First Solar Inc. has entered into an agreement to expand its presence in the U.S. utility solar power market with the acquisition of OptiSolar’s solar project pipeline. The acquisition includes the 550-megawatt (MW) Topaz solar development project that falls under a power purchase agreement with PG&E.
The deal will also see the transfer of a project pipeline of 1,300 MW that are in negotiation with Western region utilities for solar development projects as well as strategic land rights of approximately 136,000 acres with the potential to deploy up to 19 gigawatts (GW) AC of utility-scale solar power projects.
First Solar will acquire all of OptiSolar’s project development business in an all-stock transaction valued at approximately US $400 million. The transaction is expected to be completed in the second quarter of 2009.
First Solar said that it expects to construct solar power plants developed under the acquired solar power project pipeline over the next several years and sell them to a combination of regulated utilities, diversified energy companies and other independent power producers. Investment in the development pipeline and planned projects could ensure that at least 400 new green collar jobs will be created in California.
“OptiSolar has created an impressive and well-designed development pipeline. Adding these resources, along with their development team, to First Solar is our next logical step to delivering multi-GW of solar power to U.S. utilities over the next several years,” said Mike Ahearn, First Solar chief executive officer. “As First Solar continues to drive down its manufacturing and EPC costs, OptiSolar’s project pipeline and the ability of our team to continually expand our existing pipeline, will enable us to bring solar energy on-line quickly and further reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the grid.”
In November 2007, First Solar acquired Turner Renewable Energy in order to obtain engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) capabilities of utility scale solar plants in the U.S. In October of 2008, First Solar entered into a strategic agreement with Edison Mission Energy to develop and construct utility-scale solar generation in California.
The company also constructed a 10-MW facility in El Dorado, Nevada with Sempra Generation. Last week, the company announced that it had broken the industry’s long-standing $1 per watt manufacturing price barrier.