Los Angeles greenlights 300 MW of solar projects

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) has approved agreements for a large 250 MW solar array in neighboring Kern County, which borders Los Angeles County to the north, as well as development of 50 MW of solar projects within the city.

"This is a great milestone in the City of L.A.’s efforts to expand renewable energy and a win-win for the businesses and people of Los Angeles who will benefit from solar power development right in the city," said Board President Mel Levine, president of the Board of Water and Power Commissioners. "These solar projects will help spark economic development and jobs, reduce greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel power plants, and meet L.A.’s renewable energy mandates."

LADWP General Manager Marcie Edwards added that the agreements "put us within reach of our targets of 25% renewable energy by 2016 and 33% by 2020."

Combined, the utility-scale solar array and the local solar projects will provide enough energy for about 150,000 homes and offset emissions of close to 500 metric tons of carbon dioxide that would otherwise be produced by fossil fuel power plants, LADWP said.

"Along with helping spur the clean energy economy in Los Angeles and meeting renewable energy goals, the expansion of local solar builds more resiliency and reliability into the power grid," the municipal utility added, pointing out that small solar systems were like "mini power plants" that generate power right where it is being used, saving on transmission costs and taking advantage of the city’s abundant sunshine to help meet electrical demand.

The agreements, which require approval by the City Council, pave the way for the 250 MW Beacon Solar Project, which will be built near the town of Mojave some 109 miles (175 kilometers) north of Los Angeles, while rounding out the full 150 MW feed-in tariff (FiT) program. Last year, LADWP launched the FiT set-pricing program for 100 MW, becoming the largest city in the nation to offer a FiT program.

The Beacon land, acquired by LADWP in 2012 and previously permitted in Kern County for solar development, has been divided into five sites. Four sites will be developed through four separate power purchase agreements for a total of 200 MW. Each of these contracts is tied to developing small-scale FiT solar projects in the City of Los Angeles; altogether, these bundled agreements will lead to the construction of 50 MW of local solar within Los Angeles’ city limits.

Through a competitive bid for the Beacon 200 MW Bundled Solar Program, the LADWP Board awarded two of the sites (88 MW) to SunEdison and two sites (112 MW) to Hecate Energy. In conjunction with the large solar projects, SunEdison is to develop 22 MW of local solar and Hecate will build 28 MW of solar within Los Angeles.

The fifth solar project that will be installed on the Beacon property is a 50 MW project that is not "bundled" with a FiT component. This contract was also awarded to Hecate Energy.

Randy Howard, LADWP senior assistant general manager – Power System, said the Beacon solar agreements were part of a comprehensive strategy that has evolved over the past several years with public input. "These new solar projects will add to the existing Pine Tree wind and solar projects, and form a cluster of renewables in this area to help LADWP meet its renewable energy objectives near the Los Angeles Basin," Howard said.

To support the increase in renewable energy in Kern County, LADWP has begun construction of the Barren Ridge Renewable Transmission Project (BRRTP), which will expand the capacity of the utility’s existing transmission. In addition to providing all transmission and distribution infrastructure for the Beacon Solar Project, LADWP is also building a switchyard for the installation as well as expanding the transmission line itself. As part of the transmission project, LADWP is likewise building a new switching station near the city of Santa Clarita, which will also improve overall reliability by adding a second connection to the Castaic Power Plant in L.A. County.

Located at Castaic Lake, the Castaic Power Plant serves as pumped storage for solar and wind energy and is vital to integrating the renewables into the electric grid.