Chile's Atacama Desert to Be First Solar's Next Massive Solar Project

First Solar Inc. (NASDAQ: FSLR) may have had this project on the books for a while, under contingencies, but the company is now apparently going to be building the largest PV solar power plant in Latin America. The company announced in a press release that it received board approval from the Overseas Private Investment Corporation and a member of the World Bank Group (IFC) covering the financing needed to support construction of the Luz del Norte solar power plant in Chile’s Atacama Desert.

The loans are expected to close later this summer. As far as the size of the plant, it is listed as being 141MW. Financial terms of the deals were not disclosed other than OPIC’s approval of a loan of up to $230 million and IFC’s approval of a $60 million loan.

As far as what this means for investors and for First Solar, the Luz del Norte project was called the first of several projects First Solar has in its regional development pipeline. Perhaps more important than anything is that this is its initial project to start construction in Chile.

First Solar also said that Chile’s National Energy Strategy includes expansion of the country’s renewable energy capacity to 20% of its total generated power by 2025. The power generated from this Luz del Norte project will feed into the Chilean Central Interconnected System.

As far as how efficient the PV power plant will be, much depends upon the weather and available sunlight. That being said, the Atacama Desert is said to receive some of the planet’s steadiest concentrations of direct sunlight.

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As far as how much the 141 megawatts means to First Solar today, the company’s website shows that it already has more than 8 gigawatts installed worldwide. First Solar has a market cap of $7.1 billion, and its 2013 revenues were listed as $3.3 billion. Thomson Reuters is calling for revenues of $3.8 billion in 2014 and $4.04 billion in 2015.

First Solar shares were up 1.6% at $71.28 in late Thursday trading shortly after the news was released. The Thomson Reuters consensus price target is closer to $66, and the stock has traded in a range of $35.59 to $74.84 in the past 52-weeks.

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