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Agua Caliente solar plant hits new milestone
The Agua Caliente Solar Plant under construction near Dateland has hit a new milestone, achieving a peak generating capacity of 250 megawatts of power.
The project, which is under construction by First Solar Inc., is currently the world's largest operating photovoltaic power plant and will have a generating capacity of 290 MW when completed.
Initial construction work at the Agua Caliente site began in the fall of 2010 and solar module installation began in June 2011. The project began commercial operation just seven months later when it began generating 30 MW in January. It surpassed 100 MW of gridâ€connected power this spring and 200 MW this summer. Construction of the project is expected to be completed on schedule in 2014.
The record-setting project has successfully met all of its contractual milestones to date and exceeded targets for the speed, quality and safety of the construction process.
With the project 85 percent complete, First Solar has adjusted the construction schedule to a slower pace in line with future contractual milestones and the scheduled completion date. With the adjustments, First Solar will be able to better meet increased demand for panels for the remainder of the year among its other projects.
“The Agua Caliente project exemplifies how utility-grade solar PV power can be rapidly deployed in a phased approach and seamlessly integrated into the electrical grid,” said Jim Tyler, vice president of development engineering in First Solar's Engineering, Procurement and Construction Group. “We are extremely proud to set a new benchmark for the industry with Agua Caliente, which incorporates the knowledge gained over years of experience designing, building and operating utility-scale solar projects for leading utilities and energy providers.”
First Solar designed and is constructing the project using its advanced thinâ€film photovoltaic modules and will operate and maintain the facility for owners NRG Energy and MidAmerican Solar. During construction, the project employs a daily average of 400 to 450 workers.
Pacific Gas and Electric Company has a 25-year agreement to purchase the solar plant's electrical output. When it is fully operational, the plant is expected to general enough power for 100,000 homes and offset about 5.5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide over 25 years, the equivalent of taking more than 40,000 cars off the road annually, according to First Solar.
The Agua Caliente project is being financed with support from a loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Energy's Loan Programs Office.