Solar Acquisitions Doubled to Record $10.8 Billion

(Corrects transposed figures in last paragraph. Story first moved on July 18.)

The value of acquisitions of solar photovoltaic plants more than doubled to $10.8 billion in 2011 as developers sold projects to longer-term investors, Bloomberg New Energy Finance said.

A record 3.9 gigawatts of projects changed hands last year, up 122 percent from 2010, the London-based consultant said in a report published today. Subsidy cuts across Europe affecting new projects drove up demand for solar projects already under way.

The gains reflect efforts by developers to cash in on investments in projects that reaped the highest level of government-backed subsidies, which have been cut in the past year across Europe. Buyers were eager to tap guaranteed returns in many cases more than double the yields of the safest government bonds.

“The boom in solar PV in Spain and Italy, driven by unsustainable feed-in tariffs, left a pool of assets generating very attractive cash flows,” said Michael Liebreich, chief executive of New Energy Finance. Developers “are selling to longer-term investors with a lower cost of capital, who are happy with returns of between 5 percent and 15 percent.”

The most active market for acquisition was Italy, with 540 megawatts purchased, including 242 megawatts sold by Athens- based construction company Terna SA. The U.S. had the five biggest deals by capacity, all for solar parks under construction.

Worldwide, 2.8 gigawatts of the sales last year consisted of finished or partly-completed projects, while 1.1 gigawatts were sites with permits where work hadn’t begun.

Buyers’ valuations of photovoltaic projects have fallen by about 44 percent from their peak in 2008. That year, global average sales values were 6.4 million euros per megawatt ($8 million), compared with 3.6 million euros a megawatt in 2011.

To contact the reporter on this story: Josephine Forster in London at jforster13@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Reed Landberg at landberg@bloomberg.net

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