GE buys 32 pct of Spanish solar energy firm

MADRID (Reuters) - Spanish solar power company Fotowatio said on Friday that General Electric's Energy Financial Services GE.N unit had bought 32 percent of the company for 150 million euros ($233.5 million).

Grupo Corporativo Landon -- a holding company for the Gallardo family, which owns Barcelona-based pharmaceutical group Almirall ALM.MC -- also bought a 17.5 percent stake for 75 million euros, the company added in a statement.

Fotowatio said that together with its new partners, it had earmarked 2.5 billion euros for to invest by 2012 in photovoltaic and thermosolar plants in Spain, Italy, the United States, and other countries.

Currently, the company has four installations, with a total installed capacity of 60 megawatts, which it plans to expand to 800 MW by 2012.

Photovoltaic (PV) power has boomed in recent years in Spain due to generous government subsidies, but these will be slashed next year.

Installed capacity is set to reach 1,500 MW by the end of the year, but in 2009 only an additional 300 MW will be entitled to special feed-in tariffs.

While the government will cut back on PV power, it backs solar thermal generation, which concentrates the sun’s rays to produce heat and steam, which in turn drives turbines, rather than producing electricity directly in silicon PV panels.

Reporting by Martin Roberts and Judy MacInnes, editing by Will Waterman