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First Solar lands another solar power project; sells two others

First Solar lands another solar power project; sells two others

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While First Solar panel manufacturing business experiences difficulties, the company continues to land utility-scale solar power development contracts.

First Solar's panel manufacturing business has taken a few hits in the past year, including a fourth quarter loss of $413.1 million and delayed factory opening. Its utility-scale solar power plant development business appears to be faring better.

The thin-film solar company announced today that it will build a 26-megawatt Avra Valley project near Tucson, Ariz., for power company NRG Energy. At full capacity, the project will generate enough power to supply approximately 20,000 homes, according to NRG's estimates.

First Solar and NRG already have a history together. In 2011, NRG bought the 290-megawatt Agua Caliente plant that First Solar is building near Yuma, Arizona. First Solar previously built a 21-MW solar plant in Blythe, California and a 20-MW generating station in New Mexico for NRG.

The Avra Valley project will use First Solar's thin-film panels, which will be mounted on single-axis tracker systems spread over 300 acres. The tracker system, which rotates the solar modules to follow the sun throughout the day, extends the peak energy production period and provides more electricity in the afternoon, according to First Solar.

Construction is slated to begin this month. First Solar expects to complete the Avra Valley project by the end of the year. Electricity generated by the solar project will be sold to Tucson Electric Power under a 20-year power purchase agreement.

In a separate announcement today, First Solar said NextEra Energy Resources has completed its acquisition of two solar photovoltaic projectstotaling 40 megawatts in Ontario, Canada. Both projects, which began commercial operation last month, were designed, developed and constructed by First Solar.

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Kirsten Korosec

Contributing Editor

Kirsten Korosec has written for Technology Review, Marketing News, The Hill, BNET and Bloomberg News. She holds a degree from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. She is based in Tucson, Arizona. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure