Monday, January 7, 2013

Berkshire Hathaway Firm to Buy Antelope Valley Solar Project from SunPower

The Antelope Valley Press and several new agencies report that investor Warren Buffett firm (Berkshire Hathaway), one of the world's richest men, is investing in Antelope Valley solar projects. MidAmerican Energy Holdings, a company owned by the billionaire, will spend as much as $2.5 billion to build twin solar projects, originally proposed by SunPower, west of Rosamond and Lancaster. "We are excited about these projects because they support our core business principle of environmental respect. We are very proud to add SunPower technology to our portfolio of projects," said Bill Fehrman, president of Buffett's MidAmerican Renewables. MidAmerican Energy Holdings announced Wednesday it has acquired San Jose-based SunPower's 579-megawatt Antelope Valley Solar Projects, which would cover more than 3,000 acres straddling the Los Angeles County-Kern County line and which have been approved by Kern County and Los Angeles County officials. Called the world's largest solar-power project that has approval for construction, three-fourths of the project is in Kern County, with the rest in Los Angeles County. The site has irregular borders and runs roughly between Rosamond Boulevard and Avenue B and from roughly 110th to 190th streets west. MidAmerican will pay SunPower $2 billion to $2.5 billion for the projects and a three-year contract to build them. SunPower also will operate and maintain the projects under a multi-year agreement with MidAmerican, the companies announced in a joint statement. The projects will create an estimated 650 jobs during construction. SunPower officials said last month that hiring was expected to begin soon. MidAmerican Renewables, a subsidiary of MidAmerican Energy Holdings Co.,, has a total portfolio of more than 1,830 megawatts of wind, geothermal, solar and hydro assets. The Antelope Valley Solar Projects will provide renewable energy to Southern California Edison under two long-term power purchase contracts approved by the California Public Utilities Commission. "The Antelope Valley Solar Projects mark a historic milestone for the energy industry," said Howard Wenger, SunPower president. "We are delivering highly reliable, low-cost, renewable energy at a very large scale. SunPower is proud to partner with MidAmerican Solar and SCE, recognized leaders in clean energy development, bringing critically needed jobs and economic opportunity to California and helping the state achieve its renewable portfolio requirement." In addition, SunPower will be the engineering, procurement and construction contractor, and will operate and maintain the facility under a multi-year services agreement. Construction of the solar project is scheduled to begin in the first quarter of this year, with the plants expected to be complete by the end of 2015. The project has secured final conditional-use permits and has completed full environmental review pursuant to the California Environmental Quality Act, the statement said. SunPower said the property is privately owned and has been previously distributed. The site is co-located with the existing Antelope Valley Water Bank and is already bisected by an already-approved transmission line project from Southern California Edison. A fact sheet on the project said the solar panels will have a maximum height of eight feet and have anti-reflective panels, not mirrors. According to estimates provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the project is expected to offset more than 775,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year, equivalent to removing almost 3 million cars from California's highways over the 20 years of the plant's operation, the statement said. MidAmerican Solar's projects also include the 550-megawatt Topaz Solar Farms in San Luis Obispo County and a 49% ownership interest in the 290-megawatt Agua Caliente solar project in Yuma County, Ariz. "We are pleased to be working with SunPower on this development and look forward to establishing a mutually beneficial relationship with Southern California Edison as our customer for energy generated by this project. As we have done at our other solar project locations, we will work hard to establish positive and productive relationships with community and county neighbors and stakeholders," said Paul Caudill, president of MidAmerican Solar. SunPower has more than 1,000 megawatts of solar power plants operating worldwide, including the first 130 megawatts of the 250-megawatt California Valley Solar Ranch, which is under construction in San Luis Obispo County

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Edison Mission Energy Files for Bankruptcy

Edison Mission Energy, an unregulated power-generating unit of Rosemead-based Edison International, indicated in December 2012 that it had filed for bankruptcy and had agreed on a reorganization plan with its parent company and holders of its $3.7 billion in debt. First Solar Inc., a solar power module manufacturer acquired a number of solar power projects in development by Edison Mission Energy, the power generation division of Edison International. This includes photovoltaic projects proposed for the Gray Butte area near Lake Los Angeles and near Mojave. “They purchased the entire development pipeline," said Bob Stiens, public affairs manager for Edison International. The 150-megawatt Gray Butte plant, in the permitting process with Los Angeles County, is proposed for 1,100 acres of agricultural land east of 240th Street East, near Avenue S. Press releases quoted Edison Mission Energy in a statement. “This is an important first step in the process to reduce our debt, enhance our liquidity profile and position EME for continued operation and future success." As part of the deal, Edison Mission Energy will be deconsolidated from Edison International “as of the filing date” and, in the future, will be referred to by the parent company as discontinued operations. Edison International’s stake in the bankrupt generating unit will be transferred to unsecured creditors. Santa Ana-based Edison Mission Energy said it had slightly more than $5.1 billion in assets and just under that amount in liabilities in Chapter 11 papers filed Monday in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in the Northern District of Illinois. Edison Mission Energy has been struggling on several fronts: depressed energy prices because of the nation’s boom in natural gas production; higher fuel costs affecting its older coal-fired facilities; and pending debt maturities. Despite the challenges, Pizarro sought to strike a positive tone on Edison Mission Energy’s future.