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Published on January 18th, 2014 | by Zachary Shahan

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Top Solar Startups In 2013 VC Funding, Top Solar M&As, & Top Solar Projects

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January 18th, 2014 by Zachary Shahan 

2013 saw less venture capital (VC) funding raised for solar startups than 2012. The 2013 total was $600 million across 97 deals, whereas the 2012 total was $992 million across 106 deals. While solar power is skyrocketing, VC funding has ironically fallen. However, a handful of top solar startups have certainly kept plowing forward. The top 5 solar startups in terms of 2013 VC funding in the US, according to Mercom Capital Group, are as follows:

  1. Chinese solar project developer Hefei Golden Sun Energy Technology raised $69 million.
  2. Clean Power Finance, a provider of third-party financing for distributed PV projects through its software platform, raised $62 million.
  3. Solexel, a developer of high-efficiency c-Si solar modules, raised $55 million.
  4. Sungevity, a provider of residential solar installations, raised $43 million.
  5. OneRoof Energy, a company that develops, owns and operates solar energy generation systems for the residential market, raised $30 million.

As you might have gathered from those top 5 solar startups, the downstream solar market was the focus of VC funding in 2013. Next was actually CSP, followed closely by PV and then other solar submarkets. Here’s the Mercom Capital breakdown again:

  1. Solar Downstream: $262 million in 34 deals
  2. CSP: $109 million in 12 deals
  3. PV: $104 million in 17 deals
  4. Thin Film: $72 million in 13 deals
  5. BOS: $38 million in 9 deals
  6. CPV: $9 million in 4 deals
  7. Service Providers: $5 million in 8 deals

Of course, VC funding doesn’t account for all or even the majority of solar funding. Here’s a broader breakdown of solar funding in 2013: Total Corporate Funding (includes VC funding, debt financing and public market financings)

  • Annual 2013 – $9.6 billion in 174 deals total
  • VC funding – $600 million in 97 deals
  • Debt funding – $6.2 billion in 38 deals
  • Public market financing – $2.8 billion in 39 deals

Third-party financing for rooftop solar projects gobbled up a great deal of funding, but it was actually the large-scale solar projects that dominated the funding pie. Residential/Commercial Solar Project Funds (aka, third-party financing/lease)

  • 2013 Annual – $3.34 billion in 22 deals
  • Q4 2013 – $936 million in 4 deals
  • Q3 2013 – $584 million in 6 deals
  • Q2 2013 – $1.36 billion in 5 deals
  • Q1 2013 – $463 million in 7 deals
  • 2012 Annual – $1.98 billion in 12 deals

Announced Large-Scale Project Funding

  • 2013 Annual – $13.6 billion in 152 deals
  • Q4 2013 – $6 billion in 46 deals
  • Q3 2013 – $2.9 billion in 37 deals
  • Q2 2013 – $2.9 billion in 35 deals
  • Q1 2013 – $1.8 billion in 34 deals
  • 2012 Annual – $8.7 billion in 84 deals

Top Large-Scale Project Funding Deals in 2013 by Dollar Amount

  1. $1 billion raised by Solar Star Funding for the Solar Star 1 and 2 projects
  2. $498 million raised by Samsung Renewable Energy for their Grand Renewable Solar Project
  3. $454 million raised by Moroccan Solar Energy Agency (MASEN) for their Noor II CSP Project
  4. $446 million raised by Moroccan Solar Energy Agency (MASEN) for their Noor III CSP Project
  5. $400 million raised by Recurrent Energy for their California (5) and Arizona (1) PV projects
  6. $400 million raised by Sempra Energy for their Copper Mountain 3 Solar Project

Announced Large-Scale Project Acquisitions

  • 2013 Annual – $1.7 billion in 112 transactions
  • Q4 2013 – $481 million in 41 transactions
  • Q3 2013 – $789 million in 30 transactions
  • Q2 2013 – $315 million in 22 transactions
  • Q1 2013 – $137 million in 19 transactions
  • 2012 Annual – $1.93 billion in 80 transactions

