North Coast Solar Stocks

July 23, 2009

EDF, First Solar to build French solar panel plant

Filed under: FSLR — Tags: , , , , , , — Jason @ 2:37 pm

Thu Jul 23, 2009 2:37pm EDT

* Plant will produce panels with total capacity of 100 MW

* France wants 5,400 MW in solar power installed by 2020

* France is Europe’s fourth-largest solar power producer

PARIS, July 23 (Reuters) – EDF Energies Nouvelles and U.S. solar panel maker First Solar Inc (FSLR) said on Thursday they will build France’s largest solar panel manufacturing plant at an investment cost of 90 million euros ($128 million).

The plant will initially be able to produce panels with a total capacity of around 100 megawatts, enough to provide electricity to 50,000 homes per year.

At full production, projected for the second half of 2011, the plant will employ more than 300 people.

“This investment is a real turning point for the solar energy industry and confirms that France is more than ever in a position to play a leading role globally,” French Energy Minister Jean-Louis Borloo told a news conference.

EDF Energies Nouvelles, which is 50 percent-owned by EDF, has agreed to finance half of the capital expense and plant start-up costs and will get the plant’s output for the first 10 years.

The move marks First Solar’s first foray into the French market. The company, whose lower-cost solar panels are made from cadmium telluride rather than the polysilicon that dominates the market, already has manufacturing facilities in the United States, Germany and Malaysia.

“The fact that EDF is providing guaranteed offtake from the new plant — making it a major First Solar customer for 2011 and beyond — shows its clear interest in developing solar generation capacity,” Raymond James alternative energy analyst Pavel Molchanov said in a client note.

EDF Energies Nouvelles and First Solar, which will build and operate the plant in France, are still studying where to build it although it was likely they would chose southern France.

“The companies are looking closely at a site in Saint-Auban in the Alpes-de-haute-Provence department,” said an adviser to Borloo, adding the companies would decide on a site before the end of the year.

France is a small solar market compared to neighbors Germany and Spain, the world’s biggest markets for solar power. At the end of last year, however, France pledged to multiply by 400 the amount of solar power used in the country in the next 12 years as part of its plan to double the share of renewables in consumed energies to 23 percent.

It plans to install a capacity of 5,400 MW by 2020, or the equivalent of just over three new-generation 1,600-MW nuclear reactors.

France’s installed solar energy production capacity reached 93 MW at the end of the first quarter of 2009, up from 69 MW at the end of 2008.

This ranks France the fourth-largest solar energy producer behind Germany, Spain and Italy.

First Solar shares were up $7.74, or 5.1 percent, at $159.10 in early afternoon trade on the Nasdaq.

(Reporting by Muriel Boselli and Marcel Michelson in Paris and Nichola Groom in Los Angeles; Editing by Bernard Orr)

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