Agua Caliente Nears Completion
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The 290 megawatt Agua Caliente solar project, currently under construction in Yuma, AZ, is now more than two-thirds of the way complete. It is delivering more than 200 megawatts to the electric grid. Agua Caliente is the world’s largest operating photovoltaic power plant. It uses industry-leading solar plant controls and forecasting capabilities to integrate its output with the power grid. The project is expected to reach completion in 2014. It is being financed via a loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Energy.
The solar plant is being constructed and operated by First Solar (NASDAQ: FSLR). First Solar is a leading global provider of comprehensive solar systems. The company’s integrated power plant solutions deliver an economically attractive alternative to fossil-fuel electricity generation. First Solar has constructed and commissioned many of the world’s largest, state-of-the-art solar power plants in operation today. They are the current cost leader in the field at less than $0.75 per watt. Their modules generate electricity with no air emissions, no waste production, and no water use. First Solar is the company that will keep Agua Caliente efficient and profitable.
Though First Solar constructs and operates the plant, Agua Caliente is owned by NRG Energy (NYSE: NRG) and Berkshire Hathaway’s (NYSE: BRK-B) MidAmerican Energy, with MidAmerican laying claim to a 49% stake in the project. NRG is considered a pioneer in developing cleaner and smarter energy choices for their customers. They built the first privately funded electric vehicle charging infrastructure. Their diverse power generating facilities have the ability to support over 20 million homes. NRG’s retail businesses include Reliant Energy and Green Mountain Energy Company. Combined, these businesses serve nearly 1.9 million residential, business, commercial, and industrial customers. The company invests in solar, wind, and nuclear power. The Agua Caliente project is one of the ways NRG is working to transition America to a clean energy economy.
MidAmerican provides electric and natural gas service to 7 million customers worldwide through its energy-related businesses. Their total generation capacity is more than 22,000 megawatts. They are a global leader in the production, transportation, and delivery of energy from a variety of fuel sources including coal, natural gas, wind, hydro, nuclear, geothermal, solar, and biomass. Their core business is energy without any clear focus on clean renewable sources like NRG. Still, the Agua Caliente project is a great source of pride for MidAmerican.
Agua Caliente is projected to offset approximately 5.5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide over 25 years, the equivalent of taking more than 40,000 cars off the road annually. It is currently the largest solar plant operating in North America. However, upon completion it will be the largest solar operating plant in the world. The project is already so far ahead of schedule that they have had to petition the Department of Energy to allow them to complete the project sooner than expected. This project will be a strong point for First Solar, NRG Energy, and MidAmerican Energy, bringing them profit and a socially responsible reputation for years to come.
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