As construction on the 550-megawatt Desert Sunlight Solar Farm near Palm Springs, Calif., continues it’s attracted a major new investor in Sumitomo Corporation of America and its parent, Sumitomo Corp. It’s Sumitomo’s first investment in U.S. solar projects, although the company already has more than 1,800 megawatts of renewable energy projects—mostly wind—in the U.S.
While its the first investment in solar in the U.S., Sumitomo has invested in solar elsewhere. “We have other solar investments in Europe in addition to the new investment in Desert Sunlight and some of these European projects we developed with our partners,” said Sumitomo Corporation of America’s Vice President, Power & Telecommunications Business Teruyuki Miyazaki. Sumitomo purchased its part of the project from GE Energy Financial Services . The project was owned by NextEra Energy Resources and GE and will sell the power to Southern California Edison.
The investment also comes as the feed-in tariff in Japan gains traction, and will help the company as it moves forward with projects there. “Our understanding of the development and construction process for solar projects will definitely help with our work for solar projects in Japan,” Miyazaki said.
Construction on Desert Sunlight, slated for completion in 2015 is already well underway. As of Sept. 12, 2012, a number of the 20 blocks of construction were in various stages of completion, led by blocks 1 and 2. The first block was 94 percent complete with all modules installed and the second block was 81 percent complete with 53 percent of modules installed, according to First Solar, which is building the project.
Sumitomo has also invested in a number of large-sale wind farms in the U.S., including the 845 megawatt Shepherds Flat Wind Farm in Oregon, the 131 megawatt Cimarron II and 168 megawatt Ironwood wind farms in Kansas and the 120 megawatt Stanton wind project in Texas.
All dwarf its renewable energy investments elsewhere. “Our renewable energy projects in the U.S. are larger than elsewhere though our thermal projects are larger outside the U.S.,” Miyazaki said. “The dynamics of the U.S. markets for renewable energy have fostered the opportunity for larger projects. Sumitomo operates its power business on a global basis and all of our investments add to our collective knowledge and help with the next investment. The renewable business in the U.S. is no different and we hope to apply our learned lessons to projects outside the U.S.,” he said.
Moving forward the company will continue to invest in solar and wind when appropriate, according to Miyazaki. “We are focused more on development projects at this point which have a long lead time before they are placed in service,” he said.