SunPower buys 42% of Oz renewables group Diamond Energy

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Global solar giant SunPower buys a minority stake in a Melbourne-based clean energy retailer and project developer.

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SunPower, the US-based solar-panel manufacturer that’s majority-owned by French oil company Total, has bought a 42 per cent stake in Australian renewables retailer and developer Diamond Energy, the two companies have announced today.

SunPower’s acquisition of what the Melbourne-based Diamond describes as a “cornerstone shareholding” heralds the first time that a major international solar manufacturer has moved to vertically integrate in Australia, in this case through buying the privately-owned, alternative energy project developer and clean electricity retailer – a strategy that will boost the roll-out of commercial and larger-scale PV, in particular.

Indeed, SunPower said in its announcement of the deal that the two companies would “work to grow development of commercial and utility solar power projects in Australia, leveraging SunPower’s experience delivering more than 1,000 megawatts of cost-competitive, large-scale solar power systems worldwide.”

As Bloomberg notes, SunPower is also looking to diversify its business in the face of plummeting solar panel prices, which are down 61 per cent since the beginning of 2011. The company began offering solar leases for residential rooftop systems last year and said in August that this kind of business may account for 25 percent of sales by mid-2013.

SunPower says that aligning with Diamond Energy will allow it to offer “more comprehensive and customizable clean energy solutions” for Australian customers, creating a one-stop shop for high efficiency solar systems, grid-source renewable energy, as well as retail services.

“SunPower is taking a step closer to its customers by investing in an electricity retailer like Diamond Energy,” said SunPower president and CEO Tom Werner. “More customers will see solar as a cost-effective way to meet growing energy demands, especially as the price of conventional grid power increases in Australia.”

Established in 2004, Diamond Energy specialises in developing renewable, cogeneration and interruptible load projects, and has with experience spanning solar, bioenergy, wind and wave technologies. It currently owns two biogas plants, has PPAs with a number of third-party generators and sells clean energy through its retail divisions to residential and commercial customers.

By the terms of the agreement, SunPower has the option to increase its ownership percentage of Diamond over time, and to assume a seat on the company’s board of directors.

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