Solar Power From Nevada Set For California

One day last fall, Southern California Edison (SCE) announced 20 deals for nearly 250 megawatts (MW) of power. Now it’s getting that much in one fell swoop.

The utility announced a 250-MW power purchase agreement with First Solar for electricity expected to come from the Silver State South Solar Project in the Mojave Desert, near Primm, Nev. There is a speculative tinge to this deal; while the Silver State North project is approved – it was, in fact, the first utility-scale solar project on Nevada public lands to gain approval – the Bureau of Land Management website says “the Silver State South Solar Project is undergoing additional environmental analysis, and the BLM should issue a decision in 2012.”

photovoltaic solar, First Solar, Silver State South

image via First Solar

The Silver State projects began under NextLight Renewable Power, then came to First Solar last year when the company acquired NextLight. First Solar plans a ground-mounted photovoltaic system that will connect with SCE’s Eldorado-Ivanpah 220-kilovolt transmission line. It anticipates producing some electricity from the plant in 2014 and to have it fully operational by May 2017.

SCE has been on a solar power buying spree lately. In addition to this new deal and the deals it announced in November, just last month it announced power purchase agreements totaling 831 MW. In 2009, the utility delivered 13.6 billion kilowatt hours of renewable power to its customers, comprising about 17 percent of its total portfolio. California law required the major utilities in the state to reach 20 percent by 2010 – although extensions to 2013 have been granted – and boosts that target to 33 percent by 2020. State figures put SCE at 17.4 percent in 2009, with Pacific Gas & Electric at 14.4 percent and San Diego Gas & Electric at 10.5 percent.

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.