(Bloomberg) -- Facing strains in its own market, one of China’s biggest hog breeders is looking beyond the boom-and-bust cycle of farming to an expansion into clean energy, which it says could allow it to piggyback on billions of dollars in investment by a major power generator.
A unit of Jiangxi Zhengbang Technology Co., China’s no. 2 listed hog supplier, said it has reached an agreement with the renewable energy subsidiary of State Power Investment Corp. in Zhejiang province to mount solar panels atop the sheds where it keeps its pigs.
Zhengbang released news of the deal on Friday, including a claim that SPIC’s investment could reach $6 billion in three years, which initially sent the pig farmer’s shares soaring. But the stock has since retraced those gains after the company was asked to clarify its plans by the Shenzhen Stock Exchange.
SPIC’s confirmation of the deal posted on WeChat was more general and didn’t include investment figures, and the power generator hasn’t responded to requests for comment.
Investors may also have been mindful of Zhengbang’s recent problems in paying its debts, which exemplify the financial stresses often faced by China’s hog breeders when they expand too quickly and prices begin to fall. Although the renewable power industry isn’t immune to financial pressures, including issues around materials costs and wastage, China’s drive to net-zero makes it an attractive opportunity for agricultural firms that control a lot of land.
And China is a leader in the field. The hybrid industry -- dubbed agrivoltaics -- had 2.8 gigawatts of capacity installed in 2020, of which China accounted for about two-thirds, according to the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE in Germany.
Initially, SPIC will install 100 megawatts of solar power on 800,000 square meters of rooftops, from which Zhengbang will derive rental income and electricity, according to the breeder’s filings.
But Zhengbang has grander ambitions. It says it operates on more than 20,000 hectares of land across China, with a roofing area covering over 20 million square meters. Extrapolating from that, the company explained in its latest filing that under the terms of its partnership with SPIC, the power firm could eventually generate 10 gigawatts of solar, wind and other clean energy on its farmland -- enough to power New Zealand -- for a total investment of 40 billion yuan ($6 billion).
(All times Beijing unless shown otherwise.)
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