Unregulated Earnings Show Solar Influence This Quarter

By Published On: May 10, 2013

While most of the money being made in California solar projects is from selling the plants before they produce any MW, the ones that are online are helping to buoy profits, revealed unregulated companies in their earnings reports for the first quarter 2013. For instance, with six solar projects in California under its wing, David Crane, NRG chief executive officer, noted when they go on line—expected this year—they’ll contribute “significantly” to earnings late in 2013 and 2014. Highlights of unregulated earnings for the quarter include: AltaGas—The Canadian company with interests in California power reported $49 million in net income for the first quarter 2013. Last year it was $41.3 million. It bought the 507 MW Blythe Energy Center, a natural gas plant with a related transmission line, for $515 million on March 25, 2013. Calpine—With geothermal and fossil plants in the state, this company posted a net loss of $70 million for the first quarter of 2013. While its Geyers plants chug away, contributing to the state’s renewables portfolio standard, its fossil plants in Texas and the Southeast continue to jeopardize its bottom line. The natural gas Los Esteros Critical Energy Facility in Santa Clara County is being repowered from a 188 MW simple-cycle plant to a 309 MW combined cycle. It is also supposed to go online the third quarter of the year. The power is under a PG&E contract. Calpine continues to construct its 429 MW Russell City Energy Center in Hayward. It’s expected to go online in the third quarter this year.  It’s also contracted with PG&E. It’s Los Medanos and Gilroy cogeneration plant contracts with Southern California Edison and Pacific Gas & Electric are waiting for California Public Utilities Commission approval, according to the company’s chief legal officer. The fossil-fueled Sutter power plant in northern California continued to have no long-term contracts. Last year, state regulators required the private utilities to sign year-long resource adequacy deals for the output to keep the plant on line. Duke Energy—A recidivist to the state, Duke invested in a solar plant this year after dissolving its assets shortly after the 2000-01 energy crisis. The company posted profits for the quarter of $634 million, compared to $298 million this time last year. Duke last month invested in a 21 MW photovoltaic plant in Twentynine Palms, which has a contract with Edison. Dynegy—The company’s continued losses were posted at $142 million for the quarter, down from a loss of $1 billion this time last year. Dynegy owns the 1,000 MW Morro Bay plant, the 2,529 MW Moss Landing facility, and the 165 MW plant at the Port of Oakland. It also owned the 300 MW South Bay plant, which was demolished in January. The Morro Bay plant’s contract with Edison was terminated a year ago. It is operating as a merchant plant in the day-ahead California Independent System Operator market, according to a spokesperson. Dynegy continues to try to find contracts for both Morro Bay and Moss Landing, according to company executives. They expect to know the outcome of those bids sometime this summer. The company is selling off its assets, but not its California facilities, which are operated by a subsidiary not under bankruptcy.  EnerNOC—Holding demand-response contracts with California investor-owned utilities, this aggregator posted a loss of $30.5 million for the quarter. There was a loss of $27.7 million in the same quarter last year. It signed a 200 (n)MW contract with Pacific Gas & Electric and Southern California Edison for 200 (n)MW last year. The company claims it can offer between 24,000-27,000 (n)MW of curtailment in peak demand times. First Solar—After non-bankruptcy reorganization earlier in 2012, this thin-film solar panel company’s back in the green with quarterly net income at $59 million. In the first quarter last year it posted a loss of $449 million. The Oakland-based company tends to partner with others, like Sempra, on its utility-sized projects. For instance, Sempra developed the 58 MW Copper Mountain facility in Nevada using 1 million First Solar modules. That plant went online in 2010. First Solar also provides rooftop solar installations. The Antelope Valley Solar Ranch in Los Angeles County is facing permit issues. First Solar is negotiating with the county and the Antelope Valley Air Quality Management District to solve dust pollution issues. While First Solar is the builder, the project is owned by Exelon. IHI—This Japanese company moved the local headquarters to Aliso Viejo last year. It owns 70 MW of power plants in California via its purchase of Constellation. U.S. earnings were unavailable. MidAmerican—MidAmerican is beginning to pay big in California solar development. It announced April 26, that it and SunPower started construction on the 579 MW Antelope Valley Solar Projects. MidAmerican is the owner; SunPower the builder and panel manufacturer. It also bought the Tehachapi-area 300 MW Alta Wind project from Highwind Power, a subsidiary of Terra-Gen. That energy is contracted to Edison. It’s also part owner of the 290 MW Agua Caliente solar project in Arizona, with power contracted to Edison. The company, through CalEnergy, has been a player in the state's renewables market for years, with projects like geothermal in the Imperial Valley. No related earnings information was available at press time.  NextEra Energy Resources—California’s primary wind developer reported the first quarter’s loss at $40 million. Last year at this time there was a $221 million profit. The decline was blamed on lower wind generation. NRG—The company posted net losses for the quarter at $328 million. Last year at this time, the losses were $207 million. Its 720 MW fossil-fueled Marsh Landing facility went online May 2. It has several California solar projects, including Agua Caliente at 253 MW. The electricity is sold to PG&E. The California Valley Solar Ranch at 250 MW is partially complete. Its energy, too, goes to PG&E. Part of the 378 MW Ivanpah plant is expected to go online in fall. NRG is half owner. The power is destined for Edison, with its first delivery predicted in January 2013. The 26 MW Borrego project has a contract with San Diego Gas & Electric. It credited the state’s solar income for offsetting some of its losses. On the fossil-fueled side, NRG is repowering its 550 MW El Segundo plant. It’s expected to go online late next year. NRG expected to make more money in the wholesale market with the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station outage, but noted “market prices were less impacted due to a combination of improved resource planning and the activation of the Sunrise transmission line.” SunPower Corp.—This San Jose-based photovoltaic company posted yet another negative balance—a loss of $54 million for the quarter, down from a loss of $74 million this time last year. Teaming up with MidAmerican, the company is working on the Antelope Valley 579 MW solar project with an Edison contract. It’s also working with NRG on the 250 MW California Valley Solar Ranch project. The latter is supposed to be online this year. The former is set to go in 2016. The company is progressing from a photovoltaics manufacturer to an “energy systems” provider, according to its chief executive officer. He added it’s too “brutal” to be simply a solar panel manufacturer. Editor’s note: Current attempts to present financial information on an apples-to-apples level, but not all corporations report on the same basis.

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