First Solar lines up new projects for Austin Energy in Texas, SMUD in California

First Solar Inc. (Nasdaq: FSLR) on Oct. 29 made separate announcements about solar projects in Texas and California that total nearly 130 MW of capacity.

First Solar and Austin Energy out of Texas announced that they have signed a power purchase agreement allowing the municipally-owned electricity provider to obtain low-cost solar power generated by First Solar’s 119-MW (ac) East Pecos Solar Project. Austin Energy General Manager Larry Weis said the partnership will directly benefit the citizens of Austin – as well as the entire state of Texas – as the utility takes a significant step towards meeting its solar development goals.

“In committing to procuring 600 megawatts of solar energy in the coming years, the City of Austin has once again taken a leadership role in Texas,” Weis said.

“There is an irrefutable trend of solar becoming competitive in more geographies. Texas, in particular, shows great promise as an attractive market for solar-generated electricity, and Austin Energy is riding that trend,” said Georges Antoun, First Solar’s President U.S. “The East Pecos Solar Project is proof of solar’s real-world cost competitiveness.”

With a robust pipeline of projects in Texas and across the U.S. southeast, First Solar said it is strategically positioned to bring its world-class execution capabilities to capitalize on opportunities throughout the region where First Solar’s modules are competitively advantaged.

East Pecos, which First Solar owns and is developing in Pecos County, Texas, is expected to commence construction in early 2016, with commercial operations due in late 2016. The project will create approximately 500 construction jobs. East Pecos will generate approximately 300,000,000 kilowatt-hours of clean, renewable energy annually.

Austin Energy, the City of Austin’s electric utility, serves more than 440,000 customer accounts and more than 1 million residents in Greater Austin.

Project with SMUD to be located at shut nuclear plant site

First Solar and the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) separately announced the execution of a power purchase agreement for offtake of a 10.8-MW solar project to be built on the site of the decommissioned Rancho Seco Nuclear Generation Station. The Rancho Seco Solar Project will annually generate more than 22,000 MWh, which will be offered to SMUD business customers through the utility’s Commercial SolarShares program. The new Golden 1 Center is the first announced customer that will receive electricity generated by Rancho Seco.

“We are excited to be working on this project, which provides access to solar power for businesses that might not otherwise be able to include it in their energy procurement strategies due to cost, lack of available rooftop space or other factors,” said Brian Kunz, First Solar’s Vice President of Project Development–US West. “SMUD’s innovative SolarShares program exemplifies how a utility can serve its community in both environmentally and economically favorable ways.”

“SMUD is a leader in delivering renewable energy to our customers,” said Frankie McDermott, SMUD Chief Generation and Grid Assets Officer. “This project will further enhance the renewable aspect our power mix, which is already about 50 percent non-carbon-emitting, helping us meet our Board of Directors’ and the state’s carbon objectives. The use of previously-developed land at Rancho Seco and existing SMUD-owned power lines also provides significant environmental benefit.”

The Rancho Seco Solar Project is situated on 60 acres of SMUD-owned property including the location of the decommissioned Rancho Seco Nuclear Generation Station. The property also originally hosted a 1980s-era, 3.2-MW SMUD solar array, one of the first utility-scale solar power plants in the world. Construction of the new Rancho Seco Solar Project is expected to commence in the fourth quarter of 2015, with commercial operation beginning in mid-2016.

First Solar is a leading global provider of comprehensive photovoltaic (PV) 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.

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.