SunEdison Plans Solar Expansion in ‘Sunniest Continent on Earth’

SunEdison Inc., the best-performing U.S. solar company this year, is targeting the rooftops of Australia’s airports, universities and retirement homes.

The company is seeking to install about 50 megawatts of solar power in the next 12 months in Australia and expects its team to grow to about 50 people, Jeremy Rich, managing director of its local unit, said Friday in a phone interview.

“It’s the sunniest continent on earth, and as Australians know, electricity prices are very high, so solar enables people to have good amounts of savings,” he said. The prospects for energy storage are another factor drawing SunEdison, he said.

SunEdison joins a number of companies seeking to expand in solar power in Australia, where about 1.4 million homes have installed panels on their roofs since 2001, the most in the world as a proportion of total households, according to the Melbourne-based Grattan Institute.

SunEdison, which entered the Australian market when it acquired installation company Energy Matters Group last year, sees rooftop space in the nation’s commercial sector as an untapped opportunity, Rich said.

So far this year SunEdison has gained 62 percent, the most among U.S. companies on the Bloomberg Intelligence Global Large Solar index. This week it raised about $403 million to help buy renewable energy plants in emerging markets, and purchased wind and solar projects in Central America and Asia.

Acquisitions in Australia “are definitely something we’re interested in doing,” Rich said.