First Solar, Inc. (NASDAQ: FSLR) and Clean Energy Collective (CEC) today announced that they have formed a strategic partnership to develop and market community solar offerings to residential customers and businesses directly on behalf of client utilities. Through the agreement, the two companies will jointly pursue opportunities in the community solar market to offer an affordable and convenient alternative to rooftop generation. As part of the deal, First Solar has made a strategic investment in CEC and obtained an equity interest, and First Solar’s CEO, Jim Hughes, and Vice President of Strategic Marketing, Marc van Gerven, will join the CEC board. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
The move is an integral part of First Solar’s distributed generation strategy, substantially strengthening the company’s entry as a solutions provider in the residential and business solar markets. CEC, the nation’s leading community solar provider, pioneered the community solar model, through which a broad range of customers have access to solar energy regardless of the suitability of their rooftop or property ownership status. Through this relationship, CEC will accelerate the rollout of community solar generation aided by the efficient access to capital and innovative hardware solutions afforded by First Solar.
“Distributed generation in the form of community solar expands the addressable market dramatically beyond the traditional residential or commercial sectors, and CEC has led the way in making that happen,” said Jim Hughes, First Solar’s CEO. “This deal is a natural fit that leverages CEC’s residential experience on the ground with First Solar’s expertise in utility-scale generation and panel technology. This innovative and cost-competitive approach will further establish solar, and specifically community solar, as a critical part of the global energy mix for all markets.”
“Community solar is affecting a major shift in the broader solar industry,” said Paul Spencer, Founder and CEO of Clean Energy Collective. “Joining forces with First Solar further validates community solar and provides us the opportunity jointly to accelerate this shift with the combined power of our proven model and the economics and efficiency of First Solar as a world-class R&D, manufacturing and construction partner. This collaboration will allow us to accelerate our expansion to new markets and customers, and will provide both customers and our utility partners with the added confidence that CEC and our community solar projects will deliver long-term, scalable energy solutions at the most cost-effective pricing.”
Community solar utilizes sizable ground-mounted installations that provide clean energy to a utility’s grid, and allows consumers the ability to buy into a specific community installation and directly benefit from the solar power generated by that resource. This allows any power consumer to “go solar,” including those who live in multi-tenant buildings, rent, or whose rooftops cannot accommodate solar panels. Community solar significantly expands the addressable market beyond solutions limited to rooftop only, especially in urban residential settings.