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24 November 2009


First Solar sells California’s largest PV power plant to NRG

First Solar Inc of Tempe, AZ, USA, which manufactures thin-film photovoltaic modules based on cadmium telluride (CdTe), says that power generation firm NRG Energy Inc of Princeton, NJ has bought the 21MW AC solar energy project that it has developed and constructed in Blythe, CA.

Located in Riverside County about 200 miles east of Los Angeles, the Blythe project is California’s first and largest utility-scale photovoltaic (PV) power generation facility, and among the largest in North America. Construction (which created 175 jobs) began in September and is expected to be completed by the end of this year. Electricity from the plant will be sold to electric utility firm Southern California Edison under a 20-year power purchase agreement with First Solar that was approved by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) in July 2008. First Solar will provide operations and maintenance services at Blythe under a long-term contract with NRG.

“First Solar is very pleased that the first of our utility-scale solar projects in California will be coming on line with a leading power producer like NRG,” says First Solar’s president Bruce Sohn. “This clean, affordable, and sustainable energy will help California meet the goals of its Renewable Portfolio Standard,” he adds.

The Blythe plant will use First Solar’s CdTe thin-film PV panels to generate over 45,000MW-hours of electricity per year, displacing more than 12,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year (equivalent to taking 2200 cars off the road, it is reckoned).

First Solar is currently developing a total of 1300MW of PV projects under contracts with utilities in California and the Southwest.

Cooperation framework agreement signed for 2GW Inner Mongolia project

Last week, in the presence of Chinese vice premier Li Keqiang, National Energy Administration vice minister Liu Qi and US Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, First Solar’s president Bruce Sohn and mayor Yun Guangzhong of the Ordos City Government signed a cooperation framework agreement with the Chinese government that represents another step towards realizing the world’s largest solar power plant.

In early September, First Solar signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Chinese government to build a 2GW solar power plant over a multi-phase period in Ordos City in the autonomous region of Inner Mongolia, China. Phase 1 is to be a 30MW demonstration project. Phases 2, 3 and 4 will be 100MW, 870MW and 1000MW, respectively. Phases 2 and 3 will be completed in 2014 and Phase 4 will be completed by 2019.

The new agreement outlines additional project details and local support, and confirms the expected construction start date of 1 June 2010 for Phase 1. First Solar and Ordos also agreed to establish two committees to ensure execution of the project and to develop a new energy industry in Ordos.

“This Cooperation Framework Agreement and its recognition by the National Energy Administration mark a critical step forward in the approval process for the Ordos project,” said First Solar’s CEO Rob Gillette. “It reinforces the commitment of First Solar, the Chinese government, and the Ordos local government to make an immediate contribution to the development of a healthy solar industry in China,” he added.

The signing ceremony took place as part of the US-China Summit where US President Barack Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao met to discuss topics including upcoming global climate change negotiations and clean energy. “President Obama’s trip to Beijing is a significant step forward in further solidifying bilateral relations with China,” said Gillette. “First Solar is enthusiastic in contributing to the commercial relations of our two countries through this cooperative framework agreement,” he added.

“Solar energy will play a significant role in achieving China’s low carbon future,” says Ordos City’s mayor Yun Guangzhong. The First Solar project is part of Ordos City’s planned 11.95GW New Energy Industry Demonstration Zone, which is expected to combine solar, wind, hydroelectric and biomass power sources to provide a steady supply of renewable energy to the region that includes the Chinese capital.

Sohn also participated in a Clean Energy Roundtable with Liu Qi and Steven Chu as well as US Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke, US Trade Representative Ron Kirk and a small group of senior US and Chinese business executives. “Projects such as Ordos will enable significant cost reductions through scale, and make solar a truly sustainable energy source in the near future,” said Sohn. “First Solar is committed to helping build a sustainable solar industry and low-carbon economy in China by bringing advanced solar PV technology, global experience, and a focus on cost reduction and environmental sustainability,” he added.

Final agreement between the parties involved in the Ordos City project is subject to the negotiation and execution of definitive agreements.

See related item:

First Solar raises full-year revenue guidance to high end of prior range

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