Mergers and acquisitions in the renewable energy field, according to a new survey, have been remarkably strong in the past 18 months, and are expected to “dramatically increase” in the next year.

The survey, commissioned by R?dl & Partner and executed by mergermarket in May, found that in 2009, 228 deals were announced at a total value of 49.7 billion euros ($66.5 billion)–comparable to activity in the M&A heyday of 2007; the first two quarters of 2010 were also very active.

One hundred senior M&A professionals all over the world who are directly involved in the renewable energy sector were interviewed for the survey. Results included the finding that 78% expect M&A activity to increase over the next year, with 41% of respondents confident that utility companies will be “very active acquirers” of assets, as renewables attempt to reach parity with conventional energy sources. This suggests that the buy-side aspect is no longer the preserve of niche investors.

The single biggest obstacle to making deals has been access to financing, according to 70% of respondents, with 67% expecting an increase in private equity investment in the months ahead.

North American and European markets so far dominate the field, with 74% of deals, although South America and the Asia-Pacific region are beginning to draw investments; there is also “huge” potential in emerging markets. Europe is seen as likely to have the greatest amount of activity; markets expected to serve as principal hubs are France, Germany, Denmark, Spain, and Italy, thanks to public awareness of climate change and government support for the sector.

Dr. Marcus Felsner, partner of R?dl & Partner, said in a statement, “The renewables industry has proven to be a major driver for global economic growth. The increase in dealmaking across the globe is a solid indicator for the continuation of high transaction activity in the coming years.”

The complete study is available at the R?dl & Partner website.