Avi Brenmiller, who founded and ran Solel Solar Systems, and made $40 million on the sale of the thermosolar panels manufacturer to Siemens AG, wants to buy back the company.
Solel Solar, now named Siemens Solar Thermal Energy, is run by Shmuel Fledel, who succeeded Brenmiller as CEO a year ago. A few months ago, Brenmiller founded Brenmiller Energy Consulting Ltd., which advises on renewable energy and on R&D on hybrid thermosolar-natural gas technology. When he left Siemens Solar Thermal Energy, sources said that his relations with Siemens were "correct".
Solel Solar’s sale to Siemens for $418 million in 2009 was the first exit by an Israeli solar energy company. Solar energy market sources say that Siemens has a no chance of selling the Israeli operations for the same price at which it bought them.
In response to Siemens announcement today that it was selling its solar energy business, Brenmiller said, "I regret the decision of the company, which has global interests in the energy market, which it does not fit in with solar energy. Like in every other business, the solar energy business requires R&D by companies which see the importance of solar energy as an efficient and good energy source. That is why I chose to leave Siemens and continue to apply the vision of solar energy through the company I founded."
Although Siemens has decided to quit the solar energy business, it will continue to supply components to industry, including pipes, turbines, generators, and systems for electricity grids. Siemens Solar Thermal Energy will continue to produce some of these systems. However, the plant in Beit Shemesh has shed scores of employees in recent months, either through layoffs, or transfers to other Siemens divisions. Sources at Siemens Israel said today that the company’s strategic change will lead to 100 layoffs at Siemens Israel.
Siemens place in the Ashelim thermosolar energy tender will likely be taken over by in equal shares by Shari Arison’s Shikun & Binui Holdings Ltd. (TASE: SKBN) and Spain’s Abengoa SA (IBEX: ABG).
"Despite Siemens’ big intentions, it never became a key player in the thermosolar energy market, which is still dominated by other companies. Siemens failed to make its mark for the decision to cause a major revolution. The problem is that the media buzz will have a psychological impact on the entire industry," said a source.
Siemens also plans to sell its stake in Arava Power Company. In response to Siemens’ announcement, Arava Power CEO Jon Cohen said, "We regret Siemens’ decision, but it will have no effect on the two companies’ current joint operations. Siemens is still a partner in Arava Power and will build the solar energy projects that have been authorized. Any future change will be made while maintaining the determination, quality, and professionalism that Arava Power has shown since it was founded."
18 months ago, Arava Power inaugurated Israel’s first solar energy field at Kibbutz Ketura in the Arava. A few months ago, it announced that it secured NIS 780 million in financing to build eight more mid-sized fields.