First Solar, SunPower Joint Venture Will Own Rooftop Systems

First Solar Inc. and SunPower Corp., the two largest U.S. solar-panel manufacturers, said their joint venture will own a stake in residential rooftop systems in addition to large-scale projects in California and Maryland.

8point3 Energy Partners LP will hold 432 megawatts in total capacity, according to a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission Tuesday. The joint venture’s name “is derived from the average amount of time it takes light from the sun to reach the earth, which is 8.3 minutes,” the companies said.

The new partnership will own stakes in six solar farms, four of which are operational and two of which are in late-stage development. In addition, it will include about 39 megawatts from rooftop solar arrays on 5,900 customer homes.

First Solar and SunPower announced last month that they were planning to sell shares in the partnership, the first time competing panel makers have joined forces to create a so-called yieldco. Several renewable-energy companies, including Abengoa SA and NRG Energy Inc., have formed yieldcos as part of a growing trend to pool projects into entities that return steady dividends to shareholders. Selling projects to the partnerships also gives developers more capital for future projects.

While other yieldcos have included bigger solar projects, this partnership would also give investors access to payments from the power generated by rooftop systems. It’s a novel way for investors to make money from the boom in residential solar. SolarCity Corp. has offered bonds that are funded by revenue from residential systems.

The 8point3 filing didn’t specify how many shares would be sold or at what price they would be offered. The partnership is applying to list on the Nasdaq, the companies said in a statement Tuesday.

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Citigroup Inc. are arranging the offering.

FirstSolar dropped 2 percent to $59.84 at 10:37 a.m. in New York and SunPower declined 2.8 percent to $32.25.

Copyright 2015 Bloomberg

Lead image: Solar panels. Credit: Shutterstock.

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