The new king in solar photovoltaic (PV) facilities is located on 2,400 acres of land between Phoenix and Yuma, Ariz. Called Agua Caliente, it is now operational as the world’s largest PV solar facility at 290 megawatts (MW).
Under a 25-year power purchase agreement, the solar plant developers, NRG Solar and MidAmerican Renewables will sell power to Pacific Gas & Electric Co. At peak capacity, the plant will generate enough energy to power 230,000 homes.
NRG was also involved in another record-setting solar project earlier his year, the launch of Ivanpah, the world’s largest concentrating solar-thermal power plant located in California’s Mojave Desert.
“Proving that we can build both the world’s largest solar-thermal and now the world’s largest solar photovoltaic facilities advance NRG’s mission to reshape the energy landscape that is incredibly beneficial to both the economy and in how we produce and consume energy,” said Tom Doyle, president of NRG Solar.
First Solar designed and constructed the Agua Caliente project using advanced thin-film PV modules, and it will operate and maintain the facility for NRG and MidAmerican.
Peter W. Davidson, executive director of the Loan Programs Office (LPO) at the U.S. Department of Energy, said the energy companies received a $967 million loan guarantee for Agua Caliente.
“Despite the strong and consistent public demand for greater development of solar energy, these achievements seemed more aspirational than attainable in 2009, given the state of financial markets at the time,” Davidson wrote in a blog post. “However, with the help of loan guarantees, these projects were able to move forward.
“We aren’t done yet. By the end of next year, we expect all five solar PV plants in our portfolio to be completed with a combined capacity of 1,510 MW—enough to power more than a quarter-million average American homes,” Davidson said.
Agua Caliente is the largest of 10 operational utility-scale solar PV facilities in three states that NRG has an ownership interest in. By this time next year, it may no longer be the largest PV plant, as work continues on another MidAmerican project, the 550-MW Topaz Solar Farm in San Luis Obispo County, Calif.
“In 2012, our company made a commitment to invest in its first utility-scale solar project to foster economic development while demonstrating our commitment to the environment,” said Richard Weech, chief financial officer of MidAmerican Renewables. “It is exciting to see this project become fully operational and begin to realize the full benefit of emissions savings with the clean energy generated at Agua Caliente.”