Scout Clean Energy, a Boulder, Colorado-based renewable energy developer, owner and operator, announced it signed an agreement with First Solar to purchase 378 MW of the company’s advanced, low-carbon thin film photovoltaic solar modules.
Scout, a portfolio company of Quinbrook Infrastructure Partners, currently has a solar development pipeline of more than 12 GW of solar PV, battery storage and onshore wind projects spread across 21 US states, and the modules purchased from First Solar will be used to begin construction on several late stage projects with start of operations expected in 2024.
In announcing the purchase, Michael Rucker, founder and CEO of Scout Clean Energy referenced the ongoing Department of Commerce (DOC) investigation into solar cell and module manufacturers in Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam, noting that sourcing modules from an American-based manufacturer is critical to keeping up with project timelines.
“Sourcing our modules from a US-based supply partner at this challenging time solidifies our competitive advantage in meeting our customers urgent timing needs for solar power to meet their decarbonization goals,” Rucker said. “As we diversify Scout’s asset base and grow our solar portfolio, we want to source our panels through partners that we can trust to deliver with no compromise on quality, ethical sourcing of raw materials and who is committed to ongoing innovation. First Solar readily satisfies those critical criteria for Scout.”
With the uncertainty surrounding American module supply brought on by the investigation, First Solar, one of the largest utility-scale solar module manufacturers not subject to the investigation, has been able to complete some massive supply agreements. Although, in the company’s Q1 2022 earnings report call, CEO Mark Windmar stated that most of these bookings have been with repeat, legacy customers.
“We are encouraged by our strong bookings progress, as we booked 11.9 GWDC in less than 60 days since the prior earnings call, bringing our year-to-date bookings total to 16.7 GWDC, further setting ourselves up for 2023 and beyond,” said Windmar. “Our agile approach to contracting continues to attract customers looking for long-term certainty and value.”
Windmar did share that there is a “significant volume” with new customers, which points to their trust in the company, the value of the cadmium telluride technology, and the company’s adherence to “principles of responsible solar but also the risk of pursuing a ‘solar at any cost’ strategy.”
Speaking directly on the DOC investigation, Windmar highlighted the company’s stance. He said that First Solar sees the anti-circumvention inquiry as a positive step toward addressing the issue of modules being completed in Southeast Asia in an attempt to avoid tariffs. “For too long the American solar manufacturing industry has been under siege from Chinese headquartered and subsidize companies that have been violating the rules of free and fair trade.”
We’ve heard the ‘sky is falling’ narrative pushed by lobbyists advocating for China to have free reign in the US market. Their doom and gloom is telling. It suggests that they are afraid that the Department of Commerce will find that the Chinese solar manufacturers in fact engaged in circumvention and will hold them accountable for their unfair and unlawful trade practices. While the lobbyists characterize Auxin as a single company seeking to inappropriately exploit the law it is precisely cases like this that the laws are designed for.
Some of the notable supply deals and bookings that First Solar has closed since the announcement of the investigation include:
- 750 MW for Orgis Energy, using First Solar’s agile contracting approach, which means that Origis will benefit from any advances in technology through 2024
- 4 GW for Silicon Ranch, also utilizing First Solar’s agile contracting approach
- 1 GW with Leeward Renewable Energy for use in Leeward’s 20 GW US solar development and construction pipeline through 2024
First Solar is investing $680 million in expanding America’s domestic solar manufacturing capacity by 3.3GW annually, by building its third US manufacturing facility, in Lake Township, Ohio. The new facility is expected to be commissioned in the first half of 2023 and when fully operational will bring the company’s Northwest Ohio footprint to a total annual capacity of 6GW.
In addition to its Ohio manufacturing facilities, First Solar also operates factories in Vietnam and Malaysia, and is building a new 3.3 GW factory in India that is expected to be commissioned in the second half of 2023. With First Solar’s expansion in the United States and India and optimization of its existing fleet, the company anticipates that its manufacturing capacity will double to 16 GW by 2024.
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