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A record number of investments in renewable energy projects took place in the third quarter of 2011, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Asset financing for clean energy projects – including large scale wind and solar power plants – totaled $41.8 billion in the third quarter.

The biggest investments were made in offshore wind farms. In the North Sea alone, $6.3 billion in investments were made in three offshore wind farms totaling 1 gigawatt (GW) capacity. The single biggest asset finance deal of the quarter was the $2.7 billion deal for Global Tech 1, an offshore wind farm off the coast of Germany.

Bloomberg said the largest solar financing to take place in the quarter was $1.6 billion for the High Plains Ranch II and III, the SunPower subsidiaries building California Valley Solar Ranch, which gained federal loan-guarantee backing in September. Bloomberg’s analysis shows the cost of PV modules has fallen by as much as 70 percent since 2008 and the cost of wind turbines have fallen 20 percent since 2009. The drop in cost has helped both wind and solar become more cost-competitive with fossil-fuel energy options.

Merger and acquisition activity in the renewable energy sector also saw an all-time high in the third quarter; including corporate and project acquisitions and refinancings, it reached a total of $25.9 billion. That’s a 31 percent increase over the previous quarter and a 59 percent increase over 2010 third quarter figures. Notable acquisitions included Toshiba’s takeover of Swiss electronic-metering company Landis+Gyr for $2.3 billion.

— Kristy Hessman

This post originally appeared at EarthTechling and was republished with permission.