SunPower Solar Plant Sale Likely to Become Industry Standard

SunPower’s sale of its 44-megawatt Montalto di Castro Solar Park in Italy to an investment firm earlier this week is an example of how the solar industry is following the path laid out by traditional energy developers.

“In the power industry the developer may or may not be the long-term owner of the project,” said Julie P. Blunden, spokeswoman for SunPower.

Increasingly and commonly, the company that develops and builds a power plant, whether its coal, natural gas, nuclear, wind or now solar, will see the project through until construction is complete and then sell the long term operating profits to an investment firm.

Nearly every solar project in Europe, over 1 megawatt, has already been sold to an investment firm, Blunden said.

SunPower sold 44 megawatts of its 72-megawatt Montalto di Castro solar park, outside of Rome, to a consortium of international investors on Monday. The investors include MetLife, Fondo PPP Italia, and Voigt & Collegen.

SunPower designed and built the plant and will continue to operate and maintain it for the new owners, according to a press release from the company.

"With the sale of this power plant now completed, we have met the goal of developing, constructing and monetizing 72 megawatts from the Montalto di Castro solar park," said Dennis Arriola, SunPower chief financial officer.  "We are proud of this accomplishment and recognize the dedicated team and various independent parties that helped to deliver this successful outcome."

SunPower financed the development and construction of the 44 megawatts, completed earlier this month, with proceeds from the solar industry's first-of-its-kind solar bond.  

This sale comes on the heels of another $1 billion sale of a SunPower plant in California, Blunden said.

NRG Energy also announced last month that it would buy the 250-megwatt project in Yuma County, Ariz.., developed by First Solar.

Selling the projects makes good business sense, Blunden said. And, for large utility-scale solar projects, it’s usually the plan all along for developers like SunPower to sell the projects and their future revenues to investment firms.

“Our capital structure would not support us retaining projects at this scale,” she said. “Selling them allows us to invest capital in the construction of new projects.”