First Solar, please go to the back of the queue

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Two gigawatts worth of utility-scale projects signed between First Solar and the Ordos City Government in Inner Mongolia, China looks like it's becoming a white elephant, according to an article in the Washington Post. There would seem to be an uproar from China-based PV manufacturers about the deal, which wasn’t opened to a bidding process and now will be, suggesting that should any final deal be made, First Solar could well be at the back of the queue.

Big projects such as these are fraught with dangers and can take an exceedingly long time to move from concept to construction. Rather than China, the U.S. has proved one of worst places to get major PV power plants built and has thwarted many market analysts annual projections for installs in the region because of the delays and project cancellations.

The article reported that First Solar had stated that it was still negotiating the deal and that the project wouldn’t start until 2011. However, the Chinese government hasn’t exactly been quick in introducing a feed-in tariff, which may or may not be a hitch with the 2GW project.

Many market analysts are projecting strong PV installations in both China and the U.S. over the next few years, despite neither country having a FiT.

Should this project turn into a white elephant, it shouldn’t be First Solar that gets the blame. As with any FiT, it is politicians running the show and as the article highlights, this project had politicians involved right from the beginning.

With the growing propensity of companies to make press announcements regarding project negotiations, project MOUs and project agreements all before a single module is actually installed, the lesson learnt is perhaps to announce groundbreaking and nothing before.

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