Southern California Edison may have backed out of its agreement to put a 10-megawatt solar plant at College of the Desert’s West Valley campus in Palm Springs, but it’s still signing contracts with other solar developers to buy electricity from their projects.
8minuteenergy Renewables, a Folsom-based solar developer, announced Monday it has signed a 20-year power purchase agreement (PPA) with Edison for its 20-megawatt Redcrest solar project in Kern County. 8minute is partnering with saferay, a German solar developer with U.S. offices in Palo Alto, for the project. (Obviously, lower case names are in vogue among solar developers these days. Somewhere e.e. cummings is smiling.)
The contract was negotiated through Edison’s Renewable Auction Mechanism, the small-solar program the utility wants to use instead of developing small community-based projects, such as the cancelled COD solar plant. The contract will have to get final approval from the California Public Utilities Commission.
According to the 8minute announcement:
The Redcrest Solar Farm project is a utility-scale solar generation facility sited on 160 acres of low-productivity farmland. Construction is projected to begin in 2014, with the site expected to be operational and delivering renewable energy by mid-2015. This clean solar generation plant will displace the equivalent of approximately 54,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year, which is equal to the amount that roughly 2.2 million trees would displace annually.
It will also generate 50 construction jobs.
Meanwhile, in Imperial County, First Solar of Tempe, the original developer of Desert Sunlight, has acquired the 150-megawatt Solar Gen 2 project. The project has a 25-year power purchase agreement with San Diego Gas & Electric.
The numbers on this one are, predictably, larger than Redcrest.
The photovoltaic (PV) solar plant will generate enough electricity to power more than 60,000 average California homes, displacing more than 115,000 metric tons of CO2 per year (the equivalent of taking 22,000 cars off the road) and saving 93,000 metric tons of water per year.
When the project begins construction, sometime this year, it will create 800 jobs, company officials said.
First Solar developed the 550-megawatt Desert Sunlight project, located near Desert Center and now owned by NextEra Energy of Florida and GE. The only other project it has in development at present is the 300-megawatt Stateline plant in San Bernardino, which has a power purchase agreement with Edison.
Why does Edison seemingly have no problem with buying power from other developers but remain so reluctant to do even small projects of its own? The obvious answer is profits. Developing solar still carries high front-end costs.
But once completed, solar farms produce their energy at hours of the day that correlate with peak customer usage, when the utility can charge customers higher rates, even as the prices they are paying on PPAs continue to fall.