Clean Power

Published on April 29th, 2013 | by Tim Tyler


Largest Solar Power Plant In World Now Under Construction

April 29th, 2013 by  

This article was originally published on Solar Love.

MidAmerican Solar and SunPower Corp. have just marked the start of the 579-Megawatt Antelope Valley Solar Projects with a community celebration.

Antelope Valley solar

Image Courtesy of SunPower

The huge three-year construction project is expected to employ around 650 workers and generate more than $500 million in regional economic impact.

Split into two projects located in Kern and Los Angeles counties (California), the Antelope Valley Solar Projects will be the world’s largest solar power development under construction.

Once completed, the solar projects are expected to produce enough energy to power approximately 400,000 average California homes with clean, renewable solar power.

According to Paul Caudill, president of MidAmerican Solar:

The Antelope Valley Solar Projects are already creating needed jobs and economic opportunity in local communities, while at the same time, providing direct, long-term  environmental benefits. We look forward to continuing our involvement in the Rosamond, Lancaster and Palmdale communities and, as we move forward, in the surrounding areas.

MidAmerican Solar owns the Antelope Valley Solar Projects, while SunPower is designing and developing the projects and is the engineering, procurement, and construction contractor.

SunPower will also provide operations and maintenance services for the plants via a multiyear services agreement.

SunPower president Howard Wenger had this to say about the projects:

The start of construction on the Antelope Valley Solar Projects underscores that solar is a reliable, cost-competitive energy source. SunPower is proud to partner with MidAmerican Solar and Southern California Edison on this historic project, which is bringing critically needed jobs and economic opportunity to California today and will generate abundant clean, renewable power to the state over the long-term.

Southern California Edison has agreed to two long-term power purchase contracts for the Antelope Valley Solar Projects.

At the 3,230-acre site, SunPower is installing the SunPower® Oasis® Power Plant product — fully integrated, modular solar technology that is engineered to rapidly deploy utility-scale solar projects while minimizing land use. The Oasis product uses high-efficiency solar panels.

The SunPower solar panels will be mounted on SunPower® T0 Trackers to help position the panel throughout the day — by tracking the sun and increasing energy capture by up to 25%.

The electricity produced will displace approximately 775,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year. That’s the equivalent of taking approximately 3 million cars off the road over the next 20 years.

MidAmerican Solar and SunPower definitely had a lot to celebrate at the community picnic and celebration. The celebration was held at the project site west of Rosamond. Attending the community picnic were representatives from both companies.

Some of the topics discussed included the construction schedule, environmental values, technology, and community-centered plans for the future.

With more than 250 attendees, including local and state officials, the community picnic earmarked a milestone in the future development of clean, renewable energy in Antelope Valley and all across the world.

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About the Author

Holds an electronic's engineering degree and is working toward a second degree in IT/web development. Enjoy's renewable energy topic's and has a passion for the environment. Part time writer and web developer, full time husband and father.

  • Paul Kangas

    Mayor Rexx Parris is the greatest mayor in America.

  • Paul Kangas

    There are 2 ways to shift from gas to solar.
    One is by each city, like Lancaster, Ca., passing a Feed-in Tariff, ( decentralization ) and then requiring local Utilities to pay home owners $0.33 kwh for solar fed onto the grid, OR centralization,
    Large solar farms, that are just a corporate attempt to prevent home owners from putting solar on their roofs, to make money from solar.

    Hermann Scheer wrote a great book, “Solar Economy” exposing how large solar farms are designed to fail, & are a just another corporate scam. Stranded investments. Don’t invest in solar farms. You will loose your money.

    Lancaster is doing the right thing by requiring all new homes to be 100% solar. Now if Lancaster passes a FiT law, that will allow homes to make $10 K a year feeding solar onto the grid.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Large solar installations generally sign long term (20, 30 year) power purchase agreements before they are built.

      They have a contract to sell all the power they produce over decades for a specified price. Almost all their costs are up front, very little exposure to cost inflation.

      The city of Palo Alto just signed a 30 year PPA for a large scale solar installation that will now be built.

      So, exactly how would an investor lose their money?

  • Janine

    The cost to the environment is incalculable. So much devastation to the wild life and plants and earth. Why was this even okayed?

    • Bob_Wallace

      Because if we do not use a very tiny, tiny, tiny portion of the Earth’s surface for renewable energy and keep on burning fossil fuels we will devastate all the world’s wildlife and plants.

      Think about it. We’ll use less than 0.001% of the world’s deserts for solar. What would happen to the other 99.999% if we make it a lot, lot hotter and a lot, lot dryer?

    • Paul Kangas

      It is a failed investment.

  • eo2

    All fine and dandy unless this is happening where you live. Lots of money to be made at what cost?

  • BigB

    Well, actually, if you consider Brightsource 8.2 gigawatt project starting at the 372 megawatt Ivanpah project, then Antelope Valley is not really the largest

  • Roger

    I am reflecting on the unpredictable, rolling power outages frequenting California during the peak cooling season and embracing the impact this will have on the grid. And how about those jobs…………… 🙂 🙂 🙂

  • Construction Props

    regardless if the numbers above are misleading, still I believe this solar plant will dramatically reduce carbon dioxide. The construction props that will be used will be expensive and may affect electrical costs for consumers but I’m not that sure.

