First Solar is one of the U.S.’ largest producers of photovoltaic solar panels and while it’s building some of the largest PV farms in the U.S. and the world, hardly any of them are on homes in the U.S. That’s because its CadTel thin-film modules are inexpensive but currently not as efficient as silicon PV—so it would take more space on a roof to produce as much energy as silicon modules do. But now, through a new partnership with Colorado’s Clean Energy Collective (CEC), homeowners are able to get a piece of the solar action through a community solar garden with First Solar modules.
The new partnership, announced today (Dec. 10), will allow the companies to market and develop community solar projects that homeowners and businesses can buy into. Since the physical size of the array isn’t confined to the home or business’s rooftop, space isn’t a concern so they can get the benefit of First Solar’s low-cost modules.
First Solar said the move is part of the company’s distributed generation strategy and helps it enter into the residential and business solar markets. "Distributed generation in the form of community solar expands the addressable market dramatically beyond the traditional residential or commercial sectors, and CEC has led the way in making that happen," said Jim Hughes, First Solar's CEO.
As part of the partnership First Solar also has made an investment into CEC and obtained an equity interest. Both Hughes and Marc van Gerven’s vice president of strategic marketing will join CEC’s board.
"This deal is a natural fit that leverages CEC's residential experience on the ground with First Solar's expertise in utility-scale generation and panel technology. This innovative and cost-competitive approach will further establish solar, and specifically community solar, as a critical part of the global energy mix for all markets,” Hughes said.
The partnership will also allow CEC to speed up rollout of community solar gardens through access to capital from First Solar. "Community solar is affecting a major shift in the broader solar industry," said Paul Spencer, Founder and CEO of Clean Energy Collective.
"Joining forces with First Solar further validates community solar and provides us the opportunity jointly to accelerate this shift with the combined power of our proven model and the economics and efficiency of First Solar as a world-class R&D, manufacturing and construction partner,” Spencer said. “This collaboration will allow us to accelerate our expansion to new markets and customers, and will provide both customers and our utility partners with the added confidence that CEC and our community solar projects will deliver long-term, scalable energy solutions at the most cost-effective pricing."Tweet