In today’s New York Times is a piece detailing the deal in which Hanergy bought thin film solar maker MiaSole, a Silicon Valley solar company that gobbled up $550 million in VC in its quest to advance thin film technology. While no one knows exactly what Hanergy paid for MiaSole, the article suggests Hanergy spent $30 million to pay off MiaSole’s creditors and about $120 million for the company itself, which is widely regarded to have some of the most advanced thin film technology.
Speaking of the deal, Stephan Dolezalek from VantagePoint, one VC firm that had invested in MiaSole, said:
“Unfortunately we were not able to find somebody that was just going to be a partner. What we found in Hanergy was someone who was large in and of themselves but also had the Chinese government backing and so provided a combination of scale and government backing but was only willing to do so in a complete acquisition of the company.”
This is becoming a familiar theme right now as cleantech companies that have developed valuable IP from hundreds of millions of investment can’t find a corporate partner in the U.S. to help them move forward through scaling production and the slog toward being price competitive with utility rates. So they look east to China where there are interested parties, happy to pick up the IP at rock bottom prices.
Blaming the Chinese for seeing an opportunity isn’t really the point, though it can be argued that generous government subsidies there drove solar panel prices down and contributed to the decimation of the U.S. solar industry. At least now the technology won’t die and while Hanergy will keep manufacturing in the U.S., it also has plans to build a factory in China. Which is understandable, given that China is proving not just to be the center of solar manufacturing but the most exciting future end market for solar panels.