Trouble With First Solar's OptiSolar Acquisition

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When First Solar (FSLR) acquired OptiSolar’s project pipeline for $400 million in March, it said it received “strategic land rights of approximately 136,000 acres,” which it would use to develop utility scale solar projects.

Turns out OptiSolar just had applications for that land, and now those applications are under investigation in California.

LA Times: “There is no value associated with a mere application, which could be rejected by us for a variety of reasons,” said Greg Miller, renewable energy program manager for the BLM office in Moreno Valley.

“A company can buy another company along with its applications, as long as those applications are not listed as assets. That would be wrong,” Miller said. “We’re trying to weed out speculators who are filing applications, then waiting for someone to buy them at the highest price.”

…The investigation comes amid debate over how best to control burgeoning renewable energy industries as they overwhelm the chronically understaffed and underfunded BLM with an avalanche of applications. Environmentalists say the situation is a preeminent conservation issue and a crucial test of the Obama administration’s commitment to the environment.

Three years ago, the bureau had six applications for solar energy projects on file. Over the last year, it has received 130 additional applications from 50 companies, covering about 600,000 acres — much of it in one of the sunniest regions on Earth, the Mojave Desert.

First Solar denies any wrong doing, as well it should. It looks like this is much ado about nothing. It’s hardly a speculator. Still, if anything happens with the OptiSolar deal, that’s going to ding First Solar.

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