Fluor says bigger projects to come as final phase of Centinela gets underway

  • Centinela will be connected to the Sunrise Powerlink, here under construction.
    Centinela will be connected to the Sunrise Powerlink, here under construction. Image: SDG&E.

EPC Fluor has announced that it will break ground in the next couple of weeks on the remaining 45MW of the 170MW Centinela Solar Energy Facility in southern California that will be hooked up to the controversial Sunrise Powerlink transmission line from 2014.

LS Power Group, a power generation and transmission company, contracted Fluor under an engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) agreement, and began the first phase of construction in December 2012. Panels will be supplied by Yingli, the company's largest deal. San Diego Gas & Electric will be the offtakers under a 20-year power purchase agreement but the cost of the project is undisclosed.

The power engineering company is currently doing the engineering, procurement and some construction support for NextEra's 250MW solar thermal project in Blythe and is also halfway through building the 125MW Arlington Valley solar project in Arizona, also for LS Power.

The Centinela project is Flour's largest publicly announced PV project, but Brad Friesen, Vice President of renewables and alternative energy said that there are bigger unannounced PV projects in the pipeline.

"Soon after we dedicated a business line for solar in 2009, we saw the price of PV panels dropping dramatically the price of silicon dropping dramatically so we tailored our value proposition for the PV market," he said. "We see the PV segment of solar growing much faster than solar thermal right now. In fact we have over a $1billion in backlog just in PV plants alone in the US."

The Centinela project is located on approximately 2,100 acres 90 miles east of San Diego and will be one of the first projects to hook up to a controversial transmission line. Sunrise Powerlink has been built by San Diego Gas & Electric to carry clean electricity from utility-scale projects to help meet its Renewable Portfolio Standard of 33% renewables by 2020.

The line was energised in June last year and is estimated to have cost $1.9 billion with a $1.4 billion return on investment to SDG&E.

"Economics are not necessarily driving this market but government policies and state RPS standards are what is driving this market," said Friesen. "If that continues we will see some runway for the PV business in the US. We're hedging our bets a little bit and watching what happens in other countries such as South Africa and South America - and potentially the Middle East could be a huge market. Long term, the international solar market is going to be pretty robust.

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