SolarWorld sells 21MW project to Duke Energy

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Duke Energy has acquired its largest solar project to date from SolarWorld Americas, the companies announced today.

The largest investor owned utility in the US purchased the 21MW project near Twentynine Palms, California, for an undisclosed sum. Highlander Solar 1 and 2 also represent the largest transaction to date for SolarWorld Americas, and brings Duke Energy's solar portfolio to a 100MW milestone.

Kevin Kilkelly, SolarWorld Americas president, told PV Tech it was a “hugely important” transaction for the company and would be the first in a series of sales to the North Carolina utility.

“It's a resume builder for us but also for Duke Energy,” he said. “This is Duke's largest solar asset that they're adding to their portfolio. It's hugely important for SolarWorld, especially with all the head winds we've had from the China debacle.

“We were very glad to sell it to Duke, the largest IOU in the US. If they had any questions with our bankability or warranty they would have walked away from it long ago.

“I know that they look forward to doing some more projects with us in the future because the underwriting costs for both sides will go down. Once you transact the first time it's been through legal review and due diligence on our side as well as through general counsel on the utility side. It makes the second third and fourth projects go that much smoother.”

Kilkelly also said that SolarWorld had broken its own development record and had acquired the land only 10 months ago. The company self-financed the project, providing 100% of the construction financing.

Duke Energy entered the solar market in 2007, and recently reached US$2.5 billion in renewable investments.

Greg Wolf, Duke Energy's renewables president, said: “Highlander will be the company’s largest commercial solar farm in the nation. It enlarges our footprint in a key US renewables market while delivering affordable, zero-emission solar power to help the state’s customers meet their renewable energy goals.”

Southern California Edison will buy all of the output generated by the project through a 20-year power purchase agreement.

SolarWorld originally named the project the Desert Star Solar Projects. It features 100,188 SolarWorld Sunmodule solar panels manufactured in the company’s factory in Hillsboro, Oregon, and mounted on SolarWorld’s Suntrac single-axis trackers.

Most recently, SolarWorld oversaw engineering and procurement and provided installation training for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power’s 11.6MW Adelanto Solar Project in 2012.

Kilkelly added that it was still too early to tell whether the company's successful challenge to impose tariffs on Chinese imports had had an impact on its bottom line.

“We expect that the overcapacity in the market will clear either in the fourth quarter of 2013 or Q1 2014 and we'll be back to those macro economics of supply and demand curves which are more normal. This will still be a tough year for everyone in the industry. But we feel pretty confident that we are focusing on the right areas.”

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