The Golden State is officially a third renewable, and it’s not stopping there

he superlatives describing California’s mass run long; the world’s 5th largest economy with 40 million people is a powerful one. The state’s economic strength, coupled with it being a world leader in clean energy is the greatest piece of evidence that we can first have our cake, and eat some of it too. A clean solar-powered cake.

Image from California Energy Commission, Source: PV Magazine

The California Energy Commission estimates that 34% of the state’s retail electricity sales(pdf) in 2018 were provided by renewable energy sources eligible for its renewable portfolio standard (RPS), as shown in the above image. This definition notably excludes the state’s large hydroelectric plants.

The report notes that in 2018, solar represented the largest portion of renewable generation serving California’s electricity load, at almost 12% of all electricity. Broadly, in the past five years large-scale solar generation has increased nearly five-fold, while behind-the-meter solar resources increased approximately 310%. As well, the state expects it will soon achieve the goal of 1 million solar roofs, with an estimated 958,000 solar systems installed.

Source: PV Magazine

Though the most recent numbers are for the end of 2017, the report noted that the majority, but not all, electric retail sellers were in compliance with the 33% goal, and that some – for instance San Diego Gas & Electricity at more than 44% – were way out ahead and pulling a few along.

The report notes some moments of system stress that have occurred with these aggressive generation shifts:

  • For one minute on May 26, 2018, an average of 73.9% of load on the California Independent System Operator (California ISO) grid was served by RPS resources.
  • California ISO experienced a new instantaneous solar generation record on June 29, 2018, when solar capacity peaked at 10,739 megawatts.
  • The total load and the total load less wind and solar on June 29, 2018, when renewables served a peak load of 13,570 MW.
  • On June 29, 2018, the largest hourly curtailment occurred in between 7 A.M. and 8 A.M. with 12 MWh curtailed, and the total generation curtailed on that date was 32 MWh.

Source: PV Magazine

A total of 19 GWac of solar power has been installed in the state, including behind the meter capacity. In total, the state had installed 30.8 GW of renewable capacity by December 31, 2018.

The state’s next major milestone is hitting 44% of its retail electricity being from renewables by 2024. The state has a goal of 100% CO2 free electricity by 2045.

Of interest, large hydroelectric facilities, generally defined as 30 MW or larger, with some exceptions, are not eligible for the RPS in California, therefore generation from large hydroelectric facilities is not included in this calculation. The report notes that in 2017, large hydroelectric represented nearly 15% of California’s electricity generation.


The Golden State is officially a third renewable, and it’s not stopping there, by John Weaver, PV Magazine, February 25, 2019.

Solar Bill of Rights introduced in California

Across the United States, home and business owners are increasingly demanding their right as citizens to generate their own electricity. And it should not be surprising that this movement is the most advanced in California, where PV system owners and the solar industry have come together to form a dedicated membership organization, the Solar Rights Alliance (SRA), to protect that right.

Yesterday this movement took a further step, with a statement of the principle of the right to self-generate and connect to the grid proposed as law. California Senators Scott Weiner (D-San Francisco) and Jim Nielsen (R-Fresno) have introduced the Solar Bill of Rights (S-228), which would open up the bulk power system to the participation of behind-the meter resources. Per the bill text:

The bill would also ensure that the owners of distributed solar and storage “are not subject to discriminatory fees or charges” and require regulators to establish a streamlined and standardized process for utilities. Both of these actions would apply to both investor-owned and public utilities like the Sacramento Municipal Utility District, Imperial Irrigation District and Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.

Additionally, the bill would have utilities look at compensating distributed generation and storage for the resiliency benefits it offers, by requiring them to “consider one or more tariffs for customer-sited energy storage and renewable energy systems to support grid reliability and community resiliency in the event of emergencies or grid outages”.

This effort is backed not only by Solar Rights Alliance, but also Vote Solar and the California Solar and Storage Alliance (CALSSA), as the main advocacy groups for distributed solar in California. Additionally it has the backing of co-author Senator Jeff Stone (R-Riverside County), as well as four assemblymembers who have signed on as co-authors.

