SunPower to build 54-MW solar project to serve California irrigation district

Turlock Irrigation District (TID) and SunPower (Nasdaq: SPWR) announced Nov. 11 a 20-year power purchase agreement (PPA) under which TID will buy clean renewable solar power from SunPower.

To serve the agreement, SunPower is starting construction this month on a 54-MW (ac) solar photovoltaic plant at the company’s Rosamond Solar site in Kern County, California, which is expected to be operational by the end of 2016.

The TID board of directors approved making this solar power acquisition in March of this year after a comprehensive bidding and study process. TID was open to all qualified technologies, with or without storage, and inside or outside TID, and received 129 proposals from 29 different entities.

TID is expecting that the PPA will move the district about 7% closer to meeting California’s recently increased Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) requirement of 50% renewables by 2030. It will also add another significant resource to the district’s already diverse portfolio of certified environmentally-friendly greenhouse-gas-free resources, which include wind, eligible small hydro, geothermal, and photovoltaic solar.

“This power purchase agreement puts TID on a clear path to meet both current and future RPS obligations and clean climate goals, as well as continuing a long standing commitment to a diverse and reliable mix of generation resources to serve TID customers,” said TID General Manager Casey Hashimoto. “While asset ownership has been the approach for nearly all of TID’s other power generation facilities, this long-term power purchase agreement is competitively priced with conventional energy sources and will also allow the district to benefit indirectly from federal tax incentives set to be reduced at the end of 2016.”

“Today, power generated from solar plants is cost-competitive with power from traditional, fossil fuel burning plants,” said Tom Werner, SunPower CEO and president. “SunPower applies its experience building and operating solar power plants around the world to deliver exceptional performance and value for our customers. We are pleased to partner with Turlock Irrigation District to enable more homes and businesses to take advantage of the region’s abundant and sustainable solar resource.”

Construction at the Rosamond Solar site, which is located in Kern County’s Antelope Valley, is expected to begin this month on the 54-megawatt plant for TID, as well as on a 54-MW (ac) plant to serve Stanford University, announced earlier this year. In total, Rosamond Solar may support up to 300 MW of solar generation.

For its customers at Rosamond Solar, SunPower will design and build SunPower Oasis Power Plant systems. The Oasis system is a fully integrated, modular solar power block solution for utility-scale solar projects that is designed to optimize land use and engineered for rapid, cost-effective installation. The technology includes SunPower’s proprietary robotic solar panel cleaning capability that uses 75% less water than traditional cleaning methods and can help improve system performance by up to 15%.

The Turlock Irrigation District has been in the retail electric business since 1923. TID provides safe, low-cost, reliable energy to a growing customer base that today exceeds 99,000 home, farm, business, industrial and municipal accounts. TID also serves 5,800 irrigation customers covering approximately 150,000 acres of farmland.

SunPower provides a diverse group of customers with complete solar solutions and services. Residential customers, businesses, governments, schools and utilities around the globe rely on SunPower’s more than 30 years of proven experience. Headquartered in Silicon Valley, SunPower has dedicated, customer-focused employees in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, North and South America.

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.