ConEdison inaugurates 118 MW dual-axis tracker solar plant in Texas

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The largest dual-axis tracker solar PV installation in the U.S. has now been connected to the grid following a dedication ceremony at the plant on Tuesday.

Built by clean energy developer ConEdison Development, the Alamo 5 solar farm is a 118 MW DC plant located in Uvalde and Knippa, Texas. Local gas and electric utility CPS Energy has signed a long-term PPA for the plant’s solar energy, which will deliver enough clean power to meet the needs of 15,000 local households annually.

Set across a 990 acre site some 85 miles west of San Antonio, the Alamo 5 plant uses dual-axis trackers provided by Sun Action Trackers to maximize the high levels of solar irradiation that the region enjoys.

At 118 MW, it is the largest such dual-axis tracker installation in the U.S., and for CPS Energy represents a significant milestone in the utility’s ambitions to source 65% of its power from low- or no-carbon resources by 2020, Cris Eugster, CPS executive VP and chief generation and strategy officer said.

"We are the solar leader in Texas with 230 MW in the ground, and that will more than double to 500 MW by the year’s end," he added.

CPS Energy now has five solar facilities on its books, of which three were delivered in collaboration with ConEdison Development: San Antonio’s OCI Solar Power has contracted to develop 10 solar farms for CPS Energy, which will comprise a total of 450 MW of capacity once completed by the end of this year.

CPS Energy’s New Energy Economy initiative has driven this uptake in solar power, the utility confirmed. The program has already created 950 jobs in Texas, bringing an estimated annual economic benefit of $1.6 billion while maximizing local expertise and bolstering smart grid infrastructure.

Oil-rich Texas was slow to embrace the opportunities inherent in solar energy, but a PV boom is anticipated in the state over the next 15 years. A recent study by S&P Global Market Intelligence forecast the addition of 2 GW of solar PV capacity in Texas this year, which would likely be more than the entire capacity added in Germany or the U.K.

Further, the Electricity Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) grid projects that Texas will boast 13 GW of cumulative solar PV capacity installed by 2030, which would represent a 50-fold increase on last year’s level – 2015 ended with just 534 MW of PV installed.