Furthermore Senator Wiener is on the Senate Energy, Utilities and Communications Committee, which may be one of the first stops of the bill.

If the bill does become law it could be the first such piece of legislation in the nation to explicitly enshrine the right to participate in the grid using rooftop PV, and could be a model for other states; however few other states have the kind of dedicated organization comprised of homeowners that SRA represents.

Wiener and Nielsen announced the bill at an event at the California State Capitol yesterday, which can be seen in the following video:


Solar Bill of Rights introduced in California, by Christian Roselund, PV Magazine, February 20, 2019.

Carrizo Plains solar farm’s credit rating drops to ‘junk’ as PG&E bankruptcy looms

Representatives for the massive Topaz Solar Farm in the Carrizo Plains are keeping an eye on PG&E, now that the farm’s only source of revenue seems poised to declare bankruptcy.

The 550-megawatt photovoltaic solar farm in eastern San Luis Obispo County relies on the cash-strapped public utility. By contract, PG&E purchases 100 percent of the electricity produced at the farm.

“Topaz is monitoring the dynamic situation surrounding PG&E’s financial situation,” Jessi Strawn, director of corporate communications for Berkshire Hathaway Energy, wrote in an email to The Tribune on Tuesday. “Topaz continues to perform obligations under its power purchase agreement.”

“Maintaining financially healthy utilities in California is good for current and future renewable energy investments in the state,” Strawn added, “and is important for meeting the state’s renewable energy goals.”

Berkshire Hathaway Energy, also known as BHE Renewables, owns the farm.

PG&E’s potential bankruptcy is already taking a toll on the solar farm’s credit rating.

S&P Global Ratings downgraded Topaz Solar Farm’s credit rating from “BBB” to “B” on Jan. 10— a downgrade that pushed the farm’s rating into “junk” status.

Corporations whose credit rating is below a “BBB” are typically more susceptible to defaulting on payments, and for those with a “B” rating, “adverse business, financial, or economic conditions will likely impair the obligor’s capacity or willingness to meet its financial commitments on the obligation,” according to S&P’s ratings guide.

In its decision to downgrade Topaz, S&P noted the solar farm “receives all of its revenue from PG&E under a long-term power purchase and sale agreement (PPSA). Our rating on the solar project is currently capped by our view of the credit quality of PG&E, its utility offtaker.”

S&P also downgraded PG&E’s credit rating to “B” last week.

S&P kept Topaz Solar Farm on its Creditwatch negative listing — meaning its rating could still go down — to reflect “the increasing risk that we will downgrade PG&E by one or more notches over the next few months.”

If S&P lowers its PG&E ratings again, it could do the same to Topaz Farms, it said.

PG&E’s potential bankruptcy filing could trigger a cross default for Topaz’s financing, S&P warned, unless the power contract with PG&E is replaced within 90 days of the filing.

Strawn declined to comment further on the farm’s relationship with PG&E, or whether it was seeking other purchasers of its electricity. She also declined to disclose how many people work at the farm.

According to its website, Topaz Solar Farm has added $417 million into the local economy — including $192 million for the roughly 400 construction jobs required to build the plant between 2012 and 2014. That total also included “$52 million in economic output for local suppliers, $14 million in sales taxes during construction and up to $400,000 per year in new property tax revenues,” according to the website.

The farm spans about 4,700 acres and provides enough electricity to power more than 180,000 average California households, according to the website.


Carrizo Plains solar farm’s credit rating drops to ‘junk’ as PG&E bankruptcy looms, by Kaytlyn Leslie, The Tribune, January 16, 2019.

Napa County supervisors want to adopt rules before approving another solar farm

Napa County supervisors want to create rules for large commercial solar farms in the wake of people’s fears that photovoltaic panels might someday blight wine country.

Supervisor Belia Ramos brought up the topic of commercial renewable energy rules at the Jan. 8 Board of Supervisors meeting. Her colleagues quickly agreed they should craft policies for a use presently allowed in all zoning districts with Planning Commission approval.

“I think it’s prudent we address this sooner rather than later, as it has already proven to be contentious in our community,” Ramos said.

