VivoPower International PLC is a solar-power company, founded by Arowana in August 2014 and now headquartered in London. In less than three years, VivoPower overcame significant challenges and scaled up to become a global enterprise that listed on the NASDAQ.
VivoPower today comprises one of the largest US solar project portfolios (totalling 1.8GW and owned in a joint venture with Innovative Solar Systems), solar development projects in Australia as well as a fast growing Australian power and electrical services business, Aevitas (which comprises two businesses, J.A. Martin and Kenshaw).
When VivoPower was first established, Arowana’s strategy was to focus VivoPower on Australia and Asia, but we quickly realised that there were limited opportunities of sufficient scale in these markets at the time. As a result, we pivoted VivoPower’s strategy to look at opportunities in the world’s largest market – the United States – and, on a selective basis, elsewhere in the world.
After establishing VivoPower, key members of the Arowana team spent six months on the ground in the United States in 2015, immersing themselves in the solar industry. As a result, VivoPower was able to secure a number of utility scale solar projects to develop in the US market. Arowana also identified that there was a larger pool of experienced solar professionals in the United States and the United Kingdom and went on to build a global team, shifting headquarters to London. Today, VivoPower has offices and personnel in London, Dallas, Sydney, Brisbane and Newcastle. It has since successfully developed and operated utility scale solar farms in the United States generating 91MW of power that is delivered to over 21,000 homes. VivoPower subsequently entered into a joint venture to develop a 1.8GW portfolio of solar projects in the United States making it one of the largest solar developers in North America, as ranked by the size of its development portfolio. In addition, VivoPower has developed solar projects in Australia including Amaroo, the largest solar rooftop system for a school in the country.
The entrepreneurs among us will appreciate that no business is without its challenges, and the most significant thus far have manifested at the most inopportune times during the scaling-up journey of VivoPower. These included the demise of the largest solar company in the world, SunEdison, in April 2016 (which turned solar from a hot sector on the NASDAQ into an unpopular sector making capital raising difficult), Brexit in June 2016 (which created significant foreign currency market volatility), the last-minute withdrawal of a solar contractor in July 2016 (which threatened the build of the NC-31 solar plant), Hurricane Matthew in October 2016 (which impacted the programme for financial close and build of the NC-47 solar plant), and the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States in November 2016 (which made various stakeholders nervous about renewable-energy policy and future opportunities).
These challenges were overcome with the completion and sale of a majority interest in 2 solar projects producing 91MW of renewable energy, the development and sale of Amaroo, which is the largest school rooftop solar system in Australia, the establishment of a London headquarters and global team as well as delivering maiden post IPO results that were ahead of forecasts.
However, VivoPower then encountered new challenges in the form of the Suniva tariff case in the US which caused an abrupt slowdown in solar development as well as a myriad of internal leadership and growing pains issues. These new challenges hampered VivoPower’s growth profile in the US market.
As is our modus operandi, members of the Arowana team have parachuted in again to work closely with the VivoPower board and leadership team to execute a turnaround and maximise value creation for stakeholders. To date, this has involved a strategic and operational transformation of VivoPower’s Aevitas business unit in Australia which has seen it double its forward order book to a new record (in less than 12 months), hence marking the end of its turnaround journey and the commencement of a scale up growth phase. The team continues to work on the turnaround and value maximisation of the US project portfolio.
Arowana maintains a majority shareholding in VivoPower and continues to work closely with its leadership team to overcome the growing pains challenges that are part and parcel of the scaling up journey. We maintain a steadfast long-term commitment to help VivoPower ultimately succeed and create value for all stakeholders.