Finnish solar manufacturer gets Lithuanian factory purchase over the line

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Finnish solar manufacturer Valoe has secured the funding to complete the long drawn-out purchase of a production facility in Vilnius and hopes to start manufacturing its interdigitated back contact (IBC) cells as early as the summer – Covid-19 permitting.

Valoe had intended to raise the money needed to complete purchase of the factory from Lithuanian solar company Solitek and its parent Global BOD through a €3.5 million convertible bond issuance which was launched in November and had the deadline for registration twice extended.

Chief executive Iika Savisalo told pv magazine today the bond fundraising exercise – which had seen the issuer forced to sign up for 16 million of the 39 million bonds by March – had been closed. In its stead, Valoe on Wednesday secured €2.5 million from the Nordic Environment Finance Corporation (Nefco) organization funded by the governments of Finland, Denmark, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. Half of the money has been provided as a loan with the balance to be exchanged for “around 10%, maybe slightly over or under” of Valoe Corp, according to the CEO.

Better late than never

Quite how much of the company will pass into state ownership is dependent on how Valoe deploys a new €3 million financing arrangement from long-time chief investor, UAE-based Winance Investment, which opened the new credit line last month.

With Valoe having five times renegotiated the terms of its purchase of the €3.5 million fab in Vilnius – and having missed a €1.1 million payment in December – the company had previously stated €1.2 million would be needed to equip the facility with IBC production equipment it had purchased from defunct Italian solar producer Megacell Srl.

Savisalo told pv magazine the twin funding lines from Nefco and Winance would enable it to complete purchase of the Vilnius factory and double its annual cell production capacity from 60 MW to 120 MW. A press release issued to announce the Nefco investment stated the IBC cells produced would “enable modules of variable shapes and sizes, flexible or three-dimensional. Double-sided IBC cells also increase efficiency of the panels.”

U.S. customer

It was not clear whether a “major delivery contract” in North America which the Valoe release stated had been entered into, and which related to cells from Vilnius, was the same $12 million (€11.1 million) U.S. order which had previously been cited as dependent upon timely output at the site. However, Savisalo confirmed the mooted $12 million order “is still an important part of the business case.”

The CEO also referred to a plan to upgrade the company’s 20 MW module production operation in Finland with a new facility in Juva municipality which would focus on producing OddForm polymer and composite technology for vehicle and other non-standard PV applications.

The unknown now is how soon the Finnish manufacturer will be able to start production in Lithuania, with the CEO admitting: “Naturally there are now some uncertainties due to Covid-19 everywhere.”