The 48 MW Sempra Copper Mountain solar facility, located in Boulder City, Nev., about 40 miles southeast of Las Vegas, went on-line last week, making it the largest PV plant in the U.S. It more than doubles the capacity of the previously largest U.S. plant in Florida.
Florida Power and Light’s 20 MW DeSoto solar/photovoltaics power plant in Arcadia, FL – previously the largest PV plant in the U.S. — was eclipsed last week by the 48 MW Sempra Copper Mountain solar facility, located in Boulder City, Nev., about 40 miles southeast of Las Vegas. The new facility is now generating enough emission-free electricity to power about 14,000 average homes.
This moves the U.S. into the “top five” when it comes to large PV power plants; only Canada, Italy, Germany and Spain have bigger plants, according PV Power Plants 2010, which ranks the top 50 facilities. Construction at the 380-acre desert site began in January of 2010. About 350 construction workers at peak installed nearly 775,000 thin-film photovoltaic solar panels, which convert sunlight directly into electricity. First Solar of Tempe, Ariz., supplied the solar panels and served as the engineering, procurement and construction contractor.
The Copper Mountain facility was built by Sempra Generation, a subsidiary of Sempra Energy (NYSE: SRE). “Completing Copper Mountain Solar is a major accomplishment. It demonstrates that large-scale solar can be developed at a rapid pace to help this country meet its clean energy needs, and further solidifies our position as one of the leading solar developers in the U.S.,” said Jeffrey W. Martin, president and chief executive officer of Sempra Generation. “We have a focused plan aimed at developing more than 1,000 MW of solar projects in California, Arizona and Nevada that will provide solid returns well into the future.”
The power from Copper Mountain Solar and Sempra Generation’s adjacent 10-MW El Dorado Solar plant has been sold to Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) under separate 20-year contracts. California utilities are required to procure 20 percent of their energy supply from alternative sources by the end of 2010, increasing to 33 percent by 2020.