Mark your calendars: April 28, 2011 was the day Big Oil took notice of solar power and couldn't stand on the sidelines any longer.
This is a big deal because after years of complaints that the solar industry isn't economically viable, oil giants may finally be coming around to solar's potential. Until now, investments have been halfhearted PR stunts by companies like BP Solar or total disinterest (in the case of ExxonMobil). But this is different.
Total isn't making a halfhearted attempt at building a solar company. It isn't a tiny investment in an alternative energy startup; this is a multi-billion dollar investment in an independent, successful solar manufacturer. I'm even wondering if Total attempted to buy the whole company and SunPower said, "I don't think so."
Investors across the solar industry are taking notice with First Solar
Mergers that might make sense
If other oil firms decide it's the right time to move into solar, I don't see it being with Chinese manufacturers who benefit from subsidies in China. It would make more sense to acquire a firm that is currently private, like Solyndra or BrightSource Energy. It could also make sense to see a manufacturing company acquiring equipment manufacturer GT Solar
Even a deal to give Evergreen Solar
Bottom line: I don't think this will start a rash of acquisitions by big oil in the solar sector. But no matter how I look at this deal, I see it as a big boost for solar manufacturers in general.
What do you think about the future of solar deals?
Fool contributor Travis Hoium owns shares of First Solar and SunPower. You can follow Travis on Twitter at @FlushDrawFool, check out his personal stock holdings or follow his CAPS picks at TMFFlushDraw.
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