First Solar opens utility-scale power plant

Company says the site--the largest photovoltaic solar power station in California--serves a model for its expansion into the utility business.

Martin LaMonica Former Staff writer, CNET News
Martin LaMonica is a senior writer covering green tech and cutting-edge technologies. He joined CNET in 2002 to cover enterprise IT and Web development and was previously executive editor of IT publication InfoWorld.
Martin LaMonica
First Solar employees work on the solar power station in Blythe, Calif. First Solar

Solar module maker First Solar on Monday opened the largest photovoltaic solar power station in California, which the company plans to replicate in order to expand its utility business.

The plant in Blythe, Calif., which First Solar sold to energy developer NRG last month, will have the capacity to generate 21 megawatts of electricity, or enough to power about 17,000 homes. It will supply electricity to Southern California Edison under a 20-year purchase power agreement.

It's one of a number of projects that First Solar is pursuing as it seeks to expand in the utility-scale solar business. A deal to build a 48-megawatt plant in California to supply Pacific Gas & Electric was approved last week. "The development, project finance and construction of this solar plant demonstrate First Solar's capabilities in utility scale projects," Bruce Sohn, president of First Solar, said in a statement.

First Solar's panels, which use thin film solar cells made from cadmium telluride, are considered the lowest cost solar panel in the industry. The company's relatively low cost and the technology's track record make it attractive to utilities that need to meet the California renewable energy mandate.

Updated on December 16 with correction to indicate that NRG Energy acquired the project from First Solar.