Moser Baer Clean Energy Ltd (MBCEL), a subsidiary of Blackstone-backed Moser Baer Projects, has tied up with GE Energy Financial Services to set up a solar power project near Cagliari at Sardinia in Italy, the company has said in a statement.

Under the deal, GE Energy Financial Services, the capital financing arm of the US-based General Electric Co, has invested $58 million (Rs 290 crore) in equity to part-finance the 20 MW solar photovoltaic project of Moser Baer Clean Energy. This is the GE unit’s second investment in an Indian clean energy company during the month of October. Earlier, it had infused $50 million in Greenko Group PLC’s wind energy business.

The solar power project’s 5 MW facility started operating on August 30, providing power to Italy’s national electrical grid operator. Another 15 MW are expected to go into service by the end of this month.

The current project will employ 90 people and power more than 10,000 Italian homes while it will help curb over 25,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions every year, being added by coal and oil-fired power plants.

“This transaction reflects our commitment to investing in Europe, with good partners and in good projects, despite the economic challenges facing the region and beyond,” Andrew Marsden, managing director and European leader at GE Energy Financial Services, commented on the investment.

The Moser Baer Group started out as a manufacturer of optical storage devices and later diversified into solar photovoltaic manufacturing and home entertainment, which are housed under the listed company Moser Baer India (it is backed by Warburg Pincus and ChrysCapital). In addition, the promoters have separately launched a power utility company called Moser Baer Projects, which raised $300 million funding commitment from Blackstone. Individual projects of this company have raised PE money from Macquarie SBI Infrastructure Fund and International Finance Corporation (IFC).

Solar energy is fast becoming a ‘sunrise’ sector in India and it has started attracting considerable interest from financial investors, as well as cross-border partnerships.

Most recently, solar projects developer SunBorne Energy has joined hands with Europe-based IPP Eoxis Energy for executing a 15 MW solar photovoltaic (PV) project being built in Gujarat.

In June this year, IFC invested $4 million in Sapphire Industrial Infrastructures Pvt Ltd, a subsidiary of Moser Baer Clean Energy Ltd. Sapphire Industrial is constructing a 5 MW solar plant at Sivaganga in Tamil Nadu. IFC has also put money in three other solar power-related firms in India in the past two years, such as NDPL Solar and Azure Power.

Last year, Gurgaon-based SunBorne Energy, a specialist in utility-scale solar solutions, entered into an agreement with Chinese solar panel maker Suntech Power Holdings Co., Ltd where Suntech would supply SunBorne Energy with 100 MW of solar modules over the next two years. The agreement includes an initial order for 10 MW of solar panels for a project in Gujarat.

Among other initiatives, the diversified Yash Birla Group is likely to sign a joint venture agreement with a US-based company to set up and maintain the solar power plants in India.

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