Everything is bigger in Texas – including solar power. Austin Energy (the municipal utility in Austin, Texas) has recently commissioned a 30-megawatt (MW) photovoltaic (PV) power plant in the village of Webberville, about 20 miles east of Austin. The project is Austin Energy’s first utility-scale solar power plant, and it’s the largest active solar power project in the state (at least for now). It is also the largest solar project in the country to be commissioned by a public power utililty.
The 380-acre solar farm consists of more than 127,000 Trina solar modules mounted on single-axis trackers, which maximize energy production by following the sun over the course of the day. The project is expected to produce more than 61 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) of solar energy in its first year of operation, and more than 1.4 billion kWh over the next 25 years. According to Austin Energy, this is enough energy to power more than 136,000 average U.S. homes (5,000 homes per year), and offset more than 1.6 billion pounds of carbon dioxide emissions.
According to GreenTech Media, the $210 million project was originally developed by Fotowatio Renewable Ventures (FRV), which was sold to SunEdison last year. The project was constructed by RES Americas, which will operate the plant for the first five years. Austin Energy will purchase the system’s output at $.165 per kWh under a 25-year solar power purchase agreement. The utility will use the renewable energy credits to help meet its goal of generating 35 percent of its electricity with renewable energy by 2020.