Los Angeles unveils 350 MW solar program


The city of Los Angeles is making major strides in its adoption of solar energy as it finalizes a 150 MW local project and greenlights a new 200 MW utility scale facility.

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) last month agreed on an additional 50 MW of local solar to complement a 100 MW project approved in January. At the same time, the board of Water and Power commissioners paved the way for a 200 MW utility scale solar array in the Mojave Desert, located north of the city.

The 150 MW feed-in tariff program, combined with the new 200 MW project, “is an important part of LADWP’s transition away from coal power,” the company announced this week.

The LADWP recently said it would stop receiving power from two coal-fired power plants by 2025 and instead increase renewable energy and energy efficiency as well as natural gas-fired units.

Unlike the set-pricing FiT program approved for the first 100 MW of local rooftop solar, the second 50 MW program will be competitively priced through a request for proposal (RFP) system that is bundled with a utility scale solar project. It also requires the local projects to be built within the LADWP’s service territory in the Los Angeles basin.

Aram Benyamin, LADWP senior assistant general manager, said the combined RFP is a means of developing the most solar at the most competitive price. "One of the biggest benefits is that competitive bids and greater economies of scale will result in lower costs to customers and minimize rate impacts. Our goal is to accomplish the power supply transformation while keeping the cost impacts on customers as low as possible."

The company expects the combined RFP approach to also trigger the development of a higher volume of solar power within "a few short years," increasing the utility’s level of renewable energy at a faster pace to meet the goals of 25% renewables by 2016 and 33% renewables by 2020.

The RFP will seek proposals for building 200 MW of photovoltaic power on the Beacon Property owned by LADWP.

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Located in the Mojave Desert about 175 km north of Los Angeles, the land is situated adjacent to the LADWP’s Pine Tree Wind and recently completed 10 MW Solar Power Plants, the Barren Ridge Switching Station, existing transmission lines and other electric infrastructure.

For the RFP, the Beacon property is divided into four sites for solar projects averaging about 50 MW. Bidders may submit proposals for one or more of the four sites, each of which is linked to a required smaller local solar project between 10 and 14 MW in size. The RFP also sets a price cap for each solar project — $140 per MWh for the local FiT solar, and $85 per MWh for the Beacon project.

The LADWP purchased the 250 MW Beacon Solar Project from Nextera Energy Resources last year. The deal included previously approved permits to develop the site as a solar facility, plus environmental studies and preliminary engineering designs. LADWP crews will build a 50 MW solar array on the property and the remaining 200 MW will be offered to private developers through the RFP, expected to be issued in May.

In February, the LADWP opened up the first 20 MW allocation of the 100 MW FiT program. Proposals were received for about 45 MW worth of Los Angeles solar projects ranging in size from 30 kW to 3 MW. The LADWP is currently conducting interconnection studies for the first 20 MW of proposals submitted. Once the studies are completed, the bidders can decide whether or not to complete the contract, a standard 20-year agreement at a set price.

Under the program guidelines, the LADWP will pay $0.17 cents per kWh for the first 20 MW of local solar. Subsequent 20 MW allocations will be made available every six months through 2016 until the full 100 MW is subscribed. The set price will decline after each 20 MW is reserved.

The LADWP has been steadily building a diverse renewable energy portfolio of wind, solar and geothermal power. Last fall, the utility signed two long-term agreements for 460 MW of solar power from two projects being developed in Nevada.

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