Lightsource to build 20MW Kansas solar project after BP investment

The company, one of Europe’s largest utility-scale developers, is bolstering its US business amid plans for global expansion following its $200m tie-up with the oil giant.

Lightsource BP, one of Europe’s largest solar developers, has agreed to build a 20MW project in Kansas in one of its first moves since oil giant BP invested $200 million by acquiring a 43 percent stake in the company last December.

Lightsource will fund and arrange all necessary capital for the project – which will be the largest in Kansas – and will operate it after an expected completion date next summer, the company’s North America chief commercial officer Katherine Ryzhaya told Infrastructure Investor.

The company said it has signed a 25-year power-purchase agreement with the non-profit co-operative Mid-Kansas Electric Company, which serves as a local utility, but would not confirm if the Kansas project is its first in the US to have a PPA.

Lightsource, which manages 2GW in assets and is a leading solar developer in Europe, began establishing a US presence around a year ago, with several projects in various stages of development. In addition to the US, Lightsource is planning to develop a 6GW pipeline of projects in India, the Middle East and Europe.

“We’re combining our scale, our relationships around the world, and expertise in major projects with Lightsource’s expertise in developing solar projects,” BP chief executive Robert Dudley said on the company’s quarterly earnings call in February.

On that call, BP cited higher oil prices and growing production as reasons for its $6.2 billion profit, on an underlying replacement cost basis, but executives made clear its strategy will increasingly focus on clean energy.

“We face this dual challenge of meeting society’s need for more energy, while at the same time working to reduce carbon emissions,” BP deputy chief executive Lamar McKay said on the call. “Our industry is changing faster than I think any of us can remember, certainly in my career. And the energy mix is shifting towards lower-carbon sources.”

BP said it plans for Lightsource to be the solar complement to BP Wind Energy, another portfolio company in its Alternative Energy business.

BP is one of several global oil companies turning to clean energy as the financial picture becomes clearer that fossil fuel investments will not remain profitable in the future and as shareholders demand more environmental accountability.

Others include Norway’s Statoil, which in 2016 purchased a 50 percent stake in a €1.2 billion offshore wind farm under development; and France’s Total, which acquired a 23 percent stake in renewables developer EREN in September.