Energy Business

Alternative Energy Watch: Total to Acquire SunPower; Amyris Opens Plant in Brazil; Wind Power Installations Rise (TOT, SPWRA, AMRS, GEVO, WMT)

Today’s alternative energy review includes more than the offer by France’s Total SA (NYSE: TOT) to acquire a controlling interest in SunPower Corp. (NASDAQ: SPWRA). There’s also a new biofuels plant in Brazil and a doubling of wind power installations compared with the first quarter of 2010.

We’ve already covered Total’s tender offer for 60% of SunPower’s stock, and noted that this could launch more acquisitions in the solar space by the large integrated oil companies who are now stuffing their pockets with cash due to the high price of crude oil.  Other solar companies are also getting a bounce from the announcement, but then that’s to be expected.

Another few points about the acquisition are worth mentioning in passing. First, SunPower owns a solid project development pipeline. Second, more than most solar PV players, SunPower is a technology company and not a commodity supplier of solar cells and modules. Third, Total already owns a small solar PV maker with a capacity of 170 megawatts. SunPower has plans to expand its capacity to 2,000 megawatts by 2014, from about 580 megawatts today.

Renewables maker Amyris, Inc. (NASDAQ: AMRS) has completed construction of a plant in Brazil and expects to begin production next month of its Biofene renewable compound. Amyris has created a modified yeast that converts sugars from cane by fermentation into a hydrocarbon the company calls Biofene. Compared with alcohol, the usual output of fermentation, hydrocarbons are far more valuable.

Not that Amyris will produce a lot of biofuel at the start. The primary use for the company’s early production will be as an additive for perfume. The company had to alter its initial plan to produce biofuels when prices for crude oil crashed in 2008. Now that situation is considerably different and the company, along with competitors like Gevo, Inc. (NASDAQ: GEVO), Solazyme, and Kior are scaling up their plans again. Both Solazyme and Kior have recently filed for IPOs.

According to the American Wind Energy Association, new wind generation capacity of 1,100 megawatts were installed in the first quarter of 2011, nearly double the amount installed in the same period a year ago. The AWEA also noted that an additional 5,600 megawatts are currently under construction and that two-thirds of that amount is already committed under long-term power purchase agreements. The AWEA claims that total wind generation capacity in the US now stands at 41,400 megawatts.

Finally, if you want to do your own bit to add to the US renewable energy capacity, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (NYSE: WMT) is offering a 600 watt wind turbine for just $765.  The turbine is a do-it-yourself project and is manufactured by Coleman, the camping gear company. Just the thing for your next weekend project.

Paul Ausick

Sponsored: Find a Qualified Financial Advisor

Finding a qualified financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to 3 fiduciary financial advisors in your area in 5 minutes. Each advisor has been vetted by SmartAsset and is held to a fiduciary standard to act in your best interests. If you’re ready to be matched with local advisors that can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.