How soon the Board of Supervisors acts remains to be seen, as the issue has yet to be scheduled. A renewable energy ordinance is now one more thing on the county’s 2019 to-do list.

Renewable Properties LLC last year proposed to build county’s first commercial solar farms, one near American Canyon along Interstate 80 and the other in the rural Coombsville area near the city of Napa. The Coombsville proposal proved controversial among neighbors and has since been withdrawn.

The American Canyon proposal went before the county Planning Commission on Oct. 17, Nov. 28 and Dec. 5. It finally passed by a 3-2 vote amid concerns that the county has no regulations for commercial solar farms, as do neighboring Sonoma and Solano counties.

“This application sets a precedent that may be impossible to challenge for the next application or the one after that,” said Eve Kahn of Get a Grip on Growth and Napa Vision 2050.

Commissioner Joelle Gallagher voted against the American Canyon project.

“I want to see the regulations and guidance in place before we start approving commercial solar,” she said.

A majority of commissioners said they thought the American Canyon site a good place for 12,000 solar panels to provide power for Marin Clean Energy, which serves Napa County. But they too wanted more guidance from the Board of Supervisors on renewable energy projects.

In the wake of Planning Commission approval, the American Canyon solar project itself looked likely to go to the Board of Supervisors. Resident Laura Tinthoff said after the meeting that critics of the project would file an appeal. They never did.

On Thursday, Tinthoff said the potential appellants are new to the county government process. They started out concerned about the now-defunct Coombsville project and then saw the issue was much bigger.

“We were very sincere in realizing this could affect all of Napa County,” Tinthoff said.

She expressed satisfaction with the Board of Supervisors’ willingness to work on an ordinance, saying that’s what her group was seeking.

Ramos said a renewable energy ordinance will give more guidance to the Planning Commission. Also, the use permit application used for the American Canyon commercial solar farm project was for wineries, something she’d like to see changed.

Supervisor Brad Wagenknecht said he would have brought the renewable energy ordinance issue up if Ramos hadn’t.

“I really think we need this,” Supervisor Diane Dillon agreed.


Napa County supervisors want to adopt rules before approving another solar farm, by Barry Eberling, Napa Valley Register, January 15, 2019.

California grid data is live – solar developers take note

Some projects take years to move through the interconnection queue. And it often costs thousands, or tens of thousands, to be told that your project won’t fit on the local grid for whatever reason. In markets like Massachusetts, you can then be asked to spend significant amounts of money to upgrade transformers, install new powerlines, or upgrade substations and then play the lottery that later developers take some of those upgrade costs onto their local projects. Things like this can kill the financials of otherwise viable projects.

California has taken steps to mitigate this risk by requiring electricity utilities to provide increasingly detailed maps of the grid. And the newest version of their Integration Capacity Analysis (ICA 20) maps went online as of December 28.

Here’s where these maps live:

Images from PV Magazine

Some of the benefits of the new map structure are noted in the above image, including that they provide circuit level data as well as hourly usage rates on said circuit. Sahm White, Economics and Policy Analysis Director at the Clean Coalition noted:

A developer can now determine, early in the decision-making process, what size of project can be sited at any location with little or no modification to the existing grid. This is critical for easily choosing the best locations for siting projects, and then for projects that are moved forward, being informed with realistic costs and timing expectations regarding interconnection.

The new maps evaluate the most common interconnection capacity factors at the node level on every line section of all primary distribution circuits. Clean Coalition pointed out that level information gives insight at every point on the circuit where there can be a change in values that would affect the ICA results, which would affect how much solar can be attached.

The information will be updated monthly.

Clean Coalition told pv magazine they hope that the hourly data will facilitate even higher levels of integration from insightful developers who make use of energy storage on what might seem like a crowded circuit, but really is a circuit that just need a bit sharper analysis.

ICA 3.0 next steps have already been defined:

  • Current ICA maps pertain to just the distribution grid. ICA 3.0 will add constraints related to the transmission grid that could affect interconnection — for example, other projects being proposed for that part of the transmission grid.
  • ICA 2.0 maps model each circuit, but they do not show how a circuit may affect neighboring circuits. ICA 3.0 will dynamically model multiple circuits and their impact on one another.
  • ICA 3.0 will aim to update the maps in real-time, to ensure that the results are never out of date.

