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Peak project

The Mount Signal Solar farm is the first phase of a world leading 800MW PV project, under construction in California. RET looks at the latest developments

Mount Signal Solar Farm
Hot spot: The Mount Signal Solar farm is being built in California’s Imperial County, which borders Mexico and Arizona

Set to lead the way in utility solar developments in the US is an 800MW PV project in California. The USD 636m Mount Signal Solar farm represents the first stage in building what will be the world’s largest solar farm.

The 266MW utility-scale solar farm is being built on 1,963 acres of low-productivity farmland in Imperial County, California. It is the first of three phases of what will approximately be an 800MW-dc (600MW-ac) planned solar PV power project - currently the largest in the world.

Upon completion in early 2014, the power plant will provide clean, renewable solar PV power to about 72,000 households under a 25-year Power Purchase Agreement with San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E).

When complete, the plant will connect with SDG&E’s Imperial Valley substation. Its renewable solar energy will then be transmitted over the utility’s Sunrise Powerlink transmission line. The line was completed in 2011 with a mandate to transport renewable energy from the Imperial Valley to San Diego.

Construction started on the solar farm in November last year and commercial operation is scheduled for early 2014. At its peak, it will bring close to 1,000 construction jobs and many other economic benefits to Imperial County. Tom Buttgenbach, president of 8minutenergy Renewables, says: “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.”

Passion to develop
Californian PV firm 8minutenergy Renewables is developing Mount Signal Solar with its US partner AES Solar. In late February

this year, the two companies marked the transition of ownership of the project and the onset of its construction.

8minutenergy Renewables is one of the leading developers of ground-mounted solar PV projects in the US, with a current portfolio
of over 2,000MW under development and 300MW in Power Purchase Agreements (PPA) recorded within the past 12 months alone. The company says it is “passionate about helping the US develop its renewable energy industry.”

Rapid progression
8minutenergy received approval for the project in April 2012 from the Imperial County Board of Supervisors. AES Solar closed on USD 636m in financing for Mount Signal Solar and began construction in early November the same year. At the time, the company said the rapid progress of the project demonstrated the ability of both 8minutenergy and AES Solar to successfully develop solar PV projects at accelerated timelines.

“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,” says Martin Hermann, chief executive officer of 8minutenergy Renewables.