First Solar’s 230-MW Project Back On Course

The last thing First Solar needed was a delay in the construction of one of its biggest projects ever – and now the Arizona-based company is apparently free and clear to proceed with the stalled installation of solar modules at the 230-megawatt (MW) Solar Ranch One PV plant going up in California’s Antelope Valley.

Taxpayers might also have been concerned about the work stoppage, which hit in April when Los Angeles County officials flagged the project for failing to have what it said were required approvals on electrical connectors. As a result, hundreds of workers have been furloughed on the project that’s backed by a $646 million loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Energy.

first solar, solar ranch one

image via First Solar

But today the county said it all was well, get back on the job.

“We’re pleased to see the project back on track,” Dennis Hunter, deputy director of county public works, said in a statement released by First Solar. “Following our discussions, we are now confident in First Solar’s ability to meet our health and safety requirements.”

Jim Lamon, First Solar’s senior vice president of engineering, procurement and construction and operations and maintenance, suggested the county had needed to negotiate a bit of a learning curve.

“As the first utility-scale solar PV project in Los Angeles County, this was the county’s first opportunity to apply its codes to a facility of this magnitude, which required significant time and effort for everyone involved,” Lamon said. “After a very collaborative process, we are confident we have the county’s support to keep the project moving to completion, and that this process has paved the way for future projects in the region, which has great potential for solar energy production.”

Greentech Media reported that “the parties have agreed on a modification to the problematic connectors that will not impose undue burden on First Solar but will satisfy the County’s safety concerns.”

The dispute had also led to workers being furloughed from the 66-MW Alpine Solar project, which is owned by NRG Energy. Solar Ranch One is owned by Exelon.

Announcement of the agreement with LA County gave First Solar’s stock, which has been sliding for more than a year during the great solar-industry shakeout, an immediate bump.

Sports columnist, newspaper desk guy, website managing editor, wine-industry PR specialist, freelance writer—Pete Danko’s career in media has covered a lot of terrain. The constant along the way has been a fierce dedication to knowing the story and getting it right. Danko's work has appeared in Wired, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.