An analysis by the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL)  has found that pre-applications for systems 500 kWAC and greater in Massachusetts were correlated with a 24% increase in interconnection service agreements approved.

It looks like California is at least two generations of technology ahead of other states. Let’s hope the rest of us catch up, so that we have a grid that can make an asset out of every building, every battery, and every solar system.


California grid data is live – solar developers take note, by John Weaver, PV Magazine, January 7, 2019.

Hawaiian Electric Announces ‘Mind-Blowing’ Solar-Plus-Storage Contracts

This week Hawaiian Electric Company sent seven new solar-plus-storage contracts to state regulators. Six come in at record-low prices for the state, under 10 cents per kilowatt-hour.

The projects, which now await regulatory approval, would add 262 megawatts of solar and 1,048 megawatt-hours of storage distributed over three islands. The company said the projects will provide power “in place of volatile prices of fossil fuels,” which it quotes at about 15 cents per kilowatt-hour.

AES, Innergex, Clearway and 174 Power Global are developing the projects.

Source: Hawaiian Electric Industries

Both the pricing and the size of the contracts are significant.

“It’s hard to overstate the scale of this announcement,” said Dan Finn-Foley, a senior energy storage analyst at Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables.

If the state’s public utility commission approves the power-purchase agreement contracts, it would mean a big boost for the U.S. storage market. WoodMac currently logs 1.4 gigawatt-hours of energy storage installed in the nation, with just 75 megawatt-hours in Hawaii. According to Finn-Foley, Hawaiian Electric’s projects would nearly double what’s installed in the U.S. and grow Hawaii’s market exponentially. Taken together, the projects would also rank as the second-largest storage announcement ever, just behind the recently approved Moss Landing project in California.

But that’s not even the most thrilling part of this announcement for clean energy analysts.

“What’s even more notable is the range of PPA prices,” said Finn-Foley.

Past solar-plus-storage prices in Hawaii came in at 13.9 cents per kilowatt-hour in 2016 and 11 cents per kilowatt-hour in 2017. One of the projects announced this week by Hawaiian Electric is more expensive than the latter price — 15 megawatts of solar and 60 megawatt-hours of storage at 12 cents per kilowatt-hour. But another 90 megawatts of solar and 360 megawatt-hours of storage came in at what Finn-Foley called a “jaw-dropping” 8 cents per kilowatt-hour. That means that from 2016 to 2019 solar-plus-storage PPA prices in the state dropped by 42 percent.

Will Giese, executive director at Hawaii’s Solar Energy Association, called the pricing “mind-blowing.”

“With prices like these, it’s easy to understand the confidence of Hawaiian electric providers that their islands can hit 100 percent renewables ahead of the 2045 mandate,” said Finn-Foley.

Though Hawaii still relies mostly on oil for electricity, it’s gaining on its goal to reach 100 percent renewables by 2045. In a statement released before the new year, Hawaiian Electric President and CEO Alan Oshima said that in 2018 the company made significant progress in pursuit of that target.

“We have tremendous momentum as we move into 2019,” said Oshima. The contracts out this week suggest that momentum is already gaining speed.

According to Hawaiian Electric’s latest numbers, oil supplied between 58.52 percent and 79.02 percent of electricity in 2017, depending on the utility (Hawaiian Electric also includes subsidiary utilities Maui Electric and Hawaii Electric Light). But that same year, average generation from renewables for all three utilities increased to 27 percent, up 1 percent over the previous year.

On Hawaii Island, renewable generation reached 57 percent. Hawaiian Electric is currently updating its numbers for 2018, but spokesperson Peter Rosegg said the volcanic eruption on Hawaii Island — which took out a 38-megawatt geothermal plant — means its renewable portfolio standard will be relatively unchanged. The company said it’s still on track to reach its RPS milestone of 30 percent by 2020.

