The thin film solar outfit that has signed up utility deals in spades has scored yet another big one. This morning Southern California Edison (SCE) announced that it has inked a large contract with First Solar (who else) to build two solar photovoltaic plants for a total generating capacity of 550 MW. That includes one 250 MW project near Desert Center, Calif., called the Desert Sunlight project and a 300 MW project in northeastern San Bernardino County called the Stateline project.
As far as photovoltaic solar projects go, these are biggies. Together they will have about the same generating capacity as the massive Topaz project, which First Solar snapped up from ailing OptiSolar and is now building to sell clean power to PG&E.
SCE says pending government permitting, First Solar will start building Desert Sunlight in 2012 and Stateline in 2013, with completion for both by 2015. But the California utilities have been scrambling to put these deals on their books now, in order to meet the state renewable portfolio standard, which says that by 2010 utilities need to meet 20 percent of their electricity portfolio with clean power.
Per usual, the companies have not released the terms of the deal — including the all-important price per watt and price per kilowatt-hour — but First Solar has said it has dropped its production costs to under $1 per watt and is shooting for 65-70 cents per watt in the coming years. For a PV plant developed to sell clean power to Sempra Energy, First Solar reportedly was able to reach grid parity (or the price of fossil fuels), delivering 7.5 cents per kilowatt-hour, which is below the average price of power from fossil fuels in that location of 9 cents per kilowatt-hour.