New Mexico, Arizona, California: New Solar Plants Come Online

A bunch of new solar projects started producing electricity recently. Here are some of the larger ones:

New Mexico

NRG Energy’s Roadrunner Solar Generating Station in New Mexico is the second largest solar plant in the state and one of a handful of utility-scale plants in the US.

The 20 MW plant covers 210 acres in the desert with 190,000 solar panels made by First Solar. It’s providing electricity to 6600 homes.

El Paso Electric is buying all the electricity under a 20-year contract as part of its push to get 50 MW of solar – 3% of its total power – by the end of next year. Two more New Mexico solar plants are in the planning stages.

Arizona

The largest solar plant in the state has come online. The 20 MW Copper Crossing Solar Ranch consists of 66,000 panels – made by SunPower (Nasdaq: SPWRA) – on 144 acres. 

It’s providing power for 3,700 homes, and over 100 schools in the Phoenix area have signed up to purchase solar electricity from the utility at fixed prices for 10 years.

It’s the first solar plant built in the US by Spain-based Iberdrola Renewables.

Meanwhile, First Solar (Nasdaq: FSLR) is building the world’s largest solar PV plant in Arizona. The 290 MW plant is slated for completion in 2014. FSLR says it will build a whopping 1.6 GW of solar projects next year.

California

Three new solar plants totaling 50 MW have come online as part of Pacific Gas & Electric’s (PG&E) plan to speed up delivery of clean energy to customers. 

The utility is building a series of smaller plants – 20 MW or less in size – to get solar electricity online quickly. Small plants take less time to plan and build, and don’t face the lengthy delays that large plants do.

PG&E is building 250 MW of utility-owned plants and commissioning another 250 MW from developers. The 500 MW program will generate electricity for 150,000 homes in North  and Central California.

The three 15 MW plants online today, took only 6 months to build, demonstrating the power of distributed energy. Each is built on about 100 acres.

PG&E says it will build up to 50 MW of new solar capacity every year through 2014, all using unionized employees.

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