Fluor puts online the 170 MW-AC Centinela Solar project in Southern California

Engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contractor Fluor has completed the 170 MW-AC Centinela Solar Energy Facility near El Centro, California for developer LS Power.

The project broke ground in December 2012. With no lost-time accidents, Fluor was able to complete the Centinela plant, including the installation of more than 875,000 PV modules, in 20 months.

According to GTM Research, this brings California’s Imperial County, which straddles the Imperial Valley, to 850 MW-DC of operational PV, much of which is selling power to San Diego Gas & Electric Company and helping the utility fulfill its requirements under California’s Renewable Portfolio Standard.

“The unique place that Imperial Valley holds is this attractive blend of insolation levels and pre-existing transmission infrastructure, as well as relatively affordable early stage development costs including land acquisition and permitting,” notes GTM Research Solar Analyst Corey Honeyman.

Essential transmission infrastructure to bring electricity from the Imperial Valley to San Diego includes the high-voltage Sunrise Powerlink transmission line, which was energized in June 2012.

While there is still another 520 MW-DC of solar PV under construction in Imperial Valley, including First Solar’s 150 MW Gen 2 project, an end to the era of these enormous utility-scale PV projects is already visible.

“A lot of what Imperial Vally represents is the older era of the utility-scale solar market, when developers were really doubling down on developing these mega-scale solar projects,” explains Honeyman. “The three major investor owned-utilities have really specialized the way that they procure utility-scale solar, and they have moved to the 1-20 MW range.”

GTM estimates that there is another 2.1 GW-DC of utility-scale PV projects that have not received PPAs in the Imperial Valley, but he notes that this includes a large pool of stranded assets acquired by developers between 2010 and 2012.