First Solar to Buy Skytron to Boost Europe Plant Monitors

First Solar Inc., the largest U.S. solar-panel manufacturer, agreed to buy Skytron Energy from AEG Power Solutions GmbH to gain access to European photovoltaic power-plant control systems and expertise.

Skytron operates 600 solar power plants across Europe that generate about 5,000 megawatts of power, more than double the amount that First Solar currently manages, the Tempe, Arizona-based company said today in a statement. Terms weren’t disclosed.

Skytron gives the company access to a market for operating solar plants in Europe that could increase to 35 gigawatts in 2017 from 25 gigawatts last year, said Bob Callery, vice president of operations and maintenance at First Solar.

“We’ve been looking for a strategy to get into that market,” Callery said in an interview. Many of the original solar plant developers that took on operation and maintenance contracts left the business as demand for new plants slowed in recent years. “That’s created a vacuum.”

The company also gets monitoring equipment and software that may help First Solar sell additional services to utilities such as voltage controls.

“They’ve got very sophisticated control systems,” Callery said. “Skytron will help us create ancillary solutions.”

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