First Solar strikes supply agreement with Clean Energy Collective

First Solar unveiled a module supply agreement with Clean Energy Collective, the leader in the growing US community solar market, having established a strategic partnership with the Colorado-based company last year.

While the scope of the supply agreement was not revealed, the announcement confirms that First Solar’s Cadmium Telluride thin-film modules are working well in Clean Energy Collective’s (CEC) existing projects, and reinforces First Solar’s commitment to the community solar market.

Colorado-based CEC is the leading player in the still-tiny but potential-rich community solar market in the US, in which developers build solar “gardens” – typically ranging from several hundred kilowatts to a few megawatts – and then sell fractional shares to consumers on a per-module basis.

Customers see a reduction in their electricity bills based on the amount of electricity the project generates.

Last December First Solar, the largest US solar manufacturer, bought an equity stake in CEC and said it represented an "integral" part of its distributed-generation strategy going forward.

CEC has already built four projects under its supply agreement with First Solar, the companies say – including two in Colorado and two in Texas. As many as 1 million residential customers could potentially buy into the four projects.

"The community solar market promises significant growth, and CEC is clearly well-positioned to lead in this space," says Eran Mahrer, First Solar’s senior director of business development for utilities.

Community solar schemes are typically aimed at consumers who do not own their own PV-eligible roof, although First Solar has acknowledged the sector may increasingly come into direct competition with the rooftop solar market. Businesses which consume more electricity than could be generated on their rooftop are also potential customers.

Potential benefits of community solar projects compared to rooftop PV include the natural economies of scale at both the construction and O&M level.

Community solar could account for half of the distributed PV market in the US by 2020, according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.