Almost a year after San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) completed and energized the 117-mile Sunrise Powerlink, the transmission line is getting its first taste of the sun, thanks to the completion of Tenaska’s first solar project. The 130 megawatt Tenaska Imperial Solar Energy Center South went live yesterday (May 29).
“Today we celebrated delivering on our promise to send clean renewable energy to Californians,” said Bob Ramaekers, vice president of development, Tenaska. “Reaching this milestone at our inaugural solar project is confirmation that Tenaska’s 26 years of expertise in energy project development and construction provide a strong foundation for the successful development of utility-scale solar.”
The transmission line is likely the first major one dedicated purely to renewables and will eventually carry about 1,000 megawatts of renewable power from solar, wind and geothermal resources to SDG&E customers. Soon the line, which stretches from the sparsely populated sun-rich Imperial Valley to the highly populated San Diego area, could be carrying solar power from Teneska’s second project in the region, the Tenaska Imperial Solar Energy Center West, as well as LS Power’s Centinela Solar Energy I and II facilities.
“The Sunrise Powerlink is one of the largest and most significant projects in the history of San Diego Gas & Electric and we are thrilled that Tenaska is delivering its first energy from its Tenaska Imperial Solar Energy Center South project to our infrastructure,” said Jim Avery, senior vice president of power supply, SDG&E.
The recently energized array uses First Solar’s modules and was developed and built by First Solar. Tenaska said the project was the first utility-scale solar project to begin construction in the Imperial Valley. It began construction on the project in October 2012 and was completed in just over a half year.
A few short years ago, it would have taken a year or more to complete construction on a project a third the size of this project. Now companies like First Solar and SunPower are installing hundreds of megawatts within a year and installing multiple projects that size simultaneously.
Looking ahead, Tenaska already has two more solar projects in the works for the valley. Tenaska Imperial Solar Energy Center West will be, at up to 150 megawatts, the world’s largest concentrated photovoltaic project and will use Soitec’s Concentrix CPV units. Currently the largest project is Amonix’ 30 megawatt Alamosa Solar Generating Plant in Alamosa Springs, CO. The French company will also produce the devices at a manufacturing facility near San Diego under a partnership with SDG&E. It also purchased the 160 megawatt Silverleaf Solar Energy Center project from Agile Energy last year. Some details regarding that project are still being worked out, however.