SPI partners with Wircon on UK joint venture


California PV developer SPI Solar is joining forces with German renewable energy group Wircon with a joint venture agreement to develop solar projects in the United Kingdom.

SPI and Wircon will establish a new joint venture company to develop solar energy projects in the U.K., with an initial proposed target of some 55 MW.

The company will procure and develop projects with the intent to own and operate certain plants and sell others to investors.

The move marks SPI’s expansion into key global PV markets through strategic alliances with local partners.

"Wircon has amassed a wealth of solar project development experience in Europe over the years, and this agreement provides a foundation for SPI to grow our business in the critically important U.K. market," said SPI Chairman Xiaofeng Peng. "The U.K. will be one of our key geographic focus markets in the coming years, and this announcement marks a new milestone for SPI internationally."

The U.K.’s Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC) has set a 30% renewable energy target by 2020 and the country is currently estimated to have between 3.2 to 4 GW of installed solar capacity. Market-research firm NPD Solarbuzz has projected that in 2014, the U.K. will eclipse Germany as the largest installer of solar panels in Europe.

Wircon Managing Director Peter Vest said the partnership with SPI was "a logical result of the combined strengths that each side brings to the table to take advantage of U.K. solar project opportunities. Wircon’s deep experience in solar energy project development is based on the over 8,000 projects of Wirsol, an established business and brand name that we took over earlier this year."

Wirsol President Mark Hogan said the Wircon subsidiary planned “to capitalize on selected opportunities with attractive return potential in the U.K. market, particularly given the DECC’s proposal to close the RO (Renewables Obligation) scheme to new solar PV capacity above 5 MW from 1st April 2015.” Hogan added that Wirsol would also invest in sourcing and building a substantial and sustainable pipeline into 2015 and beyond.

Vest added that Wircon’s strong commitment to solar project development in Europe would “be greatly enhanced by SPI’s experience and resources as a publicly-listed company with a strong, global presence in the U.S. and Asia” and that the company looked forward to further developing the collaboration in the U.K. and potentially beyond.

SPI, which is majority owned by bankrupt Chinese PV group LDK Solar, has raised nearly $50 million in recent months through the private placement sale of common shares.

Peng has said the company would use the capital to "capitalize on opportunities we are currently seeing across the global PV project landscape."