California Approves First Thin-Film Solar Project for Utility

The California Public Utilities Commission has approved what it says is the first utility-scale thin-film solar project to be built in California, in a contract between utility Southern California Edison and thin-film solar maker First Solar.

The contract is for a 7.5 megawatt solar facility, with the potential to scale up to 21 megawatts, that will be built in Blythe, California, which is right on the border of California and Arizona. According to an advice letter for the contract, the project is expected to start operating in October 2009, and Southern California Edison will buy the clean power in a 20-year deal.

When First Solar purchased Ted Turner’s Turner Renewable Energy, for $34.3 million in December, First Solar bought access to this Blythe project. According to the advice letter, Turner’s personnel will be involved in the development, installation and financing of the project, and the group has already gained control of a large portion of the land.

Because the project is supposed to go online in 2009, Southern California Edison says the project is
“especially important in reaching the State’s goal of 20% renewables by 2010.” Specifically Southern California Edison said in the advice letter that “without the approval of the FSE Contract it will be difficult for SCE to reach this goal.” Well, good thing it passed then.

Stock market darling First Solar uses the thin-film technology cadmium telluride to produce its thin photovoltaic panels and has been building utility-scale thin-film solar facilities in Germany, Spain, and the U.S. Some of the company’s larger utility-scale projects include a 40 megawatt project in Brandis, Germany; a 5 megawatt facility in Bullas, Spain, and a 6 megawatt project in Rote Jahne, Germany.