July 3, 2013
--Sungevity raises $15 million of investment from GE Ventures and others
--The California solar-panel developer plans to use the funds to expand
--Sungevity hopes GE partnership will boost its business
Sungevity Inc. said Wednesday it has raised $15 million in new venture capital from investors including General Electric Co.'s (GE) venture-capital arm.
Sungevity develops home rooftop solar-panel systems in California, eight other U.S. states, Australia and the Netherlands. Investors, such as private equity firm Energy Capital Partners, provide financing for Sungevity's home solar systems, for which the homeowners sign a long-term lease and make monthly payments for the electricity the systems generate.
The U.S. home solar-panel market has grown quickly over the last few years, as developers and investors in such projects have benefited from government subsidies, growing interest by consumers and solar-panel prices that have continued to fall, amid a global oversupply.
Sungevity hopes to expand its partnership with GE and scale up its solar development business, said Andrew Birch, Sungevity's chief executive.
"There's a big market opportunity" driven by increasingly positive economics for solar power, Mr. Birch said in an interview. "We have the most efficient model, and we have a partnership with GE to figure out how to best scale the industry."
Other investors who contributed to the $15 million venture-capital funding declined to be named, Sungevity said.
GE's investment in Sungevity may signal a shift for the energy equipment and services giant toward development of home and smaller-scale solar-power generators, and away from solar-panel manufacturing.
In July 2012, GE stopped construction of a solar-panel factory in Colorado, citing falling prices and a global glut of solar panels that put increasing pressure on manufacturers.
Low solar-panel prices amid an influx of cheap Chinese panels and a global oversupply of manufacturing capacity have driven smaller solar firms out of business. Larger manufacturers, such as SunPower Corp. and First Solar Inc. have reinvented themselves as solar-project developers, building power plants that use the panels they make.
Sungevity said it would use the $15 million in new venture capital to expand and offer its customers new services.
Last January, Sungevity said it raised $40 million in venture capital from investors including Brightpath Capital Partners, Lowe's Cos. (LOW), Vision Ridge Partners, Craton Equity Partners and Eastern Sun Capital Partners LLC. The company also announced at that time that Energy Capital Partners and other investors had put up $85 million in project financing to back construction of new solar systems.