First Solar Inc. (FSLR) has sold a 30 megawatt (AC) photovoltaic solar power project to Southern Company (SO) and Turner Renewable Energy.
The Cimarron I photovoltaic solar power project is adjacent to the Vermejo Park Ranch in northern New Mexico . First Solar is developing the project and is providing engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) services.
First Solar will also provide operation and maintenance services under a 25-year contract. The facility will supply power to approximately 9,000 homes, or 18,000 residents, and displace over 45,000 tons of carbon dioxide per year.
Construction of the solar array will begin in March, with completion and commercial operation expected by year-end 2010. It will consist of approximately 0.5 million photovoltaic modules constructed with First Solar’s patented thin film semiconductor technology.
Turner Renewable Energy is wholly owned by the media magnate Ted Turner.
With 4.4 million customers and more than 42,000 megawatts of generating capacity, Atlanta-based Southern Company is one of the premier energy companies serving the Southeast. A leading U.S. producer of electricity, Southern Company owns electric utilities in four states and a growing competitive generation company, as well as fiber optics and wireless communications.
Based in Phoenix, Arizona, First Solar designs, manufactures and sells solar electric power modules using a proprietary thin film semiconductor technology. The company’s solar modules employ a thin layer of cadmium telluride semiconductor material to convert sunlight into electricity.
First Solar enjoys a distinct cost advantage over its peers due to its reliance on low cost thin-film cells. However, the advantage is ebbing fast due to falling polysilicon prices. First Solar’s growth potential and that of the solar industry in the aggregate requires a prudent long-term focus on technological enhancements, capacity build-out and cost minimization. Balancing all three aspects would be an uphill task.
Competition in the industry is becoming tougher by the day for U.S. solar players such as First Solar, who has a huge German exposure in its top line compared to its counterparts such as Suntech Power Holdings Company Ltd. (STP), SunPower Corporation (SPWRA) and ReneSola Ltd. (SOL), whose markets are more diversified.
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