Spain's Fotowatio Expands its Solar Reach in the U.S.

Spanish solar power developer Fotowatio said today that it’s buying most of the assets of San Francisco’s MMA Renewable Ventures in a $19.7 million deal, a move that could make Fotowatio one of the largest solar power developers in the U.S.

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MMA Renewables, part of Baltimore’s Municipal Mortgage & Equity, or MuniMae, owns and operates one of the largest solar photovoltaic projects operating in the U.S., a 14 MW solar array at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada that started generating power in December 2007. MuniMae, which provides financing for real estate developers, took a big hit in the U.S. mortgage downturn, and has been working to sell off some of its assets for months.

The deal could be one of many for the solar industry in 2009, which analysts say will be a dark year for solar, with a looming oversupply of solar cells and modules and a global economic crisis spurring consolidation in the market. Earlier this month, solar installer groSolar acquired the residential business of Borrego Solar Systems.

MuniMae said it’s selling substantially all of MMA Renewables, which includes a total of 24.8 MW of solar projects that are up and running, as well as some energy efficiency, wind, and bioenergy operations. The only things MuniMae plans to hold onto are its stakes in MMA Renewable’s Solar Funds I and II, although MuniMae didn’t list which projects those funds invested in.

Fotowatio, backed by Qualitas Venture Capital, GE Energy Financial Services and the Landon Group, said it’s U.S. division will own a total of 35 MW of solar plants and have more than 400 MW in development once the acquisition is closed. Last year, Fotowatio raised $350 million from GE and Landon and, at the time, said it had 960 MW of solar photovoltaic and solar thermal projects installed or in development in Spain, Italy and the U.S.

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