Desert Sunlight Solar Farm, Riverside County, California, United States of America
Desert Sunlight Solar Farm is a 550MW photovoltaic (PV) solar power project being built across 4,100 acres land in the Chuckwalla Valley. It is being developed by NextEra Energy Resources and GE Financial Services. The site is located in the east of Riverside County of California. The land is managed by the US Bureau of Land Management (BLM).
The project witnessed the start of construction in September 2011 and is expected to be commercially operational by 2015.
It will generate enough clean energy to serve around 160,000 California homes and will reduce 735,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually. It is expected to support the state to achieve 33% of power from renewable resources by 2020.
Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) Company will purchase the power generated in the first phase while Southern California Edison will purchase the power generated in the second phase, under two separate long-term power purchase agreements (PPA).
Solar farm composition and development phases
Desert Sunlight requires approximately 4,410 acres of land. The solar farm will require 4,090 acres of land.
The transmission infrastructure will be built across 230 acres and the new Red Bluff substation will be built on a 90 acre site. The substation will be owned and operated by Southern California Edison.
The solar farm will employ 8.8 million cadmium telluride thin-film photovoltaic (PV) modules. The PV modules will be installed at less than six feet height above the ground causing low visual impact. The project will use around 70,000t of American steel.
The solar farm project is being developed in two phases. The first phase will have an installed capacity of 300MW and the second phase will have a 250MW capacity, which will result in a total generating capacity of 550MW.
Construction approval and EPC contract
Southern California Edison (SCE) and Stirling Energy Systems(SES) are building a huge 1,800ha (4,500ac) solar power generating station in Southern California.
The project got final approval from the Department of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar in August 2011 and construction was started immediately.
The construction is about ten percent complete as of mid-2012. The installation of modules has started and around 5,000 PV modules have been installed as of July 2012. The project works yet to be completed are marking of roads, preservation of ponds and installation of posts, tilts and cabling.
First Solar was awarded an engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contract for the construction of the Desert Sunlight solar project.
Under the EPC contract, First Solar will provide the thin-film photovoltaic (PV) modules and EPC services. The company will operate and maintain the solar farm for 25 years under a separate agreement.
First Solar will manufacture the PV modules at its Mesa facility. The overall contract execution requires around 600 people.
Desert Sunlight project network connection
The Desert Sunlight solar farm will be connected to the Red Bluff Substation by a 230kV interconnection transmission line. The Red Bluff substation will supply the output power to the national grid through Southern California Edison's Devers-Palo Verde 1 transmission line.
The US Department of Energy approved $1.88bn in partial loan guarantees for the project in September 2011.
Local environmental impact in Riverside County
The Interior's Bureau of Land Management (BLM) along with the National Park Services and stake holders have closely observed the project in order to reduce the proposed land used for the solar farm. The project was environmentally analysed and reviewed. The final environmental review report was released on 15 April 2011.
The BLM was concerned about desert tortoise habitat and other wildlife species that would be affected due to the project. The environmental impact study has proposed plans for the translocation of the tortoises and compensating the habitants that will be affected by the project.