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First Solar eyes Blanquefort for French plant

Mon, 12/21/2009 - 1:28pm
Reuters

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Solar module maker First Solar Inc said it and partner EDF Energies Nouvelles were in the final stages of talks to build a new manufacturing plant in Blanquefort, France.

First Solar, which has previously announced it would work with EDF, said the new plant is expected to begin construction in the second half of 2010.

The news follows the Tempe, Arizona-based company's forecast for 2010 last week, when the company's executives said they saw a stronger year ahead.

The plant in France, which will create up to 400 jobs at the town near the city of Bordeaux, will cost about $150 million and is expected to reach full production annual capacity of 100 megawatts in early 2012.

Earlier this month, First Solar, said it planned to add eight more production lines to its existing operations in Malaysia, and it would reach a total output capacity of about 1.8 gigawatts in 2010.

First Solar also announced on Monday that it started commercial operations at the 21-megawatt solar power plant that the company developed in Blythe, California -- about 200 miles east of Los Angeles.

First Solar sold the power plant to NRG Energy Inc in November, but First Solar will continue to operate it under the deal.

The electricity it generates, estimated to power nearly 17,000 homes at peak capacity, will be sold to Southern California Edison, a unit of Edison International, under a long-term power agreement.

First Solar is one of the world's largest producers of photovoltaic cells, which turn sunlight into electricity. Its production costs are the lowest in the industry, although its thin-film cadmium telluride cells are not as efficient in capturing sunlight as more traditional silicon-based cells.

Shares of First Solar were up 0.88 percent at $136.87 on Nasdaq.

(Reporting by Matt Daily in New York and Laura Isensee in Los Angeles, editing by Dave Zimmerman)

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