Largest Disclosed Project Acquisitions by Dollar Amount in 2013

  1. Concord Green Energy acquired five Ontario solar PV projects totaling 49 MW from Canadian Solar for $277 million.
  2. Alterra Power and GE Energy Financial Services acquired the 50 MW ABW Solar Project in Ontario from First Solar for $237.5 million.
  3. BluEarth Renewables acquired four utility-scale solar power projects totaling 53.9 MW from Canadian Solar for $217 million.
  4. Bluefield Solar Income Fund purchased five large-scale PV projects in England with a total capacity of 61 MW for $107 million.
  5. TransCanada acquired the Brockville 2 and Burritts Rapids projects in Ottawa from Canadian Solar Solutions, totaling 16 MW, for $91.9 million.

Yes, that TransCanada. Finally, below are some details on mergers and acquisitions in the solar market. Regular CleanTechnica readers should recognize at least a couple of the top 5 M&A transactions. Disclosed Corporate M&A Transactions

  • 2013 Annual – $12.7 billion in 81 transactions
  • Q4 2013 – $1.3 billion in 25 transactions
  • Q3 2013 – $9.8 billion in 23 transactions
  • Q2 2013 – $1.3 billion in 18 transactions
  • Q1 2013 – $306 million in 15 transactions
  • 2012 Annual – $6.7 billion in 51 transactions

Top 5 Corporate M&A Transactions by Dollar Amount in 2013

  1. Though not a pure play solar transaction, the $9.4 billion acquisition of Tokyo Electron by Applied Materials accounted for most of the $9.8 billion. Included in the acquisition was the amorphous silicon (a-Si) equipment business of Oerlikon Solar, which Tokyo Electron had acquired earlier.
  2. Swiss power and automation technology group ABB acquired Power-One, a provider of renewable energy and energy-efficient power conversion and power management solutions, for approximately $1 billion in the second quarter.
  3. In the fourth quarter, Shunfeng Photovoltaic, a solar equipment manufacturer, acquired Wuxi Suntech Power, the main Chinese unit of Suntech Power Holdings, for $489 million.
  4. Chinese solar cell manufacturer Goldpoly New Energy Holdings acquired power plant developer China Merchants New Energy Holdings in a non-cash transaction valued at $273 million in the first quarter. Goldpoly already owned 7.8 percent of China Merchants New Energy Holdings.
  5. In the fourth quarter, Dow Corning acquired Mitsubishi’s 12.5 percent stake in Hemlock Semiconductor LLC, giving it 100 percent ownership, and 12.5 percent in Hemlock Semiconductor Corporation, giving it 80.5 percent ownership for $240 million.

I expect that we’ll see a notable increase in VC solar funding in 2014, as well as more in the way of M&As. The solar industry as a whole is both growing (fast) and consolidating. It should be an interesting year.

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About the Author

spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as the director/chief editor. Otherwise, he's probably enthusiastically fulfilling his duties as the director/editor of Solar Love, EV Obsession, Planetsave, or Bikocity. Zach is recognized globally as a solar energy, electric car, and wind energy expert. If you would like him to speak at a related conference or event, connect with him via social media. You can connect with Zach on any popular social networking site you like. Links to all of his main social media profiles are on ZacharyShahan.com.



  • JamesWimberley

    A decline in venture capital for startups is what you would expect for a maturing industry. How much venture capital is raised for cars and supermarkets? One of the founders in the 1980s of the English microprocessor designer ARM has lamented that a similar startup would be nearly impossible today – the chips are so complex that the minimum scale of a competitive firm is huge.

    We should only worry about VC funding if there is evidence that good ideas are being left by the wayside. As mainstream renewable technology gets ever cheaper, the bar for rival “good ideas” keeps rising.

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