Southern Company & Ted Turner Acquire First Solar Project

Southern Company and Turner Renewable Energy founder Ted Turner on Monday announced that the companies have acquired and will bring online one of the nation’s largest solar photovoltaic (PV) power plants. The 30-megawatt (MW) project, is the first to result from the partnership forged by Southern Company and Turner Renewable Energy in January.

The project was acquired from and will be built First Solar Inc. The Southern Turner Cimarron I Solar Project is adjacent to Turner’s Vermejo Park Ranch in northern New Mexico. First Solar is the contractor for both engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) and operation and maintenance for the facility, Southern Company said.

“It is great that large-scale solar photovoltaic power generation is becoming a reality in the United States,” Turner said. “Southern Turner Renewable Energy is excited to develop and own this project and we look forward to generating clean renewable energy in New Mexico.”

Construction of the project will begin this month with completion and commercial operation expected by year end 2010. It will consist of approximately 500,000 2’x 4′ photovoltaic modules constructed with First Solar’s patented thin film semiconductor technology.

“The Cimarron I project is yet another example of First Solar’s capability to realize utility-scale solar projects,” said Rob Gillette, First Solar chief executive officer. “Combining the required technology, manufacturing, project development and EPC expertise enables First Solar to be a leader in sustainable energy development.”

Electricity generated by the plant will serve a 25-year power purchase agreement with the Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, a not-for-profit wholesale power supplier to 44 electric cooperatives serving 1.4 million customers across Colorado, Nebraska, New Mexico and Wyoming.

This is not Turner’s first deal with First Solar. In December 2007, First Solar acquired Turner Renewable Energy, LLC for a purchase price of approximately $34.3 million paid in a combination of common stock of First Solar, Inc. as well as cash.

In January, Turner and Southern company announced plans for a strategic alliance to pursue development of renewable energy projects in the United States. Initially, the two said that they would focus on developing and investing in large scale solar photovoltaic projects in the U.S. Southwest.

Turner is the largest individual landowner in North America with more than two million acres. The alliance will explore renewable projects both on Turner land as well as other suitable sites.

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