Agua Caliente, World’s Largest Solar Plant, Hits Milestone

By Camelia Bulea, Associate Editor The Agua Caliente solar project—the world’s largest photovoltaic power plant currently in operation—has achieved 250 megawatts of grid-connected power out of a total capacity of 290 megawatts. Built by First Solar Inc. on a 2,400 acre-site between Yuma and Phoenix, the plant started operation in January, when it generated its first 30 [...]

The Agua Caliente solar project—the world’s largest photovoltaic power plant currently in operation—has achieved 250 megawatts of grid-connected power out of a total capacity of 290 megawatts.

Built by First Solar Inc. on a 2,400 acre-site between Yuma and Phoenix, the plant started operation in January, when it generated its first 30 megawatts. It surpassed 100 megawatts this spring and 200 megawatts this summer, according to First Solar.

The project is expected to reach full capacity in 2014, when it will generate enough power to serve more than 225,000 homes. NRG Solar, the plant’s owner, said that the plant is creating upward of 400 jobs during construction. NRG acquired Agua Caliente from First Solar, and then brought in MidAmerican Solar as a minority owner, according to the Phoenix Business Journal.

Pacific Gas and Electric Co. signed a 25-year deal to buy electricity from the plant. Over that period, the Agua Caliente project will displace 5.5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide—the equivalent of taking more than 40,000 cars off the road annually.

Other photovoltaic projects in Arizona’s pipeline include Hyder II Solar Power Plant, a 14-megawatt solar plant that will be built in Hyder. McCarthy Building Cos and Arizona Public Service (APS) have started the permitting process for the facility, which will generate enough energy to power more than 3,500 Arizona homes when it reaches capacity in late 2013. Hyder II is part of the AZ Sun Program, APS’ plan to bring 200 megawatts of solar power on line by 2015.  APS estimates that the facility will create 150 jobs.

Photo credits: NRG Solar