The largest photovoltaic (PV) power plant in the United States was completed last week, as Arizona-based First Solar finished building the Copper Mountain Solar Facility in Boulder City, Nevada, 40 miles east of Las Vegas.
The plant was constructed on behalf of Sempra Generation — a SanDiego, California power provider to wholesale electricity markets — aspart of Sempra’s plan to install over 1,000 megawatts (MW) of solarcapacity in California, Arizona and Nevada combined. In order to reachthat goal, Sempra already has plans to build a 600-MW PV plant inArizona and a 200-MW PV facility in Ken County, California.
Construction of the Copper Mountain Plant began in January of thisyear, just one month after Sempra received approval to build the plantfrom California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC). It required 350workers to complete in one year.
All told, the 380-acre, 48-MW power plant consists of approximately775,000 PV panels and is expected to produce enough energy to power14,000 average American homes each year. Combined with Sempra’s adjacent 10-MW El Dorado solar plant, completed just last year, the two solarfacilities will be using over 1 million PV panels to harness the sun’senergy.
Power generated by both plants will be sold to Pacific Gas &Electric (PG&E), one of California’s three major investor ownedutilities (IOU’s), through a pair of 20-year power purchasing agreements (PPA’s). PG&E signed the PPA to buy power from the Copper Facilityback in July 2009. The utility signed a separate 20-year PPA to purchase the El Dorado power in 2008.
Both plants will play a major role in California’s attempt to meetthe statewide renewable energy requirement of 20 percent of the state’senergy coming from renewable sources by the end of 2010 and 33 percentfrom renewable sources by 2030.
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