First Solar: Topaz project to miss DoE funds

One of FSLR’s major solar projects to get millions in DoE backing this summer won’t have criteria lined up in time for a Sept. 30 deadline, so the company is finding other funding options.

September 23, 2011 – After getting a $1.93B conditional loan guarantee from the DOE earlier this summer, First Solar now says its 550MW Topaz project won’t meet the necessary qualifications for a Sept. 30 deadline specified under Section 1705 of the Energy Policy Act, and so will now seek alternative funding.

The company says it is “in advanced talks” for selling and financing the Topaz project with potential buyers, pursuing a transaction that won’t need a DoE loan guarantee. Citi’s Tim Arcuri, citing “discussions within the development community,” says buyers have been secured, possibly including GE, so the timing of Topaz’s completion is still on track for completion by year-end 2012.

FSLR’s Topaz Solar project in eastern San Luis Obispo County, a 550MW project sporting 8.5M modules, had backing from the Royal Bank of Scotland. Its energy output is said to be enough to power ~160,000 homes in CA.

Note that FSLR’s other two large PV projects that simultaneously got DoE loan backing, the 550MW Desert Sunlight project ($1.88M) and the 230MW Antelope Valley Solar Ranch 1 project ($680M), are still in the DoE process and expected to close.

Investors — fearing a firestorm effect from the Solyndra firestorm might scorch DoE projects all over the sector — didn’t react well to the news, sending FSLR stock down 9% on Thursday 9/22; the stock has rebounded slightly on Friday 9/23, by a little more than 2%.

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