ENR Southwest has selected First Solar as the region's 2013 Owner of the Year. A feature story on the company will appear in ENR Southwest's March 25th issue.
Based in Tempe, Ariz., First Solar develops and builds some of the largest solar power plants in the world--and in the region—with over 6 gigawatts of power generation under its belt and around $9 billion in project financing acquired.
While the firm has manufactured more than 66-million solar panels in their 14-year history, its business model has diversified to help it become the go-to developer, designer and builder of solar power projects throughout the region. This diversity helped the company survive an influx of cheap solar panels from China and a restructuring to reduce exposure on its manufacturing side. In 2012, when First Solar’s $300-million manufacturing facility was completed in Mesa, the firm chose to hold off fitting it with manufacturing equipment until the global solar panel market improves.
Meanwhile, as a developer, First Solar is currently about two-thirds of the way done with construction of the $1-billion, 290-MW Agua Caliente Solar Facility on 1,400 acres in Arizona. The project will house more than 5 million solar modules upon completion. It is also developing the 50-MW Silver State North project near Primm, Nev.
First Solar also recently purchased the 50-MW Macho Springs solar facility in N.M., which is expected to produce power at prices cheaper than coal.
First Solar doesn’t just develop solar facilities, it also provides design and construction for numerous other solar projects developed by other firms, such as the completed Copper Mountain Solar Phase 1, and the $440-million Phase 2, currently under construction.
The company has also been a leader in sustainability. The corporate headquarters are located in a LEED Gold-certified building near Tempe Town Lake.
It’s this unique combination of development, manufacturing, designing and contracting makes First Solar an intriguing company to watch, and the firm's relative longevity in the tumultuous renewable energy industry bodes well for the future.