If the projects are approved, Hawaiian Electric said they will also help double current reductions in oil demand, with reductions totaling about 100 million gallons below 2008 levels.

Aside from the impact the contracts could have on Hawaii’s electricity landscape, WoodMac’s head of storage research Ravi Manghani said the unique PPA structures tied to some of the contracts signal overall trends for the storage industry.

AES’s 25-year, 30-megawatt solar and 120-megawatt-hour storage PPA, for instance, uses a monthly “lump sum payment” to the developer based on net energy potential and facility availability, rather than energy delivered.

“This will certainly start to become more mainstay for solar-plus-storage PPAs going forward,” said Manghani. “This reduces the curtailment risk for the developer, which is non-trivial in a market such as Hawaii, but also provides the utility a means to operate the combined solar-plus-storage asset almost like a dispatchable traditional asset in a cost-effective way.”

Marco Mangelsdorf of Hawaii’s ProVision Solar said the announcement indicates the state is on the path to achieving dispatchability for solar-plus-storage, with projects able to provide essential grid services and grid support to the electric utility.

“The grand takeaway for me is utility solar-plus-storage is hitting price points that we’ve been hoping and waiting for a number of years to make utility-scale solar-plus-storage competitive, and then some, with other forms of power generation,” he said. “We in Hawaii are on the cutting edge.”


Hawaiian Electric Announces ‘Mind-Blowing’ Solar-Plus-Storage Contracts, by Emma Foehringer Merchant, Greentech Media, January 4, 2019.

Final hurdle cleared in California’s solar mandate for new homes

In the words of Kelly Knutsen, it’s officially official. Today the California Building Standards Commission unanimously voted to confirm a change to the state’s building code which will require that all newly built low-rise (three stories or less) residential units in the state either incorporate rooftop solar or hold a community solar contract, starting in 2020.

“These highly energy efficient and solar-powered homes will save families money on their energy bills from the moment they walk through their front door,” stated Knutsen, the director of technology advancement for the California Solar & Storage Association (CALSSA). Knutsen also notes that this will include a solar plus storage option.

It’s hard to say how many new homes will be built with solar on them come 2020. The state has seen between 36,000 and 213,000 homes built each year for the past 15 years, and last year was somewhere in the middle at 113,000. CALSSA estimates that only around 15,000 of these new units featured solar, meaning that the mandate could spur a 7-fold increase in the market for solar on new homes in 2020.

After the mandate was approved by the California Energy Commission (CEC) in May, GTM Research estimated that this could mean a 14% increase in the California residential solar market to 1.2 GW in 2020.

But the greatest impact may be on prices. According to an analysis by pv magazine USA Correspondent John Weaver and ASU energy security researcher Dr. Wesley Herche, the soft cost savings of installing solar in massive volumes on new homes – including economies of scale – could drive these installations down to $1.12 per watt. The pair further found that the electricity from these homes could be as cheap at 2.5 cents per kilowatt-hour.

And here is where the savings come in. By the CEC’s more conservative estimates, homeowners will save $40 per month and $500 annually due to the new standards – even with a $40 per month increase in mortgage payments.

Expansion of the mandate?

And this may be just the beginning. A poll by Morning Consult has found that nearly 2/3 of Americans – across the political spectrum – support such a mandate, and a city council member in Milwaukee has proposed legislation for his city based on California’s mandate.

This does not seem to surprise Sunrun, which as one of the larger residential solar companies is one of those best poised to supply large homebuilders. “Home solar is a cost-effective way to support clean air and energy savings for families and we are optimistic that other states will adopt similar common sense policies that expand access to clean energy,” stated Lynn Jurich, Sunrun’s CEO and co-founder.

Additionally CALSSA’s Knutsen says that CEC is planning to push a similar version of this mandate for larger residential and commercial buildings, which could take effect in 2023.


Final hurdle cleared in California’s solar mandate for new homes, by Christian Roselund, PV Magazine, December 5, 2018.

Stanford University to become 100% solar powered

Much like the mighty redwood tree featured in the school’s logo, Stanford University, through a deal with developer Recurrent Energy, will now get all of its energy needs from the sun.

