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How First Solar helped Apple top a $700 billion market cap

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The California Flats project

Apart from the key projects that we discussed in the previous part of this series, First Solar (FSLR) is also working on a 280 MW project in Monterey County in southeast California. The company will own and operate the project, spread over 2,900 acres of dry land. The project is expected to start in mid-1015 and finish by the end of 2016.

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What sets the project apart?

First Solar (FSLR) has entered into an agreement with a corporation to sell electricity from 130 MW of capacity for the next 25 years—the largest such deal so far. The end user is none other than Apple (AAPL), which announced the deal in February 2015.

Upon completion, the project will power over 60,000 homes as well as Apple’s future headquarters in nearby Cupertino. Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook said, “We know in Apple that climate change is real. The time for talk is passed, the time for action is now.” The deal is valued at over $850 million.

The remaining 150 MW is contracted with PG&E Corporation (PGC), with the term starting in 2019. Apple’s stock jumped 2% to $122.72 on the news. Apple’s market capitalization topped $700 billion for the first time on February 10.

Impact on the industry

Apple’s move is certainly positive news for First Solar as well as the solar power industry. For a long time, corporations have preferred wind power over solar power when investing in renewable energy projects.

Last year, Google (GOOG) signed a 400 MW wind power deal, taking its total renewable commitments to 1 GW. Amazon (AMZN) entered the renewable energy space by signing a 150 GW wind agreement in January. Other companies, including Microsoft (MSFT) and Walmart (WMT), have also entered into wind energy agreements.

Apple’s move, in a way, endorses solar power. Falling photovoltaic cell costs in recent years have helped too. All these companies, including First Solar (FSLR), are part of the S&P 500 index (SPY).

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