12 April 2022
Silicon Ranch and First Solar expand partnership with 4GW supply agreement spanning 2023-25
First Solar Inc of Tempe, AZ, USA has signed a master supply agreement (MSA) to supply 4GWDC of its cadmium telluride (CdTe) thin-film photovoltaic (PV) solar modules to Silicon Ranch of Nashville, TN, one of the USA’s largest independent power producers.
Founded in 2011, Silicon Ranch is a fully integrated provider of customized renewable energy, carbon and battery storage solutions for partners across North America. The firm is one of the USA’s largest independent power producers, with a portfolio that includes more than 4GW of solar and battery storage systems that are contracted, under construction or operating across the USA and Canada. Silicon Ranch owns and operates each project in its portfolio for the long term, and has commissioned every project that it has contracted. The firm now owns, operates and maintains more than 150 solar generating facilities in 15 states. Earlier this year, Silicon Ranch completed a $775m equity raise led by Manulife Investment Management.
The new deal, one of First Solar’s largest, will see Silicon Ranch’s projects in the USA receive modules from 2023 to 2025. Silicon Ranch will benefit from the evolution of First Solar’s module technology platform over the span of the agreement.
The agreement represents the latest milestone in the relationship between two solar businesses. The growing strategic partnership began in 2015 when Silicon Ranch contracted First Solar to supply the modules for its Aerojet Rocketdyne Solar Farm in Arkansas, the state’s first utility-scale solar project. The partnership has grown across the USA since then, to more than 30 projects totaling over 1GW.
“Silicon Ranch’s business model of long-term asset ownership demands that we emphasize best-in-class strategic partners and requires us to consider the future in every action we take, from the modules we buy all the way through to how we manage the land we occupy,” says Silicon Ranch’s co-founder & CEO Reagan Farr. “We are already proving that we can sequester carbon on our sites through our Regenerative Energy model of land management, and this partnership with First Solar enables us to improve the carbon footprint of our module supply, while also supporting additional investment in US manufacturing capabilities,” he adds. “We have grown our business at Silicon Ranch through our faith in the power of collaborative partnerships.”
Under the agreement, end-of-life CdTe modules from Silicon Ranch projects can be processed by First Solar’s high-value recycling program, which recovers about 90% of CdTe material (which can be used to manufacture new modules) as well as other materials including aluminium, glass and laminates. Additionally, the recycled glass can be converted into useful glass products for beneficial use, while laminates can be processed into rubber products including shoe soles and bicycle handles. First Solar currently operates commercial recycling facilities in the USA, Germany, Malaysia and Vietnam.
“Since the beginning of our relationship, it has been clear that Silicon Ranch recognizes the value of taking a long-term view on procuring solar technology,” comments First Solar’s chief commercial officer Georges Antoun. “Long-term module supply agreements with a trusted partner provide a vital hedge against the pricing and supply uncertainties that have impacted the solar industry over the past few years. And with First Solar’s agile contracting strategy, Silicon Ranch will have the added benefit of access to our best-in-class PV technologies as they continue to evolve.”
First Solar is investing $680m in expanding America’s domestic PV solar manufacturing capacity by 3.3GW annually, by building its third US manufacturing facility, in Lake Township, Ohio. The new facility is expected to be commissioned in first-half 2023 and, when fully operational, will scale the company’s Northwest Ohio footprint to a total annual capacity of 6GW (making it the largest fully vertically integrated solar manufacturing complex outside China, it is believed). First Solar has invested over $2bn in its US manufacturing footprint and, when its third factory is fully operational, will directly employ over 2500 people in Ohio, while supporting an estimated 7000 indirect jobs through its American supply chain.
In addition to its Ohio manufacturing facilities, First Solar also operates factories in Vietnam and Malaysia, and is building a new 3.3GW factory in India that is expected to be commissioned in second-half 2023. With First Solar’s expansion in the USA and India and optimization of its existing fleet, the firm expects that its nameplate manufacturing capacity will double to 16GW in 2024. First Solar is the only US-headquartered company among the world’s ten largest solar manufacturers.