The deal is a 25-year power purchase agreement between Canadian Solar subsidiary Recurrent and the university for the 88 MW Stanford Solar Generating Station #2. This project, in conjunction with with Stanford’s existing 67 MW solar power purchase agreement (PPA) and its 5 MW rooftop installation, will be the last piece in completing Stanford’s solar power puzzle when it enters operation in 2021.

“This power purchase agreement with Stanford University demonstrates Recurrent Energy’s ability to work with a diversified customer base in California and across the U.S.,” said Dr. Shawn Qu, chairman and CEO of Canadian Solar, in a release announcing the deal.

“We’ve long partnered with different types of load-serving entities, such as investor-owned and publicly-owned utilities, and we’re a known leader for our partnerships with CCAs. Now, we are delighted to also demonstrate our ability to meet the needs of direct access customers.”

Stanford now joins the University of Richmond and Massachusetts’ Hampshire College as the only schools in the nation capable of entirely offsetting their electricity usage with solar. The University of Hawai’i and University of California systems have both got in the mix as well, making 100% renewable energy a near-future goal. Additionally, Duke Energy supplies the University of North Carolina system with 250MW of renewably-generated electricity each year as a part of its Green Source Advantage Program.

The university anticipates the project will reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions by 14%, bringing the school’s total emissions reduction to 80% below peak levels. Stanford’s previously existing solar PPA for Stanford Solar Generating Station #1 went online in 2016 as part of the university’s 2008 plan to make major cuts to its overall greenhouse gas emissions.

Image from PV Magazine

“As a university, we are pursuing an ambitious plan to further reduce our carbon footprint, and our second solar plant is a critical new component of that plan,” said Stanford President Marc Tessier-Lavigne in a Stanford news release touting Stanford Solar Generating Station #2.

“Sustainability is a major focus for Stanford and a priority for our local community. Completing our transition to clean power builds on the groundbreaking research of Stanford faculty and students, and it marks a major advance in our efforts to provide a sustainable learning environment for our campus.”

Stanford Solar Generating Station #2 is a part of Recurrent Energy’s Slate project portfolio, which includes another 150 MW-AC portion that hold PPAs with Silicon Valley Clean Energy and Monterey Bay Community Power.


Stanford University to become 100% solar powered, by Tim Sylvia, PV Magazine, December 4, 2018.

SV Clean Energy Signs Major Contracts for California’s Largest Solar-Plus-Storage Projects

Sunnyvale, Calif. – Silicon Valley Clean Energy (SVCE) signed two long-term agreements for the largest utility-scale, solar-plus-storage projects to be built in California. The two projects will provide 153 megawatts (MW) of solar and 47 MW of storage and will be developed by Electricité de France (EDF) and Recurrent Energy Development Holdings, LLC. (Recurrent). These projects will come online in 2021 and will harness enough energy to power 39,000 homes annually.

Image from Silicon Valley Clean Energy

Building storage in addition to solar turns the sun’s energy into a resource that can be used on demand, rather than only when the sun is shining. These projects will combine solar panels with large batteries to store energy that the sun produces during the day so that more clean energy can be discharged onto the grid during times of high energy usage in the evening.

“As a Community Choice Energy agency, we’re proud to partner on these groundbreaking developments that not only increase the long-term supply of renewables to our customers, but also make the electricity grid cleaner,” says Courtenay Corrigan, SVCE Board Chair. “These projects show our maturity as an agency, our financial strength and our continued commitment to decarbonization.”

“We are excited to help California lead the transition to clean, reliable and flexible energy,” said Girish Balachandran, CEO of Silicon Valley Clean Energy. “These new renewable energy projects are a significant investment towards reaching our state’s carbon-free energy goals and contribute to solving the state’s grid integration problem by investing in large grid-scale energy storage.”

The contracts are the result of a competitive bidding process that began in September 2017. SVCE’s collaboration with its neighboring Community Choice Energy agency, Monterey Bay Community Power (MBCP) took advantage of economies of scale for the combined four counties, allowing for more purchasing power to invest in these long-term agreements. The two agencies issued a joint RFO which received over 80 offers for new projects that were in various stages of development. The overwhelming response represents the vast amount of interest in new renewable energy development that continues to grow.

