GE Strengthens Its Commitment to Alternative Energy with a $230 Million Solar Power Investment

By Jennifer Yousfi
Managing Editor

General Electric Corp. (GE) is strengthening its commitment to clean energy with a $230 million (150 million euros) investment in Spain’s Fotowatio. The investment, made through GE’s Energy Financial Services unit, will amount to a 32% stake in the solar-energy firm.

“By facilitating the growth of one of the solar industry's leading developers, this investment gives us immediate access to attractive solar markets in Europe and the United States and will form an important part of GE's broader strategy to become a major player in solar power,” Alex Urquhart, President and CEO of GE Energy Financial Services, said in a statement. “GE has all the right ingredients to succeed in solar: capital, technology, research and ecomagination.”

Ecomagination is GE’s in-house term for its program to help customers meet their energy needs through cleaner technologies such as solar and wind power. The company recently announced that its alternative energy investments had crossed the $4 billion threshold.

Fotowatio owns and operates solar-power installations in Spain, Italy and the United States, which will amount to approximately 960 megawatts when all projects currently under development are completed.

Countries around the world are setting aggressive renewable energy targets in hopes of reducing both environmental damage and overdependence on fossil fuels. The European Union has set a 20% target for that portion of EU energy consumption to come from renewable sources by 2020.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) projects that $45 trillion will be spent on clean technology development over the next 20 years.

And solar power is one of the fastest growing sources of alternative energy, as technological advances make solar panels thinner and more energy-efficient. To get in on the global commitment to alternative energy, here are some investments to consider.

First Solar Inc.’s (FSLR) reliance on low cost thin-film cells has helped the Phoenix-based solar module manufacturer to produce solar cells for a lower cost than its rivals. According to MarketWatch data, the average rating for this stock is “overweight” with a price target of $350. First Solar shares have traded in a range from $74.77 – $317.00 over the past 12 months and closed at $XXX.XX on Friday.

LDK Solar Company Ltd. (LDK) is a manufacturer of multicrystalline solar wafers, used to produce solar cells. This China-based firm has been hard hit this year, with a share price down over 30% year-to-date. But LDK Solar has several lucrative projects in the pipeline that could turn things around as it puts the finishing touches on a brand-new silicon plant with a 1,000-ton production capacity. Another plant with a production capacity of 15,000 tons per year is set to come online some time next year. LDK Solar shares closed at $XX.XX on Friday.

If you prefer the built-in diversification that mutual-fund-type investments offer, consider an exchange-traded fund (ETFs) that focuses on such “clean” technologies as solar and wind power. One of the top ETF names in this category is PowerShares WilderHill Clean Energy Fund (PBW). This ETF has also been battered, but if you have a long-term investment horizon and believe global governments will honor their pledge to clean energy investments, now might be the time to buy.

News and Related Story Links:

  • MarketWatch:
    Sparking European and US Solar Power Expansions, GE and Grupo Corporativo Landon to Invest US $350 Million in Leading European Solar Company
  • CNNMoney:
    GE Energy Financial Services invests in solar