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  • Friday, April 29, 2011


    Total invests £800m in US solar power firm; French oil company is to buy 60% of SunPower Corporation, the second biggest solar panel manufacturer in America
    Terry Macalister, 29 April 2011 (UK Guardian)

    "Total, one of the world's largest oil companies, is to make a $1.38bn (£800m) investment in solar power reversing a trend that has seen Shell and BP cut back their involvement in green energy.

    "France's biggest company is to purchase 60% of SunPower Corporation, the second biggest solar panel manufacturer in America, and use it as a new springboard into a renewable sector struggling for competitive edge."

    Sunpower is among the world's leading sunmakers (click to enlarge)

    "Shares in SunPower surged 40%…[The] oil company that had been expected to put major new investment into nuclear rather than solar or wind…until the Japanese earthquake raised new questions about the safety of atomic power…

    "Total has been raking in enormous profits from oil at $120 a barrel – but is said to see renewables energy as a useful hedge. High crude prices make alternative power sources more attractive but the solar industry has also been hit in places such as Britain, Germany and Spain which have started to cut their public subsidies as part of wider plans to reduce debt levels."

    Does Total need a tax write-off? (click to enlarge)

    "Total…has held a half share in two solar firms since the early 1980's – Photovoltech and Tenesol. In November Total unveiled plans to build a solar panel manufacturing plant in the Moselle region of France with annual capacity of 220,000 solar panels a year. The oil company will now inject $1bn into SunPower over the next five years…SunPower has been hit by mounting competition from lower cost Chinese panel makers but still claims to design, manufacture and deliver the highest efficiency solar products in the industry.

    "BP and Shell made major forays into renewables but have backed off in recent years. BP shut down its stand alone Alternative Energy head office while Shell sold off a major part of its photovoltaic module production…[and] disposed of its solar rural business in the developing world…Total had been investing in nuclear…[but the] Fukushima plant accident – coupled with the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl accident – has spread a pall of negativity over nuclear energy business…"


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