Friday, August 10, 2012

Agua Caliente Solar Plant Hits Milestone

The Agua Caliente solar plant under construction near Dateland is now putting out more than 200 megawatts of power.

The 2,400-acre facility is expected to send 290 megawatts from 5 million panels to the electric grid when it is complete in 2014. It has been under construction since 2010 and is now more than two-thirds done. Its operator, First Solar, announced the milestone this week.

“First Solar is very proud of the rapid progress we are making at Agua Caliente,” stated Jim Lamon, First Solar senior vice president for engineering, procurement and construction and operations and maintenance, in a news release. “We have achieved record-setting installation velocities, while maintaining our excellent safety record and achieving the highest quality in the industry. It is a pleasure to be a part of moving utility scale solar to its rightful place as a dependable and cost-effective power generation source for U.S. and international utilities.”

Agua Caliente is a public-private partnership: It is owned by the New Jersey-based NRG Energy and Phoenix-based MidAmerican Solar, and designed, operated and being built by First Solar out of Tempe. The project is being financed with a $967 million loan guarantee – essentially, a co-sign – from the U.S. Department of Energy's Loan Programs Office. California's Pacific Gas & Electric company has a long-term purchase agreement for the electricity generated at the plant.

While it is under construction, the project employs a daily average of 400 to 450 workers. When it is fully operational, it is expected to generate enough power for 100,000 homes and offset about 5.5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide over 25 years, equivalent to taking more than 40,000 cars off the road annually, according to First Solar.

“This is an incredible milestone for the Agua Caliente project and solar energy sector,” stated Paul Caudill, president of MidAmerican Solar. “The working relationships we have with NRG Energy, First Solar and Pacific Gas & Electric allow for the construction process to continue in a safe and efficient manner. We are pleased with the progress and look forward to the project's completion.”


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