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New solar plant begins delivering energy

A portion of what’s being billed as the country’s largest photovoltaic solar plant has come online in Boulder City.

Eight megawatts of Sempra Generation’s 48-megawatt Copper Mountain Solar is installed and delivering energy to the power grid, Sempra officials announced Tuesday.

Along with Sempra’s neighboring, 10-megawatt El Dorado Solar plant, the combined projects will be the nation’s largest installation of their kind once they’re fully operational, Sempra officials said.

Utility Pacific Gas & Electric has agreed to 20-year power-purchasing deals on both projects. The electricity generated will power more than 30,000 homes in California.

Local electric utility NV Energy negotiated extensively with San Diego-based Sempra to buy the power from Copper Mountain, company officials said in 2009, but talks fell apart after Pacific Gas & Electric offered a higher price for the power.

Copper Mountain also generated a little controversy in February 2009, after state Sen. Marilyn Kirkpatrick, D-North Las Vegas, pointed to $1.8 million in tax breaks Sempra received, and then accused the power developer of hiring out-of-state workers.

Sempra officials responded that the vast majority of the workers building Copper Mountain come from local labor markets.

Copper Mountain will employ about 300 construction workers at its building peak. It will employ four full-time workers once it comes online in late 2010.

First Solar of Arizona is supplying nearly 1 million thin-film photovoltaic panels for the project. It’s also serving as the engineering, procurement and construction contractor at Copper Mountain.

Sempra’s goal is to be the first U.S. company to own and operate 500 megawatts of solar power. It has secured permits for a 600-megawatt solar array in Arizona called Mesquite Solar.

Contact reporter Jennifer Robison at jrobison@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4512.

 

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