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Japanese Conglomerate Buys in to Huge Desert Solar Facility

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Desert Sunlight Solar Farm unde construction | Photo: Basin and Range Watch

One of Japan's oldest and largest corporate enterprises now owns one fourth of the 550-megawatt Desert Sunlight Solar Farm, now under construction in the Chuckwalla Valley east near Joshua Tree National Park. The Sumitomo Corporation of America, part of the 425-year-old Japanese conglomerate Sumitomo Corporation, announced today that it has bought a 25% stake in the facility from GE Energy Financial Services. The two corporations, along with co-owner NextEra Energy, will sell power to Southern California Edison and Pacific Gas & Electric for two decades after the plant is completed in 2015.

The facility, on a little over 4,000 acres of public land surrounded on three sides by Joshua Tree National Park, is being built by original owner First Solar using that company's cadmium telluride thin-film photovoltaic panels. The project was recently singled out by the National Parks Conservation Association as one of three large desert solar projects the group considered to be siting "mistakes," largely due to its effect on the visual resources of Joshua Tree's eastern wilderness areas.

Desert Sunlight is Sumitomo's first investment in American solar projects, but the company has stakes in a number of North American wind turbine installations, including the 845 megawatt Shepherds Flat Wind Farm in northeastern Oregon.

"The investment in Desert Sunlight is a good representation of what Sumitomo is doing in regards to supporting a clean energy future," said Teruyuki Miyazaki, Vice President, Power & Telecommunications Business of Sumitomo Corporation of America. "This, along with our earlier investments in major renewable energy projects in the U.S., allows us to leverage our experience and know-how as a long-term strategic investor and work with strong partners on high-quality renewable energy projects in the advanced stages of development or construction."

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