Big PV makers are increasingly pulling back from the business of developing and owning large-scale solar projects to focus on manufacturing. Both First Solar and SunPower exemplify this trend, with the pair selling off joint yieldco 8point3 Energy Partners in a fire sale, and both withdrawing in varying degrees from utility-scale solar development.
Unlike SunPower, First Solar did not quit such development activities entirely, but merely shrunk the division, and has now sold off one of its biggest projects – and one of the largest east of the Rocky Mountains – before the construction phase.
As revealed in a press statement this morning, the thin film PV maker has sold its GA Solar 4 project to developer and asset owner Origis Energy. The mammoth project sits on 2,000 acres of cropland and fields in Twiggs County, Georgia, and when completed will represent half a million of First Solar’s large-format Series 6 modules mounted on single-axis trackers, with an output of 200 MW-AC.
This makes it the second-largest solar project East of the Mississippi, after a 500 MW project that is underway in Virginia, as well as the largest infrastructure project in rural Twiggs County, located near Macon in central Georgia. Under the deal with Origis First Solar is still serving as the main construction contractor, with site work set to begin on the project next month.
Construction of the project will create up to 400 jobs, and Origis expects the plant to come online in December of next year.
This is the first project that Origis has bought from First Solar, although First Solar has supplied its modules to Origis in the past. As a developer and asset owner with an internal engineering, procurement and construction division, Origis tends to buy and sell projects at different phases of their development. “The Origis management team will continue to acquire projects that meet our financial criteria irrespective of project stage,” notes the company. “They can be in development, notice to proceed or operational.”
The GA Solar 4 project was awarded to First Solar earlier this year through Georgia Power’s Renewable Energy Development Initiative, and Origis will sell all the electricity generated by the project to the utility. The Southern Company subsidiary is still strongly invested in coal and nuclear power, but began building significant volumes of large-scale solar several years ago after being pushed in this direction by pro-solar state regulators.