Large-scale renewables developer Intersect Power announced Thursday it will offload five solar projects it co-developed with SB Energy Global, an arm of SoftBank Group that already owns more than 5 gigawatts of wind and solar assets. The financial company subsidiary will take complete ownership of the projects, totaling 1.7 gigawatts in capacity.
The five projects are divided between two top solar markets, California and Texas, and are slated to start construction next year, with First Solar supplying modules. Austin Energy signed an offtake agreement for one of the projects, in West Texas, at 250 megawatts. The Lower Colorado River Authority will use some power from another of the Texas projects. One of the California projects will sell to Texas-based energy retailer Direct Energy Business, a subsidiary of Centrica.
Several of the projects are providing power to unnamed companies in both states. SB Energy did not immediately respond to a request for more information on the offtakers for that capacity, but Texas has become a popular market for commercial and industrial customers. Facebook and Anheuser Busch both signed significant deals in Texas in the past several months. Corporations are expected to account for at least 20 percent of the U.S. utility-scale solar market through 2024, according to Wood Mackenzie.
The significant acquisition clears out a chunk of Intersect Power’s pipeline, leaving the company with 2.9 gigawatts of projects in the early or middle stages of development.
For SoftBank, the acquisition helps fulfill larger ambitions to grow a sizable renewable portfolio. According to reporting by the Wall Street Journal, that effort has faced difficulties as the scope has sometimes outpaced SoftBank's capacity. The company said Thursday that it currently has assets in the United States and India, and research from WoodMac shows SB Energy ranking ninth among the top 10 asset owners in the Asia-Pacific region in 2018.
At the same time, though, the most ambitious solar plans from the Japanese bank — slated for Saudi Arabia — appear to have stalled out. Last year, the government there dropped a $200 billion plan to build an eye-popping 200 gigawatts of solar and storage in partnership with the bank.
The cancellation “injected a massive amount of uncertainty” into the Saudi Arabian market according to WoodMac, though at the time the government said other solar partnerships with SoftBank would move forward. Those pledges merit some skepticism, according to the analysts, who wrote in January that “both SoftBank and Saudi Arabia have a history of grand but empty plans.”