The sun is shining on solar. The world's largest solar plant threw open its shades earlier this month, setting new records for both capacity and collaboration. For solar investors wanting to grab a piece of this new solar pie, here are three corporations that made this supersized solar project a reality.
1. First Solar
First Solar (NASDAQ:FSLR) is not your average solar company. As the constructor and operations company for the 550 MW Desert Sunlight Solar Farm, First Solar is both brains and brawn. The corporation is one of the largest solar companies around, with more than 10,000 MW of installed projects worldwide and $3.3 billion in sales for fiscal 2013.
First Solar is literally inseparable from the Desert Sunlight Solar Farm. The plant is made up of over 8 million First Solar modules -- and it's far from First Solar's first megafarm. The company lays claim to 5.2 million modules powering a 290 MW facility in Arizona, and is already well under way with another 9 million module site in California capable of 550 MW of solar energy output.
For First Solar, bigger seems to better. The company is on the forefront of utility-scale solar, an increasingly attractive option for American utilities. First Solar reports its Q4 2014 and fiscal 2014 earnings results tomorrow, and investors will get a first-hand peek into how much power First Solar has managed to amass over the past 12 months.
2. General Electric Company
When General Electric Company's (NYSE:GE) not busy making machines and inventions of its own, it's financing others to do the same. GE Energy Financial Services helped bankroll 50% of this massive undertaking, and while financial details of the deal were not disclosed, the indirect local benefits for the site area alone were estimated at $336 million. The company also turned around and sold half of its stake to Japan-based Sumito Corporation, a sign of GE Energy Financial Service's savvy sales strategy.
This isn't General Electric Company's first solar rodeo. With around $16 billion in assets, the unit has cumulatively invested approximately $10 billion in global renewable energy projects. Solar accounts for just $1.8 billion of that, but the company is constantly expanding its solar horizons. In mid-2014, it headed abroad for the first time to invest in a 32 MW solar plant in Japan.
Desert Sunlight Solar Farm may be GE Energy Financial Service's largest solar investment to date, but it certainly won't be its last. The company plans to invest over $1 billion annually in renewable energy projects, expanding its assets and providing General Electric Company with more diversity than ever before.
3. NextEra Energy
Behind every solar farm is a solar seller. As America's undeniable utility leader in renewable energy, it should come as no surprise that NextEra Energy (NYSE:NEE) has the other 50% stake in Desert Sunlight Solar Farm. NextEra Energy is one of the largest solar generators in the nation, with around 785 MW of solar farms currently in operation.
While NextEra Energy leaves the manufacturing to companies like First Solar, it's happy to get its hands into renewables in all sorts of ways. The Desert Sunlight Solar Farm purchase represents an asset investment, and the facility's actual power will be sold off to utilities Edison International (NYSE:EIX) and PG&E Corporation (NYSE:PCG) under two long-term power purchase agreements. NextEra Energy's portfolio is packed with renewable energy investments, and this latest purchase helps to further diversify the utility's assets.
Time for solar stocks?
The solar sector has had its ups and downs. But with dropping costs, smart innovation, and unprecedented scale opportunities such as Desert Sunlight Solar Farm, now could be the time to buckle down on your favorite company. First Solar represents a straight solar play, while General Electric Company and NextEra Energy offer investors built-in diversity (and a dividend, too). Bigger isn't always better, but in this case, these three corporations have taken a historical solar step -- and you can, too.