Tag Archives: Iberdrola

Oil and gas delivery giant Enbridge Inc. makes first solar tech investment, throws $10 million into Morgan Solar

Gotta say, I found this a surprising one. Enbridge Inc., the Calgary-based oil/natural gas pipeline and delivery company, is investing $10 million in concentrated solar PV manufacturer Morgan Solar, which is based in Toronto. I say surprising because Enbridge, while it has invested in solar, wind and geothermal projects before — the kind that generate immediate cash flow and come with an acceptable level of risk — has never really put its money behind a greentech play, with the exception of fuel cells. It may be true that $10 million is couch change for this multibillion-dollar corporate giant, but keeping in mind this $10 million could have been spent elsewhere, this is an intriguing move by Enbridge.

Does it want to be in the same club as integrated oil company Cenovus, which has captured many headlines related to its venture investments in everything from fusion power to water desalination technology? Not sure, but perhaps this is the first of more tech investments to come — as sign that corporate capital is playing a more important role in a country where venture capital is hard to come by.

Morgan Solar, mind you, hasn’t had a tough time raising capital. In March 2011 it aimed to raise up to $25 million (U.S.), but with Enbridge joining the party the round is oversubscribed at $28.8 million. The interest in Morgan Solar is understandable. It has developed an inexpensive and innovative light-guide solar optic that captures and directs incoming sunlight into a tiny, high-efficiency, finger-nail sized PV chip, achieving a balance of cost, efficiency, weight, and low-profile (i.e. the system is really thin) that may be unrivaled in the market. The company says its systems cost less to build, ship, deploy and maintain than competing technologies. Indeed, it’s bold enough to say that its Sun Simba product will offer a lower Levelized Cost of Electricity (LCOE) “than solar technologies on the market today, or known to be under development.”

It should be pointed out that Enbridge owns three solar facilities that together represent 100 megawatts of capacity. Most of that comes from its 80 MW Sarnia Solar Project, which until recently was the largest operating PV facility in the world. It’s unclear whether Enbridge eyes using Morgan Solar’s CPV systems in future projects, but the potential certainly exists for collaboration on smaller demonstration projects. The reality, however, is that Enbridge has so far let others take on solar development risks. It then steps in and buys finished, operational projects that are already generating cash.

Morgan has other partners in the mix, some of them strategic. Iberdrola S.A., one of the world’s largest renewable-energy utilities, is a strategic investor, as is Nypro Inc., a contract manufacturer specializing in precision injection molding. Nypro, for example, makes the light-guide optic for Morgan Solar.

Morgan Solar, by the way, was recently named — for the second time — to Corporate Knights’ Next 10 list of most promising Canadian cleantech companies.

Morgan Solar snags $16.5 million on way to closing Series B funding round

News that Toronto-based Morgan Solar raised another $16.5 million leaked out last week but the concentrated solar PV company is about to confirm the details, which include the fact that strategic investors Iberdrola and Nypro have returned for more. They join newcomer The Frost Group LLC, a private investment firm based in Miami that is led by Dr. Phillip Frost, who is also chairman of Teva Pharmaceuticals and CEO and chairman of OPKO Health, a publicly traded healthcare company that develops and commercializes a wide variety of medical products. The $16.5 million represents the bulk of what Morgan Solar is trying to raise in this round. For the rest, it’s aiming to bring aboard another strategic investor that has experience with project finance or develpment capabilities.

Morgan Solar is in the middle of ramping up. This year it expects to complete a number of demonstration projects at sites in Ontario and the United States. It’s establishing a manufacturing facility in San Diego, and it’s expanding its existing manufacturing and R&D presence in Ontario. The company’s Sun Simba product allows for the creation of super-thin CPV modules using proprietary light-guide solar optics, which continue to be unique in the industry as far as I can tell. Morgan Solar promises to deliver solar power — without subsidies — at costs that are grid competitive, and the company says it can offer this low-cost solar option this year, not in five years.

Personally, I look forward to checking out Morgan’s Ontario demonstration sites once they are complete, and I sincerely hope the Ontario government figured out a way to accommodate the company in the province’s feed-in-tariff program. Apparently there were some hiccups because the province’s local content rules didn’t account for the availability of CPV systems. Tisk, tisk.

Renewables powerhouse Iberdrola makes strategic investment in Toronto’s Morgan Solar

Since first writing about Toronto-based Morgan Solar a year ago, I’ve grown increasingly fond of this up-and-coming developer and soon-to-be manufacturer of concentrated PV systems. They think out-of-the-box, and they execute quickly. They fine tune until they get it right, and they don’t make a lot of noise until they get it right. They’re creative and original, and as a result stand out from others in the field.

So when I got a call from biz-dev director Nicolas Morgan telling me the company had secured $4.7 million in financing and that Spanish utility Iberdrola Group signed on a strategic investor, I guess I wasn’t surprised. Click here to learn more about the latest news from Morgan Solar, and its plans to get a commercial production line up and running in Toronto sometime in 2010. Also click here for an MIT Technology Review article about the company’s innovative technology.