Southern Power adds to growing renewables portfolio with North Star Solar buy

Southern Co. (NYSE: SO) subsidiary Southern Power has surpassed 1,000 MW of renewable energy development with the acquisition of a controlling interest in the 60-MW North Star Solar Facility in California from First Solar.

The remaining interest in the project will be owned by an affiliate of First Solar, Southern noted in an April 30 statement.

“Southern Power has acquired more than 1,000 MW of renewables while staying true to its conservative business model, making smart investments to help serve customers’ energy needs now and in the future,” said Southern Company Chairman, President and CEO Thomas A. Fanning. “Our partnership with First Solar is helping drive the strategic expansion of renewables in America as Southern Company continues developing the full portfolio of energy resources.”

First Solar will build, operate and maintain the North Star Solar Facility. Construction began in July 2014, and the plant is expected to enter commercial operation this June.

“Southern Power’s choice of this project as the latest addition to their renewables portfolio demonstrates the value of utility-scale solar to major independent power companies,” said First Solar Vice President of Project Development for the Western United States Brian Kunz. “It also confirms First Solar continues to excel in our core capability of delivering reliable, high quality, bankable utility-scale assets to the market.”

Southern Power’s fifth solar acquisition in California, the North Star Solar Facility will be located on 626 acres in Fresno County and is expected to consist of approximately 750,000 of First Solar’s thin-film photovoltaic solar modules mounted on single-axis tracking tables. This is the first facility in Fresno County for Southern Power and First Solar.

Southern Power’s renewable energy portfolio of more than 1,000 MW of generating capacity ownership – either already in operation or under development – was assembled through the strategic development of 15 solar, wind and biomass projects across the U.S., including five California solar projects. The Southern Co. system has added or announced more than 3,100 MW of renewable projects since January 2012.

The electricity and associated renewable energy credits generated by the North Star facility will be sold under a 20-year power purchase agreement with Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E). The North Star Solar Facility fits Southern Power’s business strategy of growing its wholesale business through the acquisition and construction of generating assets substantially covered by long-term contracts.

Southern Power is a leading U.S. wholesale energy provider meeting the electricity needs of municipalities, electric cooperatives and investor-owned utilities. Southern Power and its subsidiaries own or have the right to own 24 facilities operating or under construction in nine states with more than 9,400 MW of generating capacity.

First Solar (Nasdaq: FSLR) is a leading global provider of comprehensive photovoltaic solar systems which use its advanced module and system technology. The company’s integrated power plant solutions deliver an economically attractive alternative to fossil-fuel electricity generation today.

With more than 4.5 million customers and approximately 46,000 MW of generating capacity, Atlanta-based Southern Co. is the premier energy company serving the Southeast through its subsidiaries. Southern Co. owns electric utilities in four states (Mississippi Power, Georgia Power, Alabama Power and Gulf Power) and a growing competitive generation company, as well as fiber optics and wireless communications.

North Star Solar LLC, which is developing this 60-MW (nameplate) project in California, on April 8 filed at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for approval of its initial Market-Based Rate Tariff, as well as a certain waivers and approvals. North Star Solar said in that filing that is an indirect subsidiary of First Solar. Its project is in the California ISO region. “North Star anticipates energizing its facility and commencing delivery of test energy at market-based prices on or about May 1, 2015, and therefore respectfully requests that the Commission act on this filing as expeditiously as possible,” the filing said.

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.