Leeward targeting competitive scale from First Solar 10GW pipeline

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn
Share on reddit
Reddit
Share on email
Email
Image: First Solar

Renewable energy company Leeward is backing its acquisition of First Solar’s 10GW project pipeline to allow it to compete within the US’ solar landscape.

Leeward Renewable Energy, a Texas-based private company set up by Canadian pension fund OMERS, was until recently better known in the energy sector for its 2GW wind portfolio, but unveiled a plan to buy First Solar’s 10GW-strong US solar pipeline for US$261 million last month. The deal, which is to close this spring, stands to position Leeward as a major player in the US solar sector.

Jason Allen, Leeward’s chief executive, told PV Tech the company had already worked to establish “just under 4GW” of solar development over the past two years. However, as First Solar announced plans to offload its project pipeline and focus on its manufacturing business, he said it was “just a great opportunity to speed up our growth, and with them having near term projects that will start construction this year, to really fill a gap”.

First Solar first sold its O&M business to Canadian private equity firm Clairvest last August and announced its intention to offload further ventures to focus on manufacturing. The deal with Leeward, which was first made public last month, comprises the majority of First Solar’s US project pipeline, with solar plants planned for development in states such as Georgia, Florida, Virginia, California, Nevada, Utah and Arizona, Allen said. The current Leeward portfolio focuses on the Midwest, western states at Texas. Allen told PV Tech that renewable energy customers “are really looking for projects close to load,” so the latest acquisition “allows us to deliver to pretty much anybody across the US now with our footprint.”

Allen, who became the company’s CEO last November after working as its chief operating officer since 2017, said that it was important that Leeward’s growth in the market remained “methodical” and “slow” in its early years. “Because of the competitive nature of the space you, you need to do it well if you’re going to succeed,“ he said. “So we took a more methodical slow approach…to deliver the right value to our to our owner.”

Although Leeward has only been active in the solar market for a relatively short time, with this new acquisition, Allen believes the company can compete by focusing on economies of scale. Leeward will be aided by the fact that senior members of First Solar’s development team will join the company to support the solar portfolio’s growth.

“We’ve got a few projects that are, you know, sub 100MW, but everything we’re looking at is large or utility-scale,” adding that companies hoping for sustainable growth in the solar sector “need to be working on that scale or have neighbouring projects to really be able to compete.”

A hands-on approach

Allen said that Leeward would look to secure EPC contractor deals for the 10GW portfolio, but the company could take a more hands-on approach to operations and maintenance (O&M) over the coming years as more solar projects come online.

At the moment, Leeward looks for long-term bids for service contracts with various warranty terms, and has found that from a cost-risk perspective, “it’s been better for us to proceed with those, as the large OEM providers will take on a lot of risk”. However, as the solar portfolio grows, he said “there is a high likelihood we will self-operate those facilities.”

1 December 2021
Join this virtual conference on 1-2 December 2021 for expert presentations covering PV Module Technology, Supply & Site Optimisation for Utility-Scale. Delegates can access streamed presentations, session recordings and chat/messaging tools to connect with fellow delegates and speakers. Speakers include leading developers, manufacturers, testing and research institutes, including: NREL, Silicon Ranch, Sonnedix, Heliene, Powertis, LONGi Solar, JinkoSolar, PVEL, Risen Energy, Seraphim, STS, Trina Solar, Eternalsun Spire, QEERI, Fraunhofer, Estuary Capital Partners and VDE

Read Next

November 22, 2021
First Solar is to provide PV project developer Lightsource bp and energy major bp with up to 5.4GW of its thin film modules as part of the manufacturer’s largest supply order to date.
November 10, 2021
A round-up of the latest new from the US solar market, as FTC Solar toasts a 500MW+ project win in Arizona and a 3.2GW renewables-enabling transmission project in California edges forward.
November 5, 2021
First Solar is actively exploring future capacity manufacturing locations after recording a surge in demand, both domestically and internationally, amidst supply chain obstacles impacting the PV industry.
September 29, 2021
Island Green Power is to develop two solar PV projects totaling over 1GW on former coal power station sites in the UK.
September 28, 2021
Investment manager Quinbrook Infrastructure Partners has acquired a 350MW solar-plus-storage site expected to be the largest single site PV install in the UK once completed.
September 27, 2021
A new support scheme from India’s government to boost the domestic manufacture of PV modules has seen 18 bidders submit 54.8GW of applications, according to consultancy JMK Research & Analytics.

Subscribe to Newsletter

Upcoming Events

Solar Media Events
December 1, 2021
Solar Media Events
February 1, 2022
London, UK
Solar Media Events
February 23, 2022
London, UK
Solar Media Events
March 23, 2022
Austin, Texas, USA
Solar Media Events
March 29, 2022
Lisbon, Portugal