SunPower expands solar plant goals, buys Europe's SunRay for $277M

SunPower, maker of high-efficiency silicon solar panels, has just revved up its plant-building business with the acquisition of European photovoltaic plant company SunRay Renewable Energy. The deal, valued at $277 million, will give the Silicon Valley solar leader the resources it needs to expand its core business beyond equipment manufacturing.

The two companies have had a relationship for a while, with SunPower supplying about 80,000 panels for SunRay installations in Europe and Israel covering 13,000 homes. SunPower has also been expressing more and more interest in building solar plants. It already has one 250-megawatt facility in the works in California, set to generate power for Pacific Gas & Electric.

By buying SunRay, the company is also inheriting a pipeline of projects at different phases. Smaller scale plants planned to cumulatively generate 1,200 megawatts are already in development for France, Greece, Spain, England, Israel and Italy. Essentially, SunPower gets to become a European photovoltaic powerhouse in one fell swoop. But SunRay’s influence on the company won’t stop on the other side of the Atlantic. SunPower says the company’s resources and expertise will also be used to expand its plant ambitions in the U.S.

SunPower is apparently doing so well that it was able to offer SunRay $235 million in cash upfront without having to raise additional funds. The company  trades on the Nasdaq under the symbol SPWRB. Today it is up 4.79 percent to $17.95 a share.

This is the second big solar deal of the week. On Monday, French nuclear reactor company Areva announced that it acquired Mountain View, Calif.-based solar thermal company Ausra for an estimated $400 million. The consolidation isn’t surprising as a few major powerhouses rise out of the once crowded solar market.