Texas-based Vistra (NYSE: VST), an integrated retail electricity and power generation company, plans to build 6 utility-scale solar power plants across Texas. It will buy the solar modules for these power plants from Arizona-based First Solar (NASDAR:FSLR).
How many solar modules do you need for 6 utility-scale solar power plants? A lot. The solar modules will provide a whopping 869 megawatts (MW)DC of power capacity. Texas currently has a little more than 4,606 MW of solar power capacity installed — across all projects. Doing some quick math, 869 MW is 19% of that total!
Ironically, Arizona and Texas are both being considered swing states in the 2020 presidential election, and the matter of solar came up in last night’s presidential debate and led to some odd comments from incumbent Donald Trump. He said that “solar doesn’t quite have it yet.” It’s not quite clear what “it” was supposed to mean, but the implication was that solar is not a mature industry, is not really up for the job, and doesn’t offer much. Of course, this matches Trump’s longstanding attacks on renewable energy and huge preference for fossil fuels.
People working for Vistra and First Solar — as well as their friends and families and people working in supportive industries — know that solar very clearly does “have it.” Many of those people have full-time jobs in the solar industry.
Solar is actually the cheapest option for new electricity across the world now, as the traditionally fossil fuel–biased International Energy Agency just recently reported.
— World Economic Forum (@wef) October 18, 2020
The United States is not excluded. This is a technology thing. As I reported recently, solar PV modules were 12× more expensive in 2010, and 459× more expensive in 1977. Coincidentally, 1977 is the year Donald married his first (of three) wives and is also reportedly the year that an informant for Czechoslovakian spies reported that Trump was “completely tax-exempt for the next 30 years.” I’m not a tax lawyer or accountant, so I cannot professionally comment on what that means, but the only thing that comes to mind from what I’ve learned about such matters is that Trump had lost so much money by then that he wouldn’t have to pay taxes for 30 years. But who knows?
Getting back to the solar projects, they will use First Solar’s Series 6 modules. The size of the solar power plants will range from 50 to 200MWAC.
“Designed and developed at First Solar’s research and development (R&D) centers in California and Ohio, Series 6 is a uniquely American solar PV module that has set industry benchmarks for quality, durability, reliability, design, and environmental performance. The result of over $1 billion in cumulative R&D investment, each module features a layer of First Solar’s proprietary CadTel semiconductor that is one-sixth the thickness of a human hair. With a carbon footprint that is up to six times lower than crystalline silicon PV panels, Series 6 delivers a superior environmental profile and lowest carbon solar available today.
Jim Burke, chief operating officer at Vistra, is excited about the point that solar is ready, and has just what Vistra wants. “We’re committed to transforming our power generation portfolio, investing in renewables, and providing our customers with the power solutions they are seeking to meet their sustainability objectives. We’re proud to take that commitment a step further by investing in powering our newest renewable energy generation assets with the leading solar technology available today. We’re confident that Series 6 is the right module and First Solar is the right partner to help us deliver our mission to net-zero.”