The world’s largest thin-film solar manufacturer, First Solar, Inc. (FSLR - Analyst Report) has purchased the North Star solar project from NorthLight Power LLC. The deal comes a day after the First Solar stock experienced its biggest gain since its listing in Nov 2006. The companies, however, did not reveal the financial terms of the transaction.
The 60-megawatt North Star photovoltaic (PV) solar plant has been developed by NorthLight, which is a joint venture company between Renewable Energy Corp. ASA with 60% interest and Summit Power Group, LLC (40%). Construction on the project, located in Mendota, Calif., is scheduled to begin by next year and finish in 2015. This will likely create around 410 construction jobs.
This PV solar plant has a 20-year power purchase agreement with Pacific Gas and Electric Company, an affiliate of PG&E Corp. (PCG - Analyst Report). Upon the successful start-up of the plant, the company expects to generate adequate clean, renewable energy to serve more than 21,000 average California homes. This is equivalent of taking about 7,500 cars off the road per year, or, displacing around 33,000 metric tons of water consumption and 39,000 metric tons of CO2 per year.
With this acquisition, one of the leading manufacturers of comprehensive PV solar systems, First Solar will be able to construct its first utility-scale PV power project in Fresno County. Apart from this, North Star will create construction employment, while serving the state successfully with its renewable energy mandate.
On Apr 10, 2013, First Solar also provided its 2013 guidance. The forecast calls for 2013 net sales of between $3.8 billion and $4 billion. The bottom line for the year is expected to come in the range of $4.00 and $4.50 a share. This surpassed most of the analysts’ projection as well as the Zacks Consensus Estimates of $3.69 per share of earnings on sales assumption of $3.5 billion.
Along with this guidance announcement First Solar also entered into an acquisition agreement − expected to be completed in the second quarter of 2013 − with JX Nippon Oil & Energy Corporation. Per the deal, First Solar plans to purchase TetraSun from JX Nippon for an undisclosed amount. This transaction will allow First Solar to expand its footprint in Japan which is expected to become the second-largest market for solar products in 2013 after China. Again, TetraSun has significant expertise in silicon PV technology and has achieved world records for silicon cell efficiencies at companies like SunPower Corp. (SPWR - Analyst Report).
However, First Solar, like its other solar peers, is currently witnessing a steep drop in Average Selling Prices. Also, the current macro scenario does not bode well for the solar industry, which thrives mainly on subsidies and grants.
The company presently retains a short-term Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). Another solar company Canadian Solar Inc. (CSIQ - Analyst Report) with a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy) looks more promising and worth buying now.