Sempra sells stake in natural-gas plant to invest in solar energy

On Dec. 31, 2010, Sempra Generation (Nasdaq: SRE), a power producer, sold its 50 percent stake in the Elk Hills Power natural-gas fired power plant to pursue more renewable energy. Sempra sold the stake to its former partner in the plant, Occidental Petroleum Corporation, Inc. (NYSE: OXY) for $179 million.

The company determined that now is the appropriate time to invest in solar and wind.

“This was the right sale at the right time,” said spokesperson Scott Crider. “By selling our stake in Occidental Power, it allows us to focus on our aggressive strategy to develop wind and solar power facilities throughout the western U.S.”

The company still has two gas-fired plants generating 1,900 megawatts in its energy portfolio, and it will keep them, Crider said. But the amount of wind and solar in its energy mix will continue to grow.

“We’re really looking at having a truly diversified portfolio of resources,” he said.

Sempra already has almost 58 MWs of solar, and 225 MWs of wind, which it co-owns with BP Wind, in its portfolio.

The company is starting to develop a photovoltaic plant west of Phoenix, which will be up to 600 MWs, according to Crider.

“We will break ground in the first half of 2011,” he said. The first phase of the project, the Mesquite Solar plant, is a 150 MW array that’s under a power-purchase agreement with Pacific Gas & Electric.

He said the company has not yet announced the supplier of the PV modules for the project.

The company also plans to install a 200 MW plant in the Antelope Valley of California, a hotbed of solar activity—the Del Sur Solar power plant broke ground this week.

That project has received all the permits it needs for both projects, according to Crider. But he said the company is still looking for a buyer for the power it would generate. He added that Sempra won’t break ground on a project until it has a power-purchase agreement.

Sempra has even larger wind plants in the works as well.

According to Crider, the company is developing a 1,000 MW wind farm in Baja, Mexico, and a 22 MW wind farm in Hawaii.

The company sees renewables as a sound investment.

“We do see stability in the investment in renewable resources,” Crider said. “We see it as being a safe investment and at the same time a profitable one.”

Image courtesy of Sempra Generation.