200 MW