Tenaska Imperial Solar Energy Center South Begins Commercial Operation

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Tenaska Imperial Solar Energy Center South
Tenaska Imperial Solar Energy Center South is now online and producing enough power for 44,000 California homes.
Photo courtesy of Tenaska

The 130-megawatt Tenaska Imperial Solar Energy Center South, a new solar photovoltaic electric generating station near El Centro in Southern California, began commercial operation this month under its 25-year power purchase agreement with San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E).

As one of the largest commercially financed solar projects in the U.S., Tenaska Imperial South was the first utility-scale solar project to begin construction in California’s Imperial Valley. It was also the first large-scale solar project in the Valley to connect to SDG&E’s Sunrise Powerlink, the new 117-mile, 500-kilovolt transmission line built to facilitate the development, generation, and transmission of renewable energy in the Imperial Valley.

“Tenaska’s mix of innovation, commitment to customer service, risk management and 26 years of experience developing power plants has brought us to another commercial operation date ahead of schedule and within budget — just the way we and our customers like it,” said Jerry Crouse, vice chairman and CEO of Omaha, Nebraska-based Tenaska. “SDG&E is a very strong utility with the drive to serve its customers with clean, renewable energy for decades to come, and we look forward to continuing to expand our relationship with them.”

Tenaska Imperial South is able to generate enough electricity to power approximately 44,000 California homes. It consists of nearly 2 million solar panels and was built on a 946-acre site in the southern part of Imperial County. Construction began in December 2011.

During construction, Tenaska Imperial South created hundreds of jobs and paid more than $17.4 million in sales taxes, including more than $3 million in local sales taxes. Tenaska and its contractor, a subsidiary of First Solar, Inc., worked to maximize hiring of qualified local workers. Of the more than 500 construction workers hired to perform work at the site, approximately 70 percent were from communities in Imperial County. First Solar Electric (California), LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of First Solar, Inc., is also operating the facility under a contract with Tenaska.

“The Tenaska Imperial Solar Energy Center South is exactly the type of project the Sunrise Powerlink was designed to accommodate,” said Jim Avery, senior vice president of power supply at SDG&E. “The energy produced at this solar plant, combined with the renewable solar and wind energy produced at other SDG&E-contracted facilities in Imperial Valley, is providing our customers with more clean power as well as helping the state achieve higher renewable goals.”

More To Come

In addition to Tenaska Imperial South, SDG&E has contracted with Tenaska for the energy produced at a second Imperial Valley solar project, Tenaska Imperial Solar Energy Center West, also near El Centro. It will produce up to 150 MW of electricity under a 25-year power purchase agreement, with initial commercial operation scheduled for 2015. When operating at peak times, enough electricity will be produced to meet the needs of approximately 55,000 California homes. Power from Tenaska Imperial West will be delivered to SDG&E via the Sunrise Powerlink. Construction of Tenaska Imperial West is expected to begin in early 2014.

Both Tenaska Imperial South and Tenaska Imperial West were developed by Tenaska Solar Ventures (TSV), an affiliate of Tenaska focused on developing solar energy projects in North America. TSV continues to develop two additional projects in the Imperial Valley.

Supporting California’s Climate Goals

California law requires utilities to secure 33 percent of their power from renewable energy resources and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. The state’s renewable portfolio standards law, combined with the added access to transmission infrastructure, created a strong market for large-scale solar projects like Tenaska Imperial South. Currently, approximately 23 percent of the energy SDG&E provides customers comes from renewable sources, up from one percent in 2002.

An affiliate of Tenaska is the majority owner of Tenaska Imperial South. Prudential Capital Group is acquiring a minority interest, subject to regulatory approvals. Tenaska affiliates will manage the project.

Since 1987, when Tenaska was founded, the company and its affiliates have developed and constructed more than 9,000 MW of natural gas-fueled and renewable electric generating facilities. The company manages the operations of approximately 11,000 MW of electricity produced by 15 power plants across the nation.

Read Large-Scale Solar Power Systems: Construction and Economics from Amazon.

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