GT Advance Technologies Doubles Down on Solar


GT Advanced Technologies (NAS: GTAT) , formerly known as GT Solar, is still making moves to expand its business and capabilities. After jumping into the LED business last year with sapphire crystallization furnaces, the company is expanding its reach in solar.

GT is buying privately held Confluence Solar, developer of a continuously fed Crochralski growth technology, which is intended to add to the company's technology capabilities. GT is expecting the acquisition to lower the production cost of monocrystalline solar ingots, which have more efficient than multicrystalline ingots.

The deal is for $60 million, with $20 million of earn-out potential if operational, financial, and technical milestones are reached.

Most solar manufacturers (and GT Advanced Technologies customers) like Trina Solar (NYS: TSL) , LDK Solar (NYS: LDK) , and Yingli Green Energy (NYS: YGE) manufacture both mono- and multicrystalline ingots. But because multicrystalline ingots have a lower manufacturing cost, they result in lower cost per watt.

If GT is successful in lowering costs for monocrystalline solar ingots, that could lead to a shift to higher efficiency panels at lower costs. And Chinese manufacturers may catch up more quickly with current leader in efficiency, SunPower (NAS: SPWRA) .

Right now the market doesn't seem to be too excited about the deal, with GT Advanced Technologies shares down over 5% as I'm writing. It is expected to have a negative impact on earnings, operating expenses, and capital spending for this fiscal year. But I see this as a short-term view of a technology that could help send solar power to the masses.

With the solar sector fighting over capacity, it's hard to see massive demand picking up in the short term. But long-term I think this is a move in the right direction. GT is trying to stay ahead of the curve by providing the best products and lowest production costs to customers. And that's a strategy this Fool can believe in.

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At the time thisarticle was published Fool contributor Travis Hoium owns shares of LDK Solar and SunPower, and has sold puts in SunPower. You can follow Travis on Twitter at @FlushDrawFool, check out his personal stock holdings or follow his CAPS picks at TMFFlushDraw. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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