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Blythe Solar Project May Be Built With FirstSolar Panels

Blythe Solar Power Project from the air, November 2011 | Photo: Chris Clarke/KCET

Thin-film photovoltaic panel manufacturer First Solar may have an in for supplying solar panels for the one gigawatt Blythe Solar Power Project, according to documents project developer NextEra submitted to the California Energy Commission (CEC) last week.

The solar project, on 5,950 acres of public land west of Blythe, California, was picked up by Florida-based NextEra after its initial developer, Solar Millennium, field for bankruptcy in April.

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Originally proposed as a parabolic trough concentrating solar thermal facility, the Blythe project was stalled after PV prices started to drop in 2009-10. In 2011, Solar Millennium told the CEC it was heading back to the drawing board, redesigning the site to use much more cost-effective photovoltaics.

According to reporter Christopher Martin at Bloomberg, NextEra is looking at cadmium telluride thin-film PV as a possible technology on which to base the reconfigured project, but the company hasn't officially settled on which flavor of PV it will use -- or on a supplier (or suppliers) for said PV.

FisrtSolar isn't commenting on a possible deal either, though its stock rose 11% after Bloomberg broke the story. But if NextEra does go with cadmium telluride as its PV tech of choice, FirstSolar will likely be first in line as a potential supplier. FirstSolar is the largest manufacturer of cadmium telluride PV in the country, and may well be the only one with the capacity to supply a gigawatt's worth of panels.

Besides, the companies have already worked together: FirstSolar sold the Desert Sunlight project near Joshua Tree National Park to NextEra, and is competing that plant's construction.

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About the Author

Chris Clarke is a natural history writer and environmental journalist currently at work on a book about the Joshua tree. He lives in Joshua Tree.
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