First Solar buys OptiSolar’s utility PV project pipeline assets

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on reddit
Share on email

In a strategic move that greatly enhances its penetration into the U.S. utility solar power market, First Solar said it will buy the solar project pipeline assets of OptiSolar. The deal, a $400 million all-stock transaction, will give the thin-film PV leader nearly 21 GW of current and potential projects as well as integrate OptiSolar’s 30-person core development group with First Solar’s existing team. The transaction is scheduled to close in the second quarter of this year.

The acquired projects include the 550-MW Topaz site in San Luis Obispo county in central California, which is under a power purchase agreement with Pacific Gas & Electric; a group of another 1.3 GW of development deals in the pipeline, which are in negotiation with Western U.S. (mostly California) utilities; and strategic land rights to some 136,000 acres of land with the potential to deploy as much as 19 GW of utility-scale solar power stations.

The deal does not include the purchase of any of OptiSolar’s amorphous-silicon thin-film PV manufacturing assets.

First Solar says that it expects to build solar power plants developed under the acquired solar power project pipeline over the next several years and sell them to a combination of regulated utilities, diversified energy companies, and other independent power producers. Project development could start as early as 2010.

“OptiSolar has created an impressive and well-designed development pipeline,” said Mike Ahearn, First Solar’s chairman/CEO. “Adding these resources, along with their development team, to First Solar is our next logical step to delivering multi-GW of solar power to U.S. utilities over the next several years. As First Solar continues to drive down its manufacturing and EPC costs, OptiSolar’s project pipeline and the ability of our team to continually expand our existing pipeline, will enable us to bring solar energy on-line quickly and further reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the grid.”

“We are particularly excited to deploy utility-scale solar installations in California,” Ahearn continued. “The state of California has been a leader in solar technology, and the Topaz project will be an important aspect of meeting the state’s renewable goals.”

During the conference call to discuss the deal, Ahearn characterized it as a “watershed acquisition for First Solar, and one that will change our trajectory and catapult us to a whole new league when it comes to the U.S. utility market.”

The agreement provides “an opportunity to get large projects under way relatively quickly.” He said that more than 6 GW of projects are “already in the interconnection queues in advanced approval positions. This package in total would be very hard to replicate.”

Although the company did not announce any factory expansion plans during the call, Ahearn did acknowledge that First Solar “will want to build more factories….But we don’t want to be premature” in making those decisions before the project development timelines are established.

In terms of the first project on tap–the 550-MW Topaz site–he said that the company has the installation “modeled now over roughly three years” to complete.

When asked about how the company intends to handle system integration for the projects, Ahearn said that “the way that we’re thinking about construction and deployment is similar to our factory-build model with copy smart, where we lock down standard designs, the procurement, and methodologies for installations at a pretty granular level.

“Once you create a program like that, you have something than can be replicated and it can be leveraged with other contractors, subcontractors, and installers. That’s really the only way practically to get to gigawatts per year with the deployment.”

Noting the rare opportunity the deal provides to add large volume to First Solar’s pipeline, Ahearn said “there aren’t any backlogs like this, not of this size, not of this position in the queue, and (not of this) quality, in terms of location. If you combine that, it’s a unique deal.”

23 February 2022
Held annually since 2016, the Energy Storage Summit Europe is the place to be for senior stakeholders in the European storage industry. Designed to accelerate deployment of storage, we examine evolving chemistries, business models, project design, revenue stacks and use cases for storage. The 2022 edition will include exclusive content around longer duration solutions, energy strategies for wide-scale deployment of EVs and "EnTech", the event which sits at the intersection of digitisation, decentralisation and decarbonation of the power system. Come to meet TSOs, DSOs, Utilities, Developers, Investors and Lenders and leave with new contacts, partners and a wealth of information.
7 March 2022
Take your chance to join the most powerful platform in the MENA region. Middle East Energy (MEE), Intersolar, and ees, the leading energy exhibitions are joining hands to co-deliver an outstanding renewables and energy storage event at Middle East Energy 2021. Renewables and energy storage at MEE is the largest gathering of solar and renewable energy industry professionals in the Middle East & Africa, offering the most effective trade focused platform to international manufacturers and distributors looking to meet regional buyers.
8 March 2022
As Solar Finance & Investment enters its ninth year, we sit on the cusp of a new power market with solar at its heart. The 2022 edition of the event will build on our years of expertise and relationships to bring investors and lenders together with top developers. Connect with leaders in the field and use exclusive insights to drive investment and development decisions for the future. Meet new and existing project partners at the largest gathering of European solar investors and lenders.
23 March 2022
When it comes to storage, the US market exceeded a gigawatt of advanced energy storage installations (weighted towards lithium ion) at 1.46 GW, more than the previous six years in total! An exponential growth rate could see the market hit 7.5 GW p.a. by 2025. The summit will provide a wealth of content around this vital piece in the US power puzzle, with sessions dedicated to explore how companies are making money from batteries, the latest chemistries and their applications as they apply to different use-cases. We ask how investors can match ESG criteria to batteries and we will bring case studies of successful deployment and project execution onto the stage to examine how you can ensure your own projects are successful.
29 March 2022
Now in its 10th sell-out year, Large Scale Solar returns to Lisbon in 2022. We are excited to gather together face-to-face with the European solar industry as we provide unique and exclusive access to a powerful selection of the market's key stakeholders. Join this elite summit to find out how the market is maturing, which new markets are becoming more exciting, how technology is evolving and who's driving the market forward into the 2020s. Always senior, packed with developers, EPCs, utilities and investors this is the event for companies serious about European solar PV.
7 April 2022
Solarex Istanbul, Turkey’s first and unique exhibition on solar energy, provides a huge opportunity to Turkey on the way to being a solar energy hub. Solarex Istanbul will take place on 7-9 April 2022 for the 14th time. It will be a commercial platform to have the latest technologies and combination of new products from all around the world. It takes place annually at Istanbul Expo Center, Turkey. It is also called the most important platform for manufacturers, suppliers and dealers of the solar industry in Eurasia.

Read Next

January 28, 2022
Greek industrial group Mytilineos said its renewables and storage unit continues with “full speed” to invest in solar and battery energy storage systems globally following a 2021 that saw the business expand its PV engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) operations.
January 28, 2022
Indian independent power producer (IPP) ReNew Power has sold its 117MW rooftop solar portfolio as part of a strategy to heighten its focus on utility-scale PV.  
January 28, 2022
Global investment in renewables rose to new heights in 2021 as solar and wind deployment surged, but total energy transition expenditure needs to triple in the coming years to get on track for net zero, according to new research from BloombergNEF.
January 28, 2022
LONGi has raised its wafer prices for a second time in just over a month as hopes of falling costs fade and China shuts down for a week for its annual Luna New Year holiday.
January 27, 2022
Renewables owner and operator Brookfield Renewable has tripled its US development pipeline to 31GW through the US$650 million acquisition of clean power developer Urban Grid.
January 27, 2022
Hecate Energy’s first stage application for a 500MW solar PV plant in the state of New York has been accepted by the newly formed New York State Office of Renewable Energy Siting (ORES).

Subscribe to Newsletter

Upcoming Events

Solar Media Events
February 23, 2022
London, UK
Solar Media Events
March 8, 2022
London, UK
Solar Media Events
March 23, 2022
Austin, Texas, USA
Solar Media Events
March 29, 2022
Lisbon, Portugal
Solar Media Events
April 25, 2022
Berlin, Germany