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Summary:

In the midst of recent turmoil at solar panel maker Solyndra, including swapping out its CEO and shelving its IPO plans, the VC-backed startup has some good news: a deal to sell 18 rooftop solar systems, (16.2 MW), to utility Southern California Edison (SCE).

In the midst of recent turmoil at solar panel maker Solyndra, including swapping out its CEO and shelving its IPO plans, the VC-backed startup has some good news. This morning Solyndra, which makes tube-shaped solar panels, says it has scored a deal to sell 18 rooftop solar systems, (16.2 MW), to utility Southern California Edison (SCE) through a 20-year power purchase agreement.

The deal, done through Solyndra’s wholly owned subsidiary Photon Solar, is notable in that the majority of Solyndra’s customers have up to this point been in Europe. According to Solyndra’s S-1, for the fiscal year ended Jan. 3, 2010, 69 percent of Solyndra’s revenues were from sales to customers in Germany, and over 85 percent of its solar rooftop shipments had been to Europe. Customers include a list of European solar companies you’ve never hear of including Alwitra GmbH, Carlisle Syntec, Geckologic, Phoenix Solar, Premier Solar Systems, Solar Power, Sunconnex, Sun System and USE Umwelt Sonne Energie.

While Solyndra has one of the highest manufacturing and capital factory costs compared to its competitors (see Was the DOE Loan Guarantee for Solyndra a Mistake?) the company says it saves money on the installation costs. Solyndra also says its solar panels can be installed on rooftops that can’t support the installation of other heavy flat solar panels.

Solyndra was the recipient of the Department of Energy’s first loan guarantee, a $535 million guarantee to help it build its factory in Fremont, Calif., and the company has also raised an aggregate of approximately $970 million through equity financings as of December 2009 according to its previous S-1.

Southern California Edison plans to install the 18 Solyndra solar systems throughout 2011, and the deal is subject to approval by the regulatory body the CPUC.

SCE has been one of the most aggressive utilities to get into the rooftop solar business. In 2008 SCE announced that it planned to build a 250-megawatt distributed rooftop solar project and in 2009 the California Public Utilities Commission not only approved the plan, but doubled the size. When announced the plan represented SCE’s first direct investment in renewable generation in more than a decade, and using thin-film panels from First Solar, SCE installed the program’s first roof in December 2008, and in March 2009 began its second installation.

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By Katie Fehrenbacher

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