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Fotowatio, one of Spain’s largest solar developers is soon to be one of the United States’ as well. Its American subsidiary, Renewable Ventures, is close to closing a new fund to back solar projects to the tune of $100 million this year alone. In the next two years, it plans to invest upwards of $500 million.
The fund is yet another sign of Spain’s rising solar dominance, second only to that of Germany, where government incentives and subsidies run deep. Based in Madrid, Fotowatio has moved fast — it acquired Renewable Ventures earlier this year and has already incorporated that group into its broader strategy to invest $3.2 billion in solar projects in Spain, Italy and the U.S. by 2012. And it’s garnered American support in this pursuit, notably from General Electric’s Energy Financial Services.
Renewable Ventures, formerly called MMA Renewable Ventures when it was owned by MuniMae, started raising the current fund before its acquisition in January. And its investment policies have remained the same — basically, it retains ownership of the solar facilities it finances and brings in revenue by selling power to utilities.
The fund in question is called a tax equity fund, meaning that those who invest in it will receive returns in the form of federal tax credits instead of cash. This makes sense since cleantech projects usually benefit from generous government tax credits. Renewable Ventures hasn’t disclosed the fund’s current investors, but Wells Fargo has contributed in the past. Incidentally, major U.S. solar developer SunPower just landed a $100 million deal with Wells Fargo to fund its solar installation systems.
Many of the projects Fotowatio and Renewable Ventures plan to finance — and they have already committed to a few — will be eligible for U.S. stimulus dollars from the Department of Energy in the fall. Much of the money invested beforehand will probably be used to develop projects to a stage that will attract more government support. Renewable Ventures has not specified whether it is looking for certain companies to back but has expressed interest in getting involved in the concentrating solar thermal sector (in which water is heated by sunlight to turn steam turbines).
Renewable Ventures already has partnerships with giant Chinese solar panel maker Suntech Power Holdings and San Francisco-based Gemini Solar Development Company.
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