NRG wins bid to buy Texas solar farm and more from SunEdison

NRG Energy won its bid of up to $188 million to acquire a massive West Texas solar farm and other renewable energy projects throughout the country from bankrupt SunEdison.

The deal still needs final approval in bankruptcy court, but NRG would acquire the 200-megawatt Buckthorn solar farm in Pecos County. The delayed solar project, which is slated for completion next year, would make the city of Georgetown, a community of 60,000 people, the largest municipality in the nation powered solely by renewable sources. One megawatt can typically power 200 homes on the hottest Texas days.

The $144 million deal, which would grow to $188 million if milestone benchmarks are met, also includes solar and wind projects in Utah, Washington, California, Maine and Hawaii. The discount for NRG is steep because most of the projects remain in development and require additional investment.

As for NRG, the Houston and New Jersey-based utility giant seemingly stepped back from renewable power in December when the chief executive, David Crane, was ousted. And, while NRG has backed off somewhat from Crane’s pet projects for residential solar and electric car-charging stations, NRG is still investing in utility-scale solar and wind. New CEO Mauricio Gutierrez is adamant the company is dedicated to growing in green power.

NRG spokesman Erik Linden said in a statement Tuesday that the pending acquistion “further reaffirms our ongoing leadership and commitment to renewable energy,”

Although NRG already owns some wind projects in Texas, the deal would give NRG its first solar footprint in Texas.

Missouri-based SunEdison rapidly became the fastest-growing renewable power developer in the world, but the company grew too fast for its own good before many of its assets could become profitable. Hemorrhaging money, SunEdison filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in April.

NRG warned the deal needs to get done quickly because Buckthorn is supposed to become operational in April 2017, and the deal with Georgetown is terminated if it’s not producing power by late October, 2017.

SunEdison scheduled two major solar projects in Texas to begin operations this year, but both were delayed at least into 2017. The other is the 116-megawatt Castle Gap solar farm in West Texas that’s supposed to sell power to Dallas-based Luminant. But NRG isn’t trying to buy that one as part of this deal.

SunEdison also is building the two phases of the 500-megawatt South Plains Wind farm in Floyd County near Lubbock, but its status is unclear. The Route 66 Wind project in the Texas Panhandle was completed this year, but SunEdison sold a majority stake in it to JPMorgan Asset Management.