recruiting a development team, the value is linked to the terms of land leases. With a backlog of speculative projects in the grid connection queue, developers are subject to a “land speculation bubble,” he said, which means those projects with land leases agreed prior to that speculation hold greater value.
With a big balance sheet to work with, in addition to its own credentials built up over more than 20 years, Solarcentury’s footprint, in Europe in particular, could deliver a major chunk of Statkraft’s renewable ambitions.