First Solar may exit 8point3 yieldco as part of transition to Series 6

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April 6 (Renewables Now) - US solar major First Solar Inc (NASDAQ:FSLR) is mulling a sale of its stake in solar power yieldco 8point3 Energy Partners LP (NASDAQ:CAFD) so as to fully align resources in support of its shift to Series 6 module production.

The company said Wednesday it is reviewing alternatives for the sale of its interest in 8point3 together with financial and legal advisors, but noted that the process is at a preliminary stage and may not result in any transaction. The review will be coordinated with SunPower (NASDAQ:SPWR), the other sponsor of the yieldco.

In a separate statement, SunPower said it will be evaluating strategic options for 8point3 as a result of First Solar’s move. The review will include, but will not be limited to, a potential replacement partner for First Solar. “[..] we believe 8point3 can continue to benefit from owning long-term, high quality renewable assets,” SunPower CEO Tom Werner said.

First Solar wants to refocus resources on Series 6 objectives and to also speed up the return of capital from its downstream systems business by selling projects earlier in the construction phase.

In the autumn of 2016 the US thin-film photovoltaic (PV) module maker announced the move from Series 4 production to Series 6 production over the course of 2017 and 2018, whilst cancelling its Series 5 product. A major restructuring was initiated, bringing USD 729 million (EUR 682.4m) in restructuring charges for 2016. First Solar explains that the systems business capital is needed to support the transition to Series 6 and the expected installation of gigawatts of Series 6 manufacturing capacity in the next several years.

In the statement yesterday, the company said it will be looking for another buyer of the 280-MW California Flats and 40-MW Cuyama projects, if 8point3, to which these have been offered, is unable to buy the assets.

“We remain committed to developing, constructing and selling utility-scale solar power plants,” CEO Mark Widmar said.

8point3 on Wednesday reported a first-fiscal-quarter net loss of USD 5.3 million and cash available for distribution (CAFD) of USD 22.1 million. It expects a full-fiscal-year net profit of up to USD 32.6 million and CAFD of USD 91.5 million-101 million.

(USD 1 = EUR 0.94)

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Tsvet has been following the development of the global renewable energy industry for seven years now. She's got a soft spot for emerging markets.

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