8minutenergy Renewables breaks ground on first phase of 800MW PV project

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Utility-scale PV developer 8minutenergy Renewables has begun work on a 266MW solar farm in Imperial Country, California, after securing US$636 million in project financing.

The 266MW DC (200MW AC) Mount Signal solar farm represents the first of three phases of a larger 800MW DC (600MW AC) project, which is said to be one of the largest PV projects in the world.

Financing for the project was provided by the company’s joint development partner AES Solar and is structured in two tranches.

The first was a US$416 million long-term institutional tranche led by Morgan Stanley, Citigroup Global Markets, Rabo Securities USA and DNB Markets. The second tranche came in the form of a US$220 million cash grant loan provided by Morgan Stanley Senior Funding and Citibank. Rabobank International and DNB Bank also provided related letters of credit as part of the project financing.

Mount Solar is being constructed on 785 hectares of low-productivity farmland in the Californian desert and is supported by several environmental groups including Sierra Club, Audubon California, Defenders of Wildlife and the Natural Resources Defense Council. The plant is expected to become operational in early 2014. 

The Mount Signal solar farm is estimated to have an annual production capacity of approximately 500 million kWh of electricity which is said to be enough to power 65,000 households. Electricity generated from the plant will be sold to San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) under a 25-year power purchase agreement.

The solar farm will connect with SDG&E's Imperial Valley substation and its solar energy will be transmitted through the utility's Sunrise Powerlink transmission line.  The line was completed earlier this year with a mandate to transport renewable energy from the Imperial Valley to San Diego.

“We are thrilled to see the initial phase of this eventual 800MW solar project, and the first of our many solar PV projects under development, begin construction,” said Martin Hermann, Chief Executive Officer of 8minutenergy Renewables. “Mount Signal Solar will begin creating jobs next month, with an emphasis on hiring locally, and peak at nearly 1,000 jobs over the construction period. This is good news for the people of Imperial County, which currently has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country.”

“The construction of Mount Signal Solar will share the benefits of the energy boom in the region directly with the people of Imperial County through new jobs and other economic benefits,” said Tom Buttgenbach, President of 8minutenergy Renewables. “We are proud of working closely with key environmental groups to mitigate biological impacts and advance this solar project.  We appreciate the role local support has played in developing this project, as well as that of our partner, AES Solar. We look forward to seeing the completion of construction and to the transmission of clean renewable solar power to help SDG&E and the state of California meet its 33% RPS mandate.”

8minutenergy Renewables has more than 2,000MW of PV projects currently under development in California. The region has become a PV hot spot in the US especially for large-scale development. Such developments include the 550MW Desert Sunlight solar farm and the 250MW California Valley Solar Ranch (CVSR).

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