Southern, Turner partnership buys Campo Verde from First Solar

Southern Co. (NYSE: SO) said April 23 that it has acquired the company’s largest solar installation – the 139-MW Campo Verde Solar Project – through subsidiary Southern Power and partner Turner Renewable Energy from First Solar (Nasdaq: FSLR).

The Southern Power-Turner Renewable Energy partnership’s fifth solar acquisition and its first solar project in California, the Campo Verde Solar Project will more than double Southern Co.’s solar capacity.

“When it comes to developing the full portfolio of energy resources, Southern Company is developing solutions – not rhetoric,” said Southern Chairman, President and CEO Thomas Fanning. “By acquiring the Campo Verde Solar Project – our largest solar installation to date – we’re more than doubling our solar capacity and increasing the diversity of our generation fleet.”

The Campo Verde Solar Project will be built, operated and maintained by First Solar, a leading global provider of comprehensive photovoltaic (PV) solar systems utilizing its advanced thin-film modules.

Media mogul Ted Turner, owner of Turner Renewable Energy, teamed with Southern through a subsidiary in January 2010 to form a strategic alliance to pursue development of renewable energy projects in the U.S. The partnership has primarily focused on developing and investing in large-scale solar PV projects in the Southwest, where solar resources are most available.

The partnership’s first project was the acquisition and development of the 30-MW Cimarron Solar Facility, also built by First Solar, on land adjacent to Turner’s Vermejo Park Ranch near Raton, N.M. The partnership made three other purchases prior to acquiring the Campo Verde:

  • the 20-MW Apex Solar Facility and the 30-MW Spectrum Solar Facility, both located in Clark County, Nev.; and
  • the 2.5-MW Granville Solar Facility in Granville County, N.C.

According to an independent study conducted for Imperial County, Calif., the Campo Verde Solar Project will have an economic impact to the Imperial County area totaling about $239m over the next 30 years. It is expected to contribute $17.5m in local tax revenue. First Solar estimates the project will provide an average of 250 jobs during the construction period.

Construction of the plant began in December 2012 and commercial operation is targeted for fall 2013. The Campo Verde Solar Project is located on a 1,443-acre site in Imperial County. Electricity generated by the Campo Verde plant will serve a 20-year power purchase agreement with San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E), a subsidiary of Sempra Energy (NYSE: SRE).

“We are pleased that Southern Company and Turner Renewable Energy have once again chosen a First Solar project to add to their renewable energy portfolio,” said James Cook, First Solar director of Project Development.

The acquisition fits Southern Power’s business strategy of growing the wholesale business in targeted markets through acquiring generating assets and building new units, the output of which is significantly covered by long-term contracts. California’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) is one of the most ambitious renewable energy standards in the country. The RPS program requires investor-owned utilities, publicly owned utilities, electric service providers and community choice aggregators to increase procurement from eligible renewable energy resources to 33% of retail sales by the end of 2020.

“Southern Power and Turner Renewable Energy are continuing our successful partnership with the acquisition of First Solar’s 139-MW Campo Verde Solar Project,” said Oscar Harper, president and CEO of Southern Power. “First Solar was the developer of our partnership’s first venture – the Cimarron Solar Facility in New Mexico – and we’re pleased to expand our joint efforts through our largest solar acquisition to date.”

Southern Power is among the largest wholesale energy providers in the Southeast, meeting the electricity needs of municipalities, electric cooperatives and investor-owned utilities. Southern Power and its subsidiaries own and operate more than 8,600 MW of generating capacity with facilities in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Nevada, North Carolina, Texas and New Mexico, and with an additional 30 MW under construction in Nevada.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.