Buffett’s MidAmerican expands solar investments

E&E • Posted: Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Billionaire Warren Buffett’s MidAmerican Energy Holdings Co. said Friday it will invest in a second solar firm.

MidAmerican, the utility arm of Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc., will buy a 49 percent share of an NRG Energy Inc.-owned solar plant First Solar Inc. is building in the Arizona desert. The companies did not disclose the terms of the deal.

First Solar and NRG funded the 290-megawatt project, called Agua Caliente, with the help of a $967 million government loan guarantee. The companies said the plant should be able to generate enough electricity to power 56,000 homes.

MidAmerican said earlier this month that it had agreed to buy another First Solar project — a $2 billion, 550-megawatt California project called Topaz Solar (Greenwire, Dec. 7).

Topaz was unable to secure a government loan guarantee, but MidAmerican Chairman and CEO Greg Abel said the project was “commercially viable” even “without the support of government loan guarantees.”

The purchase of Topaz was MidAmerican’s first foray into solar, and the company’s new stake in Agua Caliente is the next step in its attempt to “aggressively [pursue] opportunities to expand our presence in the renewable energy sector,” Abel said Friday in a prepared statement

Topaz and Agua Caliente both have long-term power purchase agreements with California’s PG&E Corp. (Cassandra Sweet, Wall Street Journal, Dec. 17)