The RE Slate 1 project, developed by Recurrent, will be built in Kings County and will provide 150 megawatts (MW) of solar capacity, plus 45 MW of storage, for a 15-year agreement. The BigBeau Solar project, developed by EDF, will be built in Kern County, providing 128 MW of solar capacity and 40 MW of storage and is a 20-year agreement. These projects will support approximately 840 jobs during construction. SVCE will receive 55% of the output, and MBCP will receive 45%.

SVCE signed long-term power purchase agreements with each development, ensuring that customers will be receiving clean power from California renewables for years to come.

About Silicon Valley Clean Energy

Silicon Valley Clean Energy is a community-owned agency serving the majority of Santa Clara County communities, acquiring clean, carbon-free electricity on behalf of more than 270,000 residential and commercial customers. As a public agency, net revenues are returned to the community to keep rates low and promote clean energy programs. Member jurisdictions include Campbell, Cupertino, Gilroy, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Los Gatos, Milpitas, Monte Sereno, Morgan Hill, Mountain View, Saratoga, Sunnyvale and unincorporated Santa Clara County. SVCE is guided by a Board of Directors, which is comprised of a representative from the governing body of each member community. For more information, please visit

Media Contact:
Pamela Leonard
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(408)721-5301 x1004

460,000 solar panels on their way in the Imperial Valley

As California leads the nation’s push to renewable energy, many parts of the state have seen intense development. Leading these regions is California’s Imperial Valley, and perhaps no route been transformed to the same degree as the area along California state route 98 west of Calexico.

Here the irrigated green of farmlands gives way seemingly endless rows of blue-black PV modules, lining both sides of the highway just north of the Mexico border. A stretch of only a few miles hosts 711 MW-DC of solar in four massive plants – together representing more solar capacity than the bottom 16 U.S. states combined – with another 252 MW under construction at the Mount Signal 3 Solar Farm.

Earlier this month construction giant Swinerton broke ground on a sixth project, the 200 MW-DC Mount Signal 2 project, in collaboration with New Energy Solar and the project’s previous owner D.E. Shaw Renewable Investments (DESRI).

The plant’s site occupies 1,200 acres of former farmland near the banks of the New River, and here Swinerton plans to install 460,000 of First Solar’s Series 6 PV modules on NEXTracker single-axis trackers, for a combined capacity of 200 MW-DC.

This is another validation for the Series 6, which only began rolling off of production lines earlier this year, and Mount Signal 2 is one of many projects which will mount the large-format modules on NEXTracker trackers. These modules will in turn plug into Power Electronics inverters and feed power lines owned by San Diego Gas & Electric Company (SDG&E), with Mount Signal 2 expected to churn out enough electricity to power 70,000 homes when completed late next year.

This is double the population of nearby Calexico, but by now the Imperial Valley is generating far more mid-day power than it consumes. Instead, the Valley’s many solar plants are feeding the Los Angeles and San Diego metro areas. In the case of the Mount Signal 2, the plant has a 20-year power contract with utility Southern California Edison to meet demand in the sprawling Los Angeles metro area.

This does not mean that there are not benefits for the Imperial Valley. Swinerton notes that unemployment in the Valley is around 20%, and building the plant will require 200 construction workers, as well as providing other local economic benefits.

“Mount Signal 2 exemplifies the lasting economic impact a solar project can have on a community,” said George Hershman, general manager of Swinerton Renewable Energy. “This project will offer the underemployed local workforce not only hundreds of well-paying jobs, but also the opportunity to build a skill set that can be used on future solar projects in the area.”

New Energy Solar picked up the project in March from DESRI and put in $85 million in equity. The remainder is funded with non-recourse construction debt provided by a syndicate of banks including HSBC Bank USA, KeyBank NA and Santander. Wells Fargo will supply tax equity when construction is complete.


460,000 solar panels on their way in the Imperial Valley, by Christian Roselund, PV Magazine, October 29, 2018.