Buffet Buys Second Solar Project, San Diego Gets New Solar Manufacturing Plant

12/19/2011
SustainableBusiness.com News

Just a week after its first foray into solar, Warren Buffett's energy utility is acquiring another big solar project, also being developed by First Solar.

MidAmerican Energy says it's buying a 49% stake in the 290 megawatt (MW) Agua Caliente project in Arizona.

The plant is owned by NRG Energy and supported by a $967 million Dept of Energy loan guarantee. First Solar is expected to complete the $1.8 billion project in 2014.

Last week, MidAmerican announced it would buy its first solar project, the 550 MW Topaz Solar Farm in California.

"We are aggressively pursuing opportunities to expand our presence in the renewable energy sector," says Greg Abel, MidAmerican CEO.

Utility-scale solar plants offer good, stable returns with little downside risk, since all the power is sold to utility PG&E, and they offer valuable tax credits.

Soitec Builds San Diego Solar Plant

In related news, Soitec SA, based in France, is investing over $150 million to build the largest concentrating PV module (CPV) plant to date. 

The company says the 200 megawatt (MW) plant, going up in San Diego, will be operational in late 2012, and has plans to double that capacity. The plant will create 450 solar jobs and more than 1,000 indirect jobs.

Soitec will use the modules for its 300 MW of solar projects in the US southwest.  

Researchers say concentrating PV is poised for a commercial breakthrough next year for utility-scale projects and will compete with traditional silicon-based solar panels on price. 

Several companies developing that technology raised recent equity rounds.

Recurrent Energy to Build 200 MW Solar Projects

Solar developer Recurrent Energy announced it's secured a $250 million credit facility from Mizuho Corporate Bank to support construction of 20 solar PV projects across the province of Ontario, Canada.

The credit facility is one of the largest non-recourse solar financings for a solar PV portfolio in North America.

"This transaction provides yet more evidence that solar is a mainstream energy source attracting significant investment from established financial partners. This is what solar looks like at scale," says Arno Harris, Recurrent Energy CEO.

The 20 projects, which add up to 200 MW, are all under the Ontario Power Authority's feed-in tariff (FiT).

More Significant Projects On the Way

EU utility giant Eon says it will invest EUR 7 billion in renewable energy projects over the next five years, including at least three large offshore wind projects off the coasts of Germany, Sweden and the UK.

In Germany, Solarhybrid is in the process of raising EUR 280 million to build a 150 MW solar PV plant at a private airport.

And India-based wind developer Myrtah Energy secured $198 million in loans and mezzanine finance to expand capacity from 500 MW in 2012 to 5 GW by 2017.