|First Solar employees work on the last field of solar panels in the desert Thursday at the Tenaska |
Solar Project. — Peggy Peattie / /UT San Diego
A solar mega-project spanning nearly 1,000 acres in the Imperial Valley desert has begun full commercial operations, delivering electricity to utility customers in the San Diego area.
Omaha, Neb.-based Tenaska announced the completion of its Imperial Solar Energy Center South power plant near El Centro, effective Nov. 1. At full tilt, the solar farm can power approximately 44,000 California homes. It consists of nearly 2 million solar panels. Construction began in December 2011.
Customers of San Diego Gas & Electric will purchase the plant's power under a 25-year contract. Terms of the agreement will not be available for at least three years, under provisions designed to ensure competitive bidding.
Tempe, Ariz.-based First Solar supplied the completed project's photovoltaic solar panels, and acted as the construction contractor.
A second, slightly larger Tenaska solar project, the Imperial Solar Energy Center West, is scheduled to break ground in early 2014 on land in the Imperial Valley straddling Interstate 8.
The Tenaska projects are among a slate of large-scale renewable energy power plants under development in the sun-drenched Imperial Valley. California utilities are pushing to comply with a state mandate to provide 33 percent of their electricity from renewable sources such as solar, wind, geothermal and recycled-wood burning plants.