The 2.7GW Westlands Solar Park, one of the world’s largest solar power plants, is being developed in the San Joaquin Valley in California, US.
CIM Group in collaboration with Westside Holdings is developing the solar park in phases. The environmental impact assessment for the project was completed. Several environmental and animal protection groups, including Defenders of Wildlife, Sierra Club, National Resources Defence Council and the Centre for Biological Diversity, extended their support to the project.
The construction of the first phase of the project began in March 2020 and is expected to start power generation in late 2021. Other phases are planned to be operational between 2023 and 2024.
The solar park will provide clean energy to more than 750,000 households, offsetting over 3.2 million tonnes of CO₂ from the atmosphere annually. It will create more than 800 jobs at the peak of construction. The project will also contribute to the economic development of the communities in the Central Valley of California.
Westlands Solar Park location
The solar park will be located across 20,000 acres of land in western Fresno and Kings counties in California.
The project site lies in the Competitive Renewable Energy Zone (CREZ) identified through the Renewable Energy Transmission Initiative (RETI) process and supported by the California Energy Commission (CEC).
Westlands Solar Park details
The Westlands Solar Park’s master plan area will house 12 solar photovoltaic generating facilities to be developed in phases over 12 years.
The park will feature photovoltaic solar arrays, as well as associated equipment and infrastructure. The solar arrays will be installed on steel posts at a height of 8ft to 10ft above the ground with a maximum angle of tilt. The solar panels will be made of dark non-reflective materials to reduce the glint and glare potential.
The development of the project includes repurposing of farmlands contaminated with selenium and impaired due to sewage water.
Westlands Solar Park phases
The first phase of the development called Westlands Aquamarine is a 250MW solar photovoltaic project. The 50MW electricity generated from the first phase will be purchased by Valley Clean Energy Alliance, a local electricity provider, for supplying to Davis and Woodland cities and unincorporated portions of Yolo County.
The remaining phases of the Westlands solar park are referred to as Westlands Solar Blue, Westlands Almond, Westlands Grape and Westlands Pomegranate with the capacity of 250MW each, as well as 150MW Westside Chestnut.
Power transmission and distribution
The solar park project involves the development of two high-voltage transmission corridors to transmit electricity from the solar park to the electric grid.
The first transmission corridor will be the WSP-South to Gates Gen-Tie Corridor. It will be a 230kV transmission corridor running parallel to the Nevada-Jayne Avenue roadway. Starting from the substation on the Nevada Avenue in the southern part of the solar park, the line will run westbound for 18.5km to the Gates substation.
The second corridor will be the 230kV WSP-North to Gates Gen-Tie Corridor. The 18.5km-long line will run southward parallel to the existing 230kV Henrietta-Gates transmission line from the planned substation in the northern side of the solar park to the Gates substation.
The substation will further distribute power to the state electrical grid.
Details of the pilot project for Westlands Solar Park development
A pilot project was led by Westside to develop a 2MW solar power plant in Lemoore, within western Fresno and Kings counties in May 2016. It was conducted to determine the feasibility of the large-scale solar park.
The pilot plant produces approximately 4,500MWh electricity a year, which is purchased by the Anaheim Public Utilities under a 25-year power purchase agreement (PPA). The plant produces sufficient electricity to power approximately 600 homes in Anaheim. The California Independent System Operator (CAISO) is responsible for the transmission of power generated by the plant.
The power station provides approximately 0.5% of the total state-mandated 33% Renewable Portfolio Standard goal, which is planned to be achieved by the Public Utilities Department.