First Solar Keeps Buying Solar Projects To Keep Pipeline Full

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James Montgomery

First solar logoFirst Solar (FSLR) has added another mega-scale project to its pipeline, helping ensure there’s enough to feed its thin-film solar PV manufacturing machine.

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Rock formations in Clark County, NV. Photo by John Fowler

The 250-MW Moapa project being developed by K Road in Clark County, Nevada, about 30 miles north of Las Vegas, was given a green light last summer, making it the first major U.S. solar project approved on tribal land. Construction has been pushed back roughly a year from the original timeline, with First Solar now saying it could start by the end of this year and be finished by the end of 2015. Swinerton is the EPC contractor. The project has a 25-year PPA with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP), at an average price of $0.094 per kWh (tied together with a PPA with Sempra’s Copper Mountain 3).

The Moapa Band of Paiutes has very big plans for renewable energy. Weeks ago they announced plans to develop up to 1.5 GW of renewable energy across their 70,000 acres of tribal lands. They are particularly keen on renewables since a nearby 550-MW coal-fired plant is slated to shut down over the next couple of years.

First Solar has consistently had to restuff its pipeline to feed its PV manufacturing machine, as it finishes projects in record numbers. As of its most recent quarter the company’s project pipeline was roughly 1.5-GW of mid- to late-stage projects and about 6.6 GW of projects in a 1-2 year development cycle. The need to keep feeding that pipeline is increasingly important as projects become scarcer, competition for them ratchets up, and their economics continue to compress. In August the company bought a 1.5-GW portfolio of solar projects from Element Power, and inked a partnership with Belectric to target smaller sub-20-MW projects in the U.S.

K Road, on the other hand, recently abandoned its ~300-MW Calico Solar Project after many changes and resubmissions, from scaling it down to switching from concentrating solar to PV. Its sole solar power project now appears to be the 25.8-MW (AC), McHenry Solar Project, in Stanislaus County, CA’s Modesto Irrigation District, which it acquired from SunPower (SPWR) last spring.

Jim Montgomery is Associate Editor for RenewableEnergyWorld.com, covering the solar and wind beats. He previously was news editor for Solid State Technology and Photovoltaics World, and has covered semiconductor manufacturing and related industries, renewable energy and industrial lasers since 2003. His work has earned both internal awards and an Azbee Award from the American Society of Business Press Editors. Jim has 15 years of experience in producing websites and e-Newsletters in various technology.

This article was first published on RenewableEnergyWorld.com, and is reprinted with permission.

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