First Solar finishes 10-MW thin-film PV power plant for Sempra, PG&E to buy electricity

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First Solar has completed its first 10-MW ground-mounted photovoltaic power plant for Sempra Generation near Boulder City, NV, a project said to be the largest thin-film solar power plant in North America. Under the terms of a 20-year power purchase agreement with the El Dorado Energy subsidiary of Sempra, Pacific Gas and Electric will buy the solar-generated electricity produced by the plant, with first power deliveries expected by Jan. 1.

The project was developed by Sempra Generation, which will own and operate the PV power station (located on 80 acres next to the utility’s existing 480-MW natural gas-fired plant), while First Solar served as the engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) contractor for the plant and will provide monitoring and maintenance services over its lifetime.

The fixed ground-mount system, which was started in July and built in less than six months, features more than 167,000 modules manufactured at First Solar’s production facility in Perrysburg, OH. PG&E says the plant will be capable of generating up to 23.2 GW-hours of renewable energy annually.

Until the end of 2008, the newly commissioned El Dorado plant will sell its power to the market, according to Sempra spokesman Art Larson, with PG&E receiving the total energy output of the facility starting the beginning of 2009.

The 10 MW installation is the first part of what could become an even larger PV power plant at the site. “We want to expand the existing facility to 60 MW,” Larson told PV Tech. Sempra hopes to launch that expansion project next year, although no decisions have been made on which module supplier or construction firm would be awarded the contracts, he added.

Executives from First Solar and Sempra lauded the opening of the plant.

“The build-out of this 10-MW solar power plant from start to finish in less than six months marks the successful completion of our first utility-scale EPC project,” stated John Carrington, First Solar executive VP of marketing and business development. “We applaud Sempra’s commitment to expand their renewable energy portfolio.”

“This is a significant step in the development and deployment of renewable solar power,” said Michael W. Allman, president/CEO of Sempra Generation. “The size and scope of this new solar generation facility clearly demonstrates that we can build projects on a scale that helps utilities meet their renewable energy goals.”

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