Canadian Solar is putting more steel in the ground


While other large PV makers are getting out the project development game, Canadian Solar is deepening its involvement.

Notably, First Solar – which led the trend of solar manufacturers getting into project development – and SunPower have backed away in various degrees from large-scale project development and sold their joint yieldco, 8point3 Energy Partners. Meanwhile, through subsidiary Recurrent Energy, Canadian is pressing forward with larger projects in more places.

These include a 185 MW solar project under contract to Austin Energy, a 102 MW solar plant coming online in North Carolina – one of the state’s largest, and a 400 MW solar project in California with a 45 MW lithium-ion battery, half of the output of which is being sold to Community Choice Aggregators.

In the third quarter of 2018, Recurrent grew its late-stage pipeline – defined as projects that have a power contract and are scheduled to come online in the next few years – to 2.9 GW. The largest single portion is in the United States, where the capacity has more than doubled since the end of the second quarter to 1,022 MW in five projects in Texas and California.

But it is not only new contracts; Recurrent’s development business in growing across all metrics. Despite selling its 260 MW stake in two massive California solar projects to Danish Pension Fund PKA, the volume of projects that the company owns increased to over 1 GW during the third quarter.

It is notable here that unlike other large PV makers, Canadian Solar never went the route of forming a separate “yieldco” to hold solar projects – and also never got caught in the drama that was associated with the stock price fluctuations and sales of this over-hyped vehicle.

These project wins come amid the context of a successful quarter for Canadian Solar. The company saw a year-over-year fall in revenues, but its operating margin has risen above 12% – a highly enviable number for any PV maker or developer.

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