Enfinity deal 'shows PV changing'

The apparent takeover of Belgian PV integrator Enfinity by EverStream Energy Capital Management, a SunEdison-backed private-equity firm, underscores the deep changes underway in the European solar market, according to an analyst. 

The takeover, first revealed by Belgian press earlier this month, was reportedly executed for the sum of €1, allowing Enfinity to avoid bankruptcy.

Only a few years ago Enfinity was an ascendant PV developer with global ambitions, peaking in 2010 as the world’s eighth-largest system-integrator globally, according to market researcher IHS.

Although it developed a handful of projects in North America, and was among the first Western companies to put up a utility-scale array in China, Enfinity’s empire was largely built on the European market – including selling existing plants on to pension funds and other equity investors.

But that model “lost ground” in recent years as feed-in tariff schemes collapsed around Europe, notes IHS senior solar analyst Josefin Berg.  

In a 2011 interview with Recharge, Enfinity chief executive Steven De Tollenaere admitted that the company would need a deep-pocketed backer to compete as projects grew and the market shifted away from Europe.

At the time, De Tollenaere – who quietly left Enfinity last year – said the company would need to link up with a larger partner “within 12 months”.

Neither Enfinity nor EverStream have publicly acknowledged the deal having taken place. 

Having built some 400MW of PV capacity since being founded in 2005, Enfinity has about 100MW of advanced-stage projects on its books, IHS estimates. 

If true, however, the whimper-like sale of Enfinity will serve to underscore “not only the expansion challenges Europe-based PV companies face as the regional market declines, but also how PV investments are losing their allure as financial products” in Europe, says IHS’s Berg.

Gehrlicher and Conergy, two other significant European PV developers – the latter also a manufacturer – have recently stumbled into insolvency, and subsequently some of their choicest assets acquired by US-based investors.

US-based SunEdison, a major global PV developer and owner of polysilicon maker MEMC, is a key investor in EverStream.

Current SunEdison executive vice president Carlos Domenech is co-founder of EverStream.