The nearly 300 megawatts of operational and under-construction solar PV in Los Angeles County’s Antelope Valley have just roughly tripled.
The 579-megawatt, MidAmerican Solar-owned, SunPower (NASDAQ:SPWR)-built Antelope Valley Solar Projects (AVSP) celebrated its construction stage last week with an open house. The project is the biggest fully permitted PV solar power plant in the world.
MidAmerican Solar is a subsidiary of MidAmerican Energy Holdings, the Iowa-based utility owned by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE:BRK.A).
Added to the 230-megawatt, Exelon-owned, First Solar-built Antelope Valley Solar Ranch One (AVSR1), which now has 150 megawatts on-line, and the 66-megawatt, NRG-owned, First Solar-built Alpine Solar, which goes on-line at the end of this week, the valley’s total of on-line and in construction PV solar is now at least 875 megawatts.
“We are in this for the long haul,” MidAmerican Solar President Paul Caudill told GTM at the AVSP event when asked about Antelope Valley residents protesting the solar invasion. “We don’t see people who have a different view of the facility than the majority as dissenters. We view them as stakeholders. Our approach is to reach out to everybody.”
GTM asked Caudill if he had heard about local resentment that solar developers had not offered to bring emergency police, fire and medical service substations to the remote area to help with the dramatically increased activity.
“We will work with people just like we have done at our other facilities,” he said, “to see what’s needed and how we can participate. We have supported Cal-Fire in the San Luis Obispo area and emergency medical technicians. These folks become partners with us. We are going to be very open.”
AVSP will use SunPower’s Oasis PowerPlant technology, which incorporates its proprietary high-efficiency PV panels and T0 single-axis tracking system.
Both the Exelon (NYSE: EXC) and NRG (NYSE:NRG) projects are being built with First Solar's (NASDAQ:FLSR) proprietary thin-film cadmium telluride PV panels.
Meanwhile, SunEdison joined Silverado Power, Tuusso Solar and other developers that have made the rounds of the Valley’s town councils introducing projects in the 20-megawatt range.
Tuusso is working on the 20-megawatt West Antelope Project and the 20-megawatt Antelope Project, both of which would use Canadian Solar (NASDAQ:CSIQ) PV panels in what is likely Canadian Solar’s virtual vertical integration plan.
Silverado, backed by Portuguese developer Martifer Solar, is working on the 52-megawatt Central Antelope Dry Ranch, the 20-megawatt Silver Sun Greenworks and the 5-megawatt Lancaster WAD.
SunEdison just began talking about its 20-megawatt Satsuma Solar Farm to valley residents. Satsuma is the latest in a series of smaller SunEdison projects in the region. The big prize will be the 450-megawatt Oro Verde Solar project planned for Edwards Air Force Base, in Mojave Desert land just east of Antelope Valley.
At GTM’s request, Recurrent Energy just offered a tidbit of information about its 1,500-acre Astoria project that could get started next year at the north edge of the Valley. The project is in what a company spokesperson described as "very early stages" and few details are set enough to make them publicly available.
A conditional use permit application and preliminary site plan have been submitted to Kern County. The county is currently reviewing the project application and an Environmental Impact Report will have to follow, according to Recurrent Energy VP Seth Israel. Community feedback would then be solicitied as the process moves forward.
The roughly 20-mile by 25-mile Antelope Valley is a wind- and sun-rich area that was also a thriving agricultural region until the water table dropped some decades ago. It is about an hour north of Los Angeles, on the southern side of the Tehachapi Mountains where one of the first utility-scale wind projects was built in 1982. The concentrating solar power (CSP) plants were built in the Mojave Desert to the east between 1989 and 1991.
Development in the region led Southern California Edison (NYSE:EIX) to build, in the early 2000s, what is now the backbone of a 15,000-megawatt capacity transmission system.
The new solar projects constitute only a small portion of the planned solar and wind development goes on. The promise is of a renewable energy mecca unlike anything ever seen.
Besides its investments in solar, MidAmerican Energy Holdings’ is also the biggest U.S. utility investor in wind. “We have looked at CSP and just about every renewable technology, and we will continue to look at them,” Caudill said. “We are not going to invest the kind of money that you need for a facility like this without managing risk. But the next three or four years in the solar business could be very interesting, with some of the advancements we are seeing.”