Location: Yuma County, AZ
In August 2011, the Department of Energy issued a $967 million loan guarantee to finance the Agua Caliente project, a 290 MW photovoltaic solar generation facility that currently generates enough energy to power 49,600 households annually. The project has been supplying increasing amounts of electricity to the grid since January 2012, and is expected to reach full commercial operations in March 2014. The project features First Solar’s (FSLR) thin-film cadmium-telluride (CdTe) solar modules. All of the power will be sold to Pacific Gas & Electric Company (PG&E) under a 25-year Power Purchase Agreement.
The project is the first commercial-scale photovoltaic plant to use new inverter technologies that make the plant more reliable and allow operation during larger voltage variations than traditional inverters. These variations can be caused by cloud cover or dust that causes voltage spikes or drops. Use of this technology also will improve the delivery of clean electricity generated by photovoltaic systems to the utility grid. Increasing grid reliability will enable greater deployment of large-scale photovoltaic renewable power generation projects.
The project is expected to create 400 construction jobs and 10 permanent jobs. Over 4.9 million solar panels will be installed, spanning more than 2,400 acres.
The Agua Caliente project used approximately 39,000 metric tons of American steel, will generate 559,000 MWh of renewable energy annually, and will avoid nearly 330,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide each year, equivalent to the emissions of almost 70,000 vehicles.