Tenaska closes financing for first solar plant

A company that has spent a quarter century developing natural gas generation has closed financing for its first solar venture.

Independent energy company Tenaska has closed financing for Imperial Solar Energy Center South, a utility-scale photovoltaic solar generating plant in southern California.

Omaha-based Tenaska is expanding into solar power generation and this is the first of what is expected to be a number of solar generating stations the company will develop in California and other states. The 946-acre renewable energy project was developed in Imperial County by an affiliate, Tenaska Solar Ventures, LLC.

A second project, Imperial Solar Energy Center West, is being developed nearby. Tenaska Solar Ventures is dedicated to developing, owning and operating solar projects in North America. Nine banks provided debt financing, led by The Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ, Ltd. and Union Bank, N.A. On-site construction of Imperial Solar Energy Center South began in December. About 130 MW of electricity has been sold to San Diego Gas & Electric, a subsidiary of Sempra Energy (NYSE: SRE) under a 25-year power purchase agreement.

“For 25 years, Tenaska has been a developer and operator of electric generating plants fueled by natural gas. We’re leveraging this experience to expand into solar generation, and we expect to play a significant role in the solar energy industry,” said Tenaska Development President Dave Fiorelli. Imperial Solar Energy Center South is expected to go into commercial operation in 2014, becoming one of the first solar projects to deliver power via the Sunrise Powerlink transmission line being constructed by SDG&E.

First Solar is the technology provider and engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contractor for the project. That company will also provide EPC services, using advanced thin film photovoltaic (PV) modules for the solar generating plant in the southern part of Imperial County near El Centro, California.