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First Solar scores large California deal

Subject to regulatory approval, the deal means the company will build two plants for Southern California Edison that could power up to 170,000 homes.

A First Solar installation in Dimbach, Germany. First Solar

Southern California Edison has signed a deal under which First Solar will build two solar power generation stations with the potential to provide electricity to 170,000 homes, the utility giant said Tuesday.

The contract, which is subject to the approval of the California Public Utilities Commission, has solar module maker First Solar completing two solar stations by 2015 that together would create 550-megawatt generation capacity.

Financial details of the deal were not disclosed, but once up-and-running the plants would be capable of producing about 1.2 billion kilowatt-hours of energy annually, according to Southern California Edison.

Specifically, a 250-megawatt solar power installation is planned for Desert Center in Riverside County, while a 300-megawatt installation is planned for an unspecified location in San Bernardino County. Both stations will consist of thin-film photovoltaic solar modules.

The deal is one of a number that have been announced in keeping with California's goal to have 20 percent of its energy supplied by renewable resources by 2010--and, if extending legislation is passed, 33 percent by 2020. In February, Southern California Edison announced a contract for seven solar generation plants with BrightSource Energy that if completed could power 845,000 homes.

"First Solar is an excellent partner in helping us achieve our goals. This agreement is good for our customers, for the industry, and for the environment," Stuart Hemphill, Southern California Edison senior vice president, said in a statement.

This latest deal is also more evidence in favor of analysts' predictions that First Solar will be among the solar tech companies that make it through the recession.

In March, First Solar acquired the rights to OptiSolar's incomplete projects and land rights, after its competitor had trouble raising enough capital to complete its projects in development. That deal was estimated to be worth $400 million and predicted to bring First Solar $70 million in revenue for 2009, according to the First Solar CEO Michael Ahern.