Would you like that solar project super-sized?


 The 64-MW Nevada Solar One power plant, owned by Acciona SA and Solargenix Energy LLC, which has reigned for many years as the largest solar facility in the United States, may not hold that distinction for much longer. It seems that nearly every announced solar project is a big deal. Every other proclamation touts a solar facility that, when completed, will be among the largest in the county, state or country.


One such super-sized solar project: Vidler Water Co. Inc.’s Fish Springs Farms in Washoe County, Nev., which will be in the range of 25 MW to 100 MW or more. The project received approval Jan. 5 from the Washoe County Planning Commission. Vidler, a private water resource company, is negotiating a power purchase agreement with local utility NV Energy Inc., according to Donald Pattalock, the company’s vice president and chief geologist. The next step is a conformance review by the county Planning Commission in February.

Menlo Park, Calif.-headquartered Signet Solar is a partner in the project and will manufacture its thin-film solar panels. Private equity group Coastal Range Solar, which works closely with Signet Solar, also is investing in the project, Pattalock said. Construction of the first phase of the project may begin as early as the third quarter of this year and is estimated to cost $75 million. The plan is to build the plant in 5-MW increments and have as much as 25 MW of capacity online by the fourth quarter of 2011, Pattalock said.

The Fish Springs Farms project seems like a small fish compared to the whoppers being proposed in California, where Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger at the end of December 2009 released a list of 244 renewable energy project proposals that included solar projects that would be deemed mammoth even by fossil-fuel generation standards:

* Chevron Corp.’s and Solar Millennium LLC’s 1,000-MW Blythe solar thermal trough project in Riverside County.

* Tessera Solar North America Inc.’s 850-MW Calico Solar thermal project in San Bernardino County, formerly known as the SES Solar One project.

* Tessera Solar’s 750-MW Imperial Valley Solar Project in Imperial County.

* First Solar Inc.’s 550-MW Desert Sunlight Project solar PV project in Riverside County.

Solar efforts in the East

Even solar projects on the East Coast are growing in size, although they are not nearly as expansive as those in the West. Last month, the Long Island Power Authority board of trustees signed off on power purchase agreements with BP plc unit BP Solar International Inc. and enXco Inc. subsidiary enXco Development Corp., who are creating New York’s largest solar power source. The projects will be built on Long Island, N.Y., and generate a total of 50 MW. In New Jersey, Public Service Enterprise Group Inc. announced Jan. 6 that it has selected four sites and developers for more than $50 million in investments in 12 MW of grid-connected solar energy. The four ground-mounted solar farms would be among the largest to be developed in the state.

Tom Cheyney, a 20-year veteran of semiconductor, advanced micro/nanoelectronics, and solar manufacturing trade journalism, blogged about this a few months ago and offers his take on how all these yet-to-built projects can claim to be one of the biggest. He says this may not be a good thing. The full link is below:

The curse of bigness: Parade of proposed PV projects claim to be the largest before they’re built


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Jennifer Zajac has covered the U.S. electric power sector for more than eight years and was founder/editor of SNL Energy's Renewable Energy Week, a newsletter devoted to the utility renewable energy market in North America. Currently, she covers EPA policies that impact the power industry and is working on a masters' degree in Global Energy Management at the University of Colorado-Denver.

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