Aqua Caliente reaches milestone

The world’s largest operating solar photovoltaic (PV) power plant just passed a construction milestone as it is now two-thirds complete.

NRG Energy, Inc. (NYSE: NRG), MidAmerican Solar and First Solar, Inc. (FSLR) said the Agua Caliente solar project, currently under construction in Yuma County, Ariz., is delivering 200 MW to the electric grid. Agua Caliente is the world’s largest operating PV plant will have a capacity of 290 MW when completed in 2014.

The facility, which is owned by NRG and MidAmerican Solar, employs a daily average of 400 to 450 workers during the construction period. The project uses solar plant controls and forecasting capabilities to integrate its output with the power grid. The Agua Caliente project was awarded an $897m loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Loan Programs Office.

“The Agua Caliente project sets the highest standard for what we can accomplish with today’s solar technology when combined with a strong public-private partnership at the national level,” said Tom Doyle, CEO of NRG Solar. “First Solar’s performance on this project, from their technology and execution to their outstanding safety record, has exceeded all our expectations and we are extremely pleased with the results so far.”

“We have achieved record-setting installation velocities, while maintaining our excellent safety record and achieving the highest quality in the industry,” said Jim Lamon, First Solar senior vice president for engineering, procurement and construction and operations and maintenance.

First Solar designed and is constructing the project using its advanced thin-film photovoltaic modules and will operate and maintain the facility for NRG and MidAmerican Solar. MidAmerican bought a 49% stake in the project in January.

Pacific Gas and Electric Company (NYSE: PCG) has a long-term power purchase agreement for the project’s generation, which is projected to offset approximately 5.5m metric tons of carbon dioxide over 25 years, the equivalent of taking more than 40,000 cars off the road annually.