Big Solar, From Canada To The California Desert

Wednesday brought word that First Solar would install 250-megawatts worth of solar PV at NextEra Energy Resources’ McCoy Solar Energy Project out in the California desert. But giant power plants in California are a dime a dozen – the more interesting solar energy announcement on the day might have been that construction had started on a 100 MW plant in Canada.

This is the Grand Renewable Solar project, in Haldimand County, Ontario, about 60 miles west of Buffalo, N.Y., on the north shore of Lake Erie. When completed it will be Canada’s largest photovoltaic plant, nudging aside the 80-MW Sarnia Solar Project, which actually was the world’s largest PV plant when it opened back in September 2010, but has been based by Agua Caliente in Arizona, among others.

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Desert Sunlight solar project under construction (image from First Solar YouTube video)

As is often the case with such big projects, the developers at Haldimand are emphasizing the job-creating benefits it will bring, but a couple of things make Haldimand perhaps a bit more a winner on the jobs front than most.

First is the fact that the project will use 440,000 Canadian Solar modules as well as voltage power stations made in London, Ontario – that’s as outlined in an agreement between Samsung and its partners and the Ontario government.

There’s another interesting twist to this Samsung Renewable Energy project, too: A giant wind project is going up with it.

In September, Samsung and Pattern Energy said they had wrapped up financing on the accompanying Grand Renewable Wind project, which will consist of 67 Siemens 2.3-MW wind turbines – made in Ontario. It’s all part of a vast Samsung plan to build 1,369 MW of renewable capacity in Ontario.

As for the California project, it’s in the same Riverside County neck of the woods (well, desert) as the 550-MW Desert Sunlight Solar Farm, another NextEra undertaking. At McCoy [PDF], First Solar said it will do its usual thing of providing  engineering, procurement and construction services, using First Solar’s cadmium telluride (CdTe) photovoltaic thin-film modules. The project was in the news earlier this year when Gov. Jerry Brown used his power to fast-track it past environmental objections — a move that raised objections among those concerned that big solar is running roughshod over fragile desert habitats.

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.

  • Hooray for Jerry Brown. Environmentalists should focus their energies on coal plants poisoning our children.

    I remember the fight to save Turtles when Ivanpah went up. There is less capacity there now because Sierra Club (I’m a member), and others fought the solar plant.
    Shame on ‘environmentalists’ that refuse to see the big picture. We volunteered to move turtles prior to construction. We could move them back after, they’d probably prefer some shade. If the entire population was wiped out by the plant, the solar plant would still be an overall benefit to the planet. Enough of the short sighted actions by environmental extremists and those posing as others posing as more sincere environmental conservationists.

  • windy3Nimby

    Haldimand is not buying what is being spun about the “Grand” Renewable projects.
    Highway blockade # 402 (Ontario) taking place this Saturday October 19th, will have good representation from residents of Haldimand. Residents who have had these projects forced on their communities against their will. Stop by and speak to those whose consents have not been given to this invasion of our land.