Clean Power

Published on August 1st, 2014 | by Roy L Hales


Projects Borrego Solar Deemed Doable

August 1st, 2014 by  

Originally Published in the ECOreport

Desert Hot Springs solar project  – Courtesy Borrego Solar

Desert Hot Springs solar project – Courtesy Borrego Solar

Borrego Solar acquires utility-scale projects like the Seneca Solar Projects every year. The projects’ previous developers reached the mid to late developmental stage, but then decided to sell. A large number of utility-scale projects stall every year, and that’s the end of the story for most of them. Some get a second chance, and Seneca Solar’s portfolio is one of the projects Borrego Solar deemed doable and has taken on.

They broke ground earlier this month.

Seneca Solar Project as it is right now  - Courtesy Borrego Solar

“There is a misconception out there about what it takes to get this type of project done,” said Aaron Halimi, senior project developer at Borrego Solar. “That’s why so many projects fail. There are many, many challenges along the way.”

Halimi described the problems projects encounter as coming from four main “food groups” of a utility-scale project:

  • There could be problems with site control, from some aspect of the lease or purchase agreement
  • issues with the underlying real estate, in the form of site specific issues, land use approvals, or entitlements
  • interconnection issues
  • a problem with the power purchase agreement

Additionally, a developer’s lack of finances is often coupled with one of the aforementioned issues.

“We look at plenty of projects, but we do not always go so far as taking them on,” Halimi said.

Borrego has developed a streamlined process of determining if it is fixable.

“We invest into the project, leverage our in-house developmental expertise to take those projects across the finish line by getting them financed and getting them built,” said Halimi.

Roughly 35% of Borrego’s utility-scale projects are fix-ups taken over from other companies. Some of these were started by mom-and-pop operations; others come from companies whose names are known in the industry.

“In the case of the Seneca Solar Project portfolio, the land use approvals were still outstanding, there were some other utility-related items, and it needed capital. Many times it is a capital need that is tied to another ‘food group’ item being outstanding. We need to come in, identify what needs to be done to get those issues resolved, and put our own money into the project to take it through that process.”

This portfolio of projects is the second portfolio that Borrego has undertaken from Southern California Edison (SCE)’s California Renewable Energy Small Tariff (CREST) program.

The success rate of this program has been low. Only 25% of the program is online, another 40% has been ‘terminated,’ and the remainder is in development.

“Not all of those in development will make it through,” Halimi said.

He added that CREST is a feed-in-tariff (FIT) program, and that it can be challenging to build small FIT projects.

“A lot of people underestimate the difference between a small utility project (1.5 – 8.5 MW) and larger utility project (20 MW),” Halimi explained.

This is the second CREST portfolio that Borrego has taken over. The first, at Desert Hot Springs, went online last year.

Desert Hot Springs solar project – Courtesy Borrego Solar

Desert Hot Springs solar project – Courtesy Borrego Solar

The Seneca Solar Projects consist of a total of 8.3 MW of fixed-tilt ground-mounted solar projects in the desert near Victorville, Calif. The project will be built in two phases, the first of which occupies 40 acres of private land. They have approval to expand another 20 acres.

Once the developmental problems were resolved, Salt Lake City-based sPower (Sustainable Power Group) purchased the project and have become Borrego’s financial partner. They have a contract to sell solar power to SCE at a fixed price for the next twenty years.

The project is expected to produce 15,257 megawatt hours of electricity per year.

Borrego Solar Systems is one of the nation’s leading financiers, developers and installers of utility-scale power systems. They have completed over 1,000 installations. For more information, visit

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About the Author

is the President of Cortes Community Radio , CKTZ 89.5 FM, where he has hosted a half hour program since 2014, and editor of the the ECOreport, a website dedicated to exploring how our lifestyle choices and technologies affect the West Coast of North America. He writes for both writes for both Clean Technica and PlanetSave on Important Media. He is a research junkie who has written over 1,600 since he was first published in 1982. Roy lives on Cortes Island, BC, Canada.

  • JamesWimberley

    The photo of Borrego’ s Desert Springs project is tragic. Notice how all the fragile desert vegetation has been removed, leaving a surface as lifeless as a WalMart car park. It does not have to be this way. Mount the panels a little higher and a little further apart, and you can have an environment that supports diversity by providing shade and runoff from cleaning water. British solar policy is erratic and generally not much of a model for others, but rural solar farms are routinely planned to allow grazing, flowers for bees and the like. Photo.

    • Roy L Hales

      Thank-you. I don’t normally look at comments on CT, but happened to see this one. (If you want to get my attention, post the comment on my site too) One of the negatives of utility scale projects in the desert is damages to the ecosystem. They scrape the desert clean of the natural vegetation and, as a result, some projects bring tremendous dust storms to local communities. I don’t know if Desert Springs is large enough for this to be a problem. The model you have above is excellent. My question: is it possible to put these large projects in the desert without destroying the local ecosystem? If not, they should be going into areas where there is no damage (like brown fields).

      • JamesWimberley

        I don’t know, but half-measures are a lot better than nothing. The mounting posts and cables only need holes and trenches, not a graded level surface. Stanford scientists came up with a scheme for palnting agave between the panel rows, fed with cleaning water. Wildlife will find a use for the shade.

      • Bob_Wallace

        The American SW desert is immense. The amount that will be used for solar is relatively tiny.

        The most beautiful and most ecologically important parts of the desert are protected. No solar or wind farms will be established there. And cattle will no longer graze those areas.

        Before a wind or solar farm project can be approved there are extensive studies to make sure it’s not a unique area for flora or fauna.

        If there are “tremendous dust storms to local communities” that problem needs to be mitigated.

        BTW, you oppose solar farms in the desert but you’re OK with “local communities” being on the same land?

    • Calamity_Jean

      How are the sheep prevented from chewing on the wires under the panels? I think the developer is going to regret not putting everything another foot or two higher to get the wires out of sheep range.

      • Bob_Wallace

        Conduit. Either metal or PVC pipe. It’s how squirrels and rats are kept from chewing rooftop wiring.

        • Calamity_Jean

          The photo in JamesWimberley’s first comment clearly shows naked wires. Somebody’s going to need to go back and rewire the whole thing in conduit.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Shows what happens when one posts from email and without looking at the picture. ;o)

            Can’t tell from the picture, but the wire may be high enough.

            Goats? Probably not….

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