The largest solar energy plant in the U.S. – for the moment anyhow – is now “officially” open. The Copper Mountain Solar Project started cranking out power just shy of a year ago then, in Decemeber, we learned that it was officially completed. More recently, the massive solar complex earned the title of “Solar Project of the Year” and now, finally, it has been officially dedicated. The ceremony took place with Nevada public officials and Sempra Generation execs in attendance at the prize-winning site in Boulder, Nevada, about 40 miles southeast of Las Vegas.
The Copper Mountain Solar Project, which some day will be dwarfed by projects being built in California, sits adjacent to owner/operator Sempra Generation’s 10-MW El Dorado Solar installation. Construction on the site began in January 2010 and, at its peak, employed about 350 workers who installed 775,000 solar panels across 380 acres of Nevada desert. Since the site was completed in late 2010 it has been generating 48 megawatts of renewable electricity-enough to power about 14,000 average homes, according to Sempra.
The beneficiaries of the landmark solar facility? That would be Californians. The power from both El Dorado and Copper Mountain has been sold to Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) under separate 20-year contracts.
Copper Mountain’s notoriety among Sempra, however well-deserved, may end up short lived. The company intends to commence construction of a new facility outside of Phoenix, Arizona later this year. The first phase of that project, called the Mesquite Solar complex, will bring 150 MW online and ultimately grow to around 700 MW of total output.