  • Otis11

    “The electricity produced will displace approximately 775,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year. That’s the equivalent of taking approximately 3 million cars off the road over the next 20 years.”

    This is extremely misleading. The average US car produces 5.1 metric tons CO2/year. That’s equal to 15 thousand cars per year. Multiply this by 20 years and you get the 3 million figure you reference, but that removes the cars for only a single year – you could also say this removes 36 million cars off the road over the next 20 years (for a single month). It’s totally arbitrary if they aren’t in the same units of time.

  • kayzam

    come guy i am good in math bad in spelling. off the road in 20 year thats only 1% when u got 10.000.000 new cars each yr.the only way ur going to win too the save the earth. is a good war. or free condom for every boy on the planet . remenber the more people the more WE need??

  • Ronald Brakels

    The 579 megawatt plant with solar tracking apparently costs $2-2.5 billion. If we go with the middle of the range figure of $2.25 billion that gives a cost of $3.89 a watt. This may seem high, but it is tracking and so produces more electricity per watt of capacity than fixed panel, and thanks to it’s high output early in the morning and late in the afternoon the average value of electricity it produces will be higher than fixed panel. So it might be equivalent to a cost as low as $2.75 a watt for fixed panel solar. With a 5% discount rate it will produce electricity for about 13 cents a kilowatt-hour. But the actual cost should be lower than this thanks to cost of capital being so low in the US at the moment.

    • Tim Tyler

      I think your initial estimate is spot on… to often tracking is not considered into the equation…

    • Bob_Wallace

      $3.89/W with tracking seems high to me. 4th quarter 2012 utility scale solar was averaging $2.27/W. When utility was a bit higher the claims I heard were that tracking added about 10% to the system price. Call it 10% of $3, so it seems like the cost should be closer to $2.60/W.

      As panel prices drop it’s likely to make sense to point some panels east and some west and eat the ~20% per panel loss in order to extend the day. 20% less from a $1.50/W installed panel is about the same as 30 cents for tracking. And with rigid mounting there are no tracking repairs.

      • Ronald Brakels

        Well, $2 to $2.5 billion is what Warren Buffet is supposed to be paying for it. That doesn’t seem good compared to what Germany and India are currently doing or what Spain is apparently going to do, but it doesn’t compare badly with existing solar farms in the US. But I do hope they can get the cost down lower.

        Mind you, in Australia we’re used to anything being done on a big scale costing a lot more per watt than what local installers will charge to put it directly on your roof. It’s the stupid big curse. It goes something like this:

        “We must build something big!”
        “But building ten small things is cheaper and does the same job.”
        “Ten small things is far too small! You’re fired! I need people who can think big! And most importantly of all, make me feel big! I wouldn’t be working 70 hours a week if my ego wasn’t fragile, you know!”

        • James

          Hello… Can you tell me how much it costs in India for similar plant and whats the difference in price between Germany, India and US

          • Ronald Brakels

            Well, Germany is installing solar at about $2 a watt or less. That’s about 30% less than this particular US project after adjusting for tracking. (Note that California’s much higher level of sunshine compensates for the difference in cost). India is more difficult to compare because its currency is non-convertable, capital costs are higher than in the US and labour costs are lower. But despite higher capital costs India appears to be producing electricity from utility scale solar for about 12 cents a kilowatt-hour and looks to be getting it down to about 10 cents a kilowatt-hour for new solar farms.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Germany’s $2/W is an average of utility, commercial and residential rates and heavily weighted (I think) by residential installations. That would mean that their utility (very large) installations would be considerably less than $2/W.

            I would expect India to get their costs below that of the US fairly quickly, if they aren’t already. They will have lower labor costs and lower permitting costs.

          • Bill_Woods

            “That would mean that [German] utility (very large) installations would be considerably less than $2/W.”
            Evidently not.

            Neuhardenberg: 280M EUR / 145 MW = 2.5 USD/W
            Templin: 205M EUR / 128 MW = 2.1 USD/W

          • Bob_Wallace

            I can’t find a breakdown of those totals. Do they include land, transmission, etc. or do they cover only the cost of the solar part?

          • Bill_Woods

            No idea, though one webpage mentions “leas[ing] 340 hectares of the 700 hectare airport”. They’re both on former airfields, so you’d think they already had grid connections.

        • Well, if land is cheap or on free lease, the only thing that matters is the unit cost of production per kWH of electricity and not if it will track the sun or not. If you want to save on land, especially if it has associated cost such as in an urban setting, then tracking the sun would matter a lot because you will not consume a lot of land per unit energy production. As it is, we have too many desert areas, constantly being added annually because of our addiction to fossil fuels, so those lands are cheap that it doesn’t make any financial sense to track the sun so that you can save on land while increasing your cost of energy production.

  • What is the electricity generation capacity of the plant?

    • Ronald Brakels

      579 megawatts. I presume it would operate at about 25% of capacity.

    • doug card

      Its always the same equation, but it averages about 5 hours times 330 days times 500ish (loose some efficiency in the inversion/resistance)megawatt hours.

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