ESB wires €2.5m investment to solar start-up

Fresh capital doubles valuation of overcast conditions focused energy firm Terra Solar

Terra Solar develops solar farms using technology designed to make the most of Ireland’s overcast conditions; they produce less power than panels designed for brighter environments but generate better efficiency from the power cells. The photograph shows a solar farm in Cornwall, southwestEngland. Photograph: Matt Cardy/Getty Images

Terra Solar develops solar farms using technology designed to make the most of Ireland’s overcast conditions; they produce less power than panels designed for brighter environments but generate better efficiency from the power cells. The photograph shows a solar farm in Cornwall, southwestEngland. Photograph: Matt Cardy/Getty Images

 

ESB Group has invested €2.5 million to take a significant minority stake in Terra Solar, a Dublin-based solar energy start-up founded by a pair of former private equity executives.

The State energy company did not reveal the size of its minority stake but it has nominated two directors to the current five-person board, indicating it has taken a substantial minority interest.

The valuation attached to the ESB investment represents a significant uptick on the value implied by a separate injection of capital in May.

In that instance, a Dublin businesswoman, Kay Cranwell, invested €125,000 for a 6.6 per cent share, indicating a total valuation on the Terra Solar business of about €1.9 million. The ESB valuation is well over twice that.

Terra Solar was founded by David Fewer, who once worked for Neil O’Leary’s Ion Equity when it held an ownership stake in Topaz, and Andre Fernon, who was a property director for John Gallagher’s Crownway Investments at the height of the property boom.

The business is based at University College Dublin’s Nova centre for start-ups.

Better efficiency

The company is two years old but has already announced its intention to pursue several solar farm developments.

It was reported in April that it could eventually invest up to €30 million in solar farms in Co Clare, with a similar amount touted for Co Kerry. It is also planning projects in counties Limerick, Waterford, and Wexford.

Terra Solar and ESB, which has called for the scrapping of subsidies for solar, say they have the potential to “deliver over 260 megawatts” of electrical capacity using the new technology, enough to power 50,000 homes.

Terra is currently seeking partnership deals with landowners to build solar farms near ESB substations. It generally seeks a lease of more than 20 years, with a near two-year project development time frame.

The founders said the investment would enable the business to accelerate its rollout. ESB said the solar industry is at an “inflection point” in Ireland.

Andrew Keating, senior investment analyst at ESB and Cera Slevin, manager of solar and storage for ESB Generation, will join the Terra Solar board.