"Utilities in the Southwest are hungry for renewable energy as way to help wean the country off fossil fuels and meet their goals for renewable energy use," Sempra Generation President and CEO Michael Allman President told GreenBiz.com, when asked what prompted him to embark upon the expansion project.
California wants renewable energy to make up 33 percent of its energy mix by 2020. In Nevada, the target is 25 percent by 2025. Arizona set its bar at 15 percent by 2025. With those goals like that on the books, now's the time to move forward, says Allman.
Although he declined to disclose the cost of the proposed solar project, he said it could provide its energy at the lowest cost yet to be delivered on the market. His company, a subsidiary of the Fortune 500 firm Sempra Energy, has a goal becoming the first U.S. company to build, own and operate 500 MW of solar power.
The new plant, which is to be called Copper Mountain Solar Construction, is to be built by First Solar of Tempe, Ariz. First Solar also built the El Dorado facility. Construction of the expansion project is to begin after Sempra Generation contracts to sell the facility's power output.
The firm says the new solar plant would be operational by late 2010 and capable generating enough electricity to power more than 30,000 homes. All told, the two plants would use almost a million photovoltaic panels, Allman said. The existing plant uses 167,000 photovoltaic panels.
The expansion project is also expected to create more than 200 construction jobs.
The plan by Sempra is the latest in a string of solar projects to be announced recently, ranging from a 1,500-panel system to be built in San Jose, Calif., to a project in Florida that would turn city of Babcock Ranch into the world's first fully solar-powered city.
Images of the El Dorado solar energy plant courtesy of Sempra Generation.