First Solar resumes work at California project

Reuters News
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Posted: Jun 22, 2012 9:42 AM

(Reuters) - First Solar Inc said it would restart construction at a California solar power project, after it won approval from Los Angeles' public works department, pushing up its shares as much as 13 percent.

The company said 230 workers were sent on temporary unpaid leave since April after the county sought information about the thin-film solar panels to be installed at the 230-megawatt power plant, said Alan Bernheimer, public relations director at First Solar.

The furloughed employees will now return to work, the company said.

Maxim Group analyst Aaron Chew said the project was "critical" for First Solar and expects the company to generate 30 to 40 percent of its earnings from the project this year.

The utility-scale Antelope Valley Solar Ranch One project, where construction began in August 2011, had earlier faced uncertainty after the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) held back initial funds under its $646 million loan guarantee program.

The DOE released funds after the company secured a permit required for the construction.

The project is expected to go online in 2013 and will generate enough electricity to power 75,000 homes.

First Solar expects to ramp up staffing for the project over the next several weeks. The company has said construction of the plant would create about 400 jobs.

First Solar shares rose to a one-month high of $16.42 on Friday on the Nasdaq.

(Reporting by Swetha Gopinath in Bangalore; Editing by Viraj Nair)