Los Angeles pushes three solar projects to help get it off coal

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) said that Oct. 4 decisions by its Board of Water and Power Commissioners will help wean the city off of coal-fired power and increase its renewable energy generation.

The board approved two agreements for 460 MW of solar power. Combined with a new LADWP-owned property that will support a 250-MW solar array planned in Kern County, Calif., the three solar projects will provide enough green energy annually to serve about 283,000 Los Angeles households. These projects will help Los Angeles achieve its goals of 25% renewable power by 2016 and 33% by 2020.

“Long reliant on coal power, the two agreements move LADWP further away from dependence on fossil fuels and toward cleaner, more sustainable and renewable energy sources,” LADWP said. “In the next decade, LADWP will completely replace over 70% of its power supply to eliminate coal through a combination of increased energy efficiency, expanding renewable energy to 33% by 2020, completely eliminating the use of ocean water cooling at its three coastal power plants and balancing the new energy mix with cleaner and more efficient natural gas, all while maintaining system reliability.”

Primary sources for the city of coal-fired power have for many years been the Intermountain power plant in Utah of the Intermountain Power Agency and the Navajo power plant in Arizona.

“This is a defining moment for our City’s economic and environmental future,” said Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. “Not only will these commitments create hundreds of green jobs, they will further bolster Los Angeles as a national leader in making the successful, cost-efficient transition to renewable energy. If you want proof that environmental progress and economic growth go hand in hand, look no further than today’s decision. We are shaking our fossil fuel addiction.”

The board approved a 25-year contract with K Road Moapa Solar LLC (K Road) for up to 250 MW of power, representing about 706,650 megawatt-hours. LADWP will be the sole recipient of solar power from K Road, which will be located on Moapa Band of Paiute Indians tribal land north of Las Vegas, Nev. Through the agreement with K Road, power will be delivered to Los Angeles along existing LADWP-owned transmission from southern Nevada via the Crystal Substation, about 30 miles north of Las Vegas. As part of the agreement, K Road will develop a 5.5-mile transmission line from the project and the Crystal Substation that will be owned by LADWP.

The second agreement approved by the board is for 210 MW of power from the 250-MW Copper Mountain Solar 3 project being developed by an affiliate of Sempra U.S. Gas and Power and is located near Boulder City, Nev. The Copper Mountain agreement provides LADWP with the bulk of the power produced by the solar power plant – 210 MW – through an agreement with the Southern California Public Power Authority (SCPPA). The city of Burbank, Calif., will purchase the remaining 40 MW. Power will be delivered from the plant to Los Angeles through the existing Marketplace Substation and transmission lines, which are operated by LADWP.

Both projects are scheduled to be completed and will deliver power to Los Angeles by the end of 2016. LADWP has options to own both projects on the 10th year of operation and every five years after that for the life of the agreements.

“The K Road and Copper Mountain 3 projects, along with a proposed LADWP-owned property that will support a solar project in the California High Desert, will represent over 7% of the total renewable energy goal of 33% by 2020,” said LADWP General Manager Ronald Nichols. “These are among the largest solar projects of any public utility in the nation and a major step forward in our efforts to secure more renewable energy in a cost effective manner.”

In a concurrent effort, LADWP has moved to acquire a 2,500-acre site from Beacon Solar LLC to develop a 250-MW solar project adjacent to LADWP’s Pine Tree Wind Plant and its Barren Ridge Switching Station in Kern County. Acquisition of the property was approved in September by the Board of Water and Power Commissioners, permitting is complete and the project is currently in escrow and expected to close by the end of 2012.

“This project is a perfect opportunity for large-scale solar that will create hundreds of green jobs in California,” Nichols said. “It will be cost effective because we are using the existing Barren Ridge Switching Station and LADWP’s nearby transmission lines that are being upgraded as part of the Barren Ridge Renewable Transmission Project to bring the power home to L.A.”

The two agreements approved Oct. 4 are the result of a competitive process initiated in January 2011 by SCPPA, a non-profit joint powers agency whose members include 11 municipal utilities in Southern California. The agreements now move to the Los Angeles City Council for its consideration and approval.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.