By Jeff Manning, The Oregonian

March 24, 2010, 4:20PM

A promising Bend-based solar power company has been bought out by a Colorado competitor for as much as $90 million in cash and stock.

Advanced Energy Industries Inc. of Fort Collins, Colo., has purchased PV Powered, a maker of so-called inverters, a fundamental component of solar power systems. Advanced Energy executives said in a conference call Wednesday that it will operate PV Powered as an independent subsidiary and maintain its Bend office.

“They make some of the most reliable and easy to install inverters in the industry,” said Larry Firestone, Advanced Energy’s CFO and executive vice president. “PV Powered also has one of the most experienced design teams in the country. There’s some really skilled talent up there.”

PV Powered has emerged as one the bright lights of Oregon’s push into green energy. The company has about 90 employees and annual revenue of $21 million. The company’s sales have quadrupled in the last two years, said Gregg Patterson, PV Powered CEO.

Patterson said the deal is a big win for the company, it’s employees and Oregon. The company gets a new, deep-pocketed owner. It is putting several million dollars into enlarging its manufacturing line, in part with funds provided by Advanced Energy. And the company and its workers get to stay in economically battered Central Oregon.

Advanced Energy, like PV Powered, sells inverters, which convert the direct current (DC) electricity generated by solar panels into the alternating current (AC) power usable by households and other customers on the electrical grid.

While PV Powered has catered to residential and smaller commercial customers, Advanced Energy has concentrated on larger commercial and industrial users. “This is as synergistic a product portfolio as you can get,” Patterson said.

The Colorado company is also active in other products. It has more than 1,300 employees.

Another key attraction of PV was its production line. The Bend company has more manufacturing capacity than Advanced Energy and more than enough to capitalize on anticipated growth, Patterson said.

“We’re going to run that factory as hot as we can,” Firestone said.

Terms of the deal call for Advanced Energy to pay $35 million in cash and $15 million in company stock. The balance — as much as $40 million — will be paid out later and hinges on PV Powered meeting certain financial goals in 2010.

PV Powered was launched in 2003. Evans Renewable Holdings II LLC, made up of principals of Longview, Wash.-based construction company JH Kelly, bought a majority stake in PV Powered in 2008 and 2009.

PV Powered was a beneficiary of Oregon’s controversial Business Energy Tax Credit program, which the state has used to lure green-energy businesses to the Oregon. PV Powered received about $3 million from the program. Critics have blasted the BETC program as an overly generous and sloppily managed giveaway to business

After an extensive series of stories in The Oregonian detailed problems in the program, the state scaled it back.

Patterson remains a fan of the program, saying it was pivotal to PV Powered’s success. “That was essential,” Patterson said. “We would not have this story if not for the BETC.”

Despite the promise of solar power, the recession has taken a toll on Advanced Energy. The publicly traded company’s sales hit $186.3 million in 2009, down 43 percent from $328 million the year before.

Advanced Energy lost more than $102 million in 2009, the second year in a row it finished in the red.

Jeff Manning

One Response

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    Lauren McGuire

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