The Western Area Power Administration on May 1 issued a Finding of No Significant Impact related to a potential deal to buy power from Part 2 of Sempra Generation‘s Mesquite Solar project in Maricopa County, Arizona.
In the 2010-2011 period, the U.S. Department of Energy, the parent of the administration, conducted an environmental assessment process for the 400-MW Mesquite Solar Energy Facility. Once the project cleared that process, Sempra built the 150-MW Part 1 of the project, which went into operation in late 2012.
In September 2014, the power administration worked out a deal with the U.S. Navy to promote renewable energy development through Western’s purchase of power for the Navy. In response to a solicitation from the power administration, Sempra bid a 150-MW Part 2 of the Mesquite Solar project. That prompted the administration to do a supplemental analysis related to the original EA for the whole project, which resulted in the May 1 finding. Western said it identified some minor changes to the project due to the latest analysis, including provisions related to the Sonoran desert tortoise.
The May 1 finding says this Part 2 project has no major environmental issues and that therefore it can be approved without the need for an environmental impact statement. This finding cleared the way for Western to negotiate a power purchase agreement with Sempra.
Said the February 2011 EA for this project: “The United States (US) Department of Energy (DOE) is proposing to issue a loan guarantee to Sempra Generation (Sempra) to develop the Mesquite Solar Energy project, a nominal 400-megawatt (MW) solar energy generating facility consisting of a solar field of ground-mounted photovoltaic (PV) panels, an electrical collection system that converts generated power from direct current to alternating current, a substation, and a generation-tie (gen-tie) power line to deliver the generated electricity from the project site to an existing off-site electrical switchyard. The facility would generate an estimated 889,665 megawatt-hours (MWh) of electricity per year.”
Said the Sempra website about this project: “Sempra U.S. Gas & Power has developed a new source of renewable electricity and created jobs in the Arizona desert. Located about 60 miles west of Phoenix, the 3,800-acre Mesquite Solar complex taps into 300 days of sunshine each year to generate emission-free solar power without the use of precious water supplies. With a full build-out potential of 700 megawatts (MW), the Mesquite Solar complex is well-positioned to be North America’s largest photovoltaic (PV) solar power installation when complete.
“The 150-MW first phase of the solar complex – called Mesquite Solar 1 – was completed in December 2012, generating enough clean electricity for about 56,000 homes. The facility is jointly owned by Sempra U.S. Gas & Power and Consolidated Edison Development. It provided a boost to the local economy, creating an estimated 300 local construction jobs and 12 long-term positions. The renewable power from Mesquite Solar 1 is sold to California’s Pacific Gas & Electric under a 20-year contract.
“In anticipation of the development of future phases of the Mesquite Solar complex, Sempra U.S. Gas & Power is seeking an amendment of the Special Use Permit to add a 1,280-acre expansion area to the project site. An application has been filed with Maricopa County, and notices have been sent to land owners located within 300 feet of the Mesquite Solar site.”