NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- The big news today is that IKEA is selling solar panels... in England.That should not be big news. Home Depot ( HD) has long sold solar panels in the U.S. So has Lowe's ( LOW). That may not be even the biggest news about IKEA. The bigger news may be that IKEA is shipping $1,000 refugee shelters to Syria in flat packs that limit the ability of President Assad's regime to use human suffering as a weapon against neighbors Turkey and Jordan. An even bigger finance story may be that founder Ingvar Kamprad, 87, has set things up to maintain his family's control over the $12 billion enterprise and put his youngest son, 44-year old Mathias, into the presidency of the group while also having him run IKANO Group, which extends the family's reach into insurance and finance. PV-Magazine,, it's the next big thing. Hanergyis a lot like IKEA itself, in that it's privately held and vertically integrated. Its profits come from running hydroelectric dams, with 131 megawatts of power installed, and unlike nearly every other Chinese solar player, Hanergy has focused on Copper, Indium, Gallium Selenide, or CIGS, flat panels. Like First Solar ( FSLR), the U.S. solar leader -- which uses a competing technology called cadmium telluride, or CdT, for its flat panels, Hanergy has until now focused on utility-scale projects, funded by the Chinese government. The IKEA deal is its first move into consumer markets. Hanergy's strategy has been to pick up bleeding-edge western companies like over-ripe fruit, once they run out of venture capital, with help from Chinese government funding based on its hydroelectric cash flow. according to Greentech Media, after MiaSole blew through $500 million in venture funding to develop its technology.
Hanergy also bought the former CIGS operation of Q-Cells, a German company -- Q-Cells and MiaSole used different manufacturing processes. With a $4 billion government credit line, Hanergy brought both technologies in-house. In July, it bought a third company, Arizona's Global Solar Energy, according to Greentech, and was reportedly looking at other bankrupt U.S. assets, including the notorious Solyndra Energy. Hanergy and IKEA got together in July, according to the China Daily, with a deal to put Hanergy panels on all IKEA stores in China, as well as those of local suppliers. That deal anticipated the present retail offering. $4/watt, but that's an installed price. Installation costs, which include permits and grid connections, remain the big hurdle for all U.S. residential solar companies. Panels are estimated to be just 20% of a solar installation's costs, and so unless IKEA and Hanergy can cut those costs when they enter the U.S., their market will remain limited. Don't bet they can't do it. At the time of publication the author had no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Follow @DanaBlankenhorn This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.