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SunPower sees big buyout

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On April 28, utility scale solar manufacturer SunPower announced plans to sell 60 percent of its shares to the French oil company Total SA.

SunPower recently gained approval to begin building a 250-megawatt utility-grade solar project in California Valley on the outskirts of San Luis Obispo County. County supervisors on April 19 unanimously denied an appeal of the project by local environmental groups.

Under the agreement, SunPower will sell 60 percent of its shares to Total SA—one of the six “supermajor” oil companies in the world—at roughly 50 percent over the closing stock price when the market closed
April 27.

In total, the purchase will generate $1.38 billion for SunPower, according to a press release issued by both companies.

“The world future energy balance will be the result of a long-term transition in which renewable energies will take their place alongside conventional resources,” Total SA President Philippe Boissea said in a company statement.

The announcement also bumped SunPower’s stock rating from underperforming to neutral, according to an analysis by Wedbush, and upgraded the 12-month price target—essentially a high-point for investors—from $11 per share to $20 per share.

Yet the outcome hasn’t been as rosy for people already worried about the impending arrival of sprawling fields of solar panels in the sensitive Carrizo Plains habitat.

“We would have to say that the acquisition of SunPower by Total, a French foreign oil giant, is a disturbing turn of events,” Michael Strobridge of the Carrizo Community Alliance said in an e-mail to New Times. “The Carrizo is known for its potential for oil drilling, and the fact that even the Topaz project proposed by First Solar has options to purchase most of the petroleum extraction rights in the northern Carrizo Plain is unnerving to say the least.”

SLO County planning commissioners are scheduled to begin the fourth day of public hearings on First Solar’s Topaz Solar Farm, a proposed 4,000-acre 550-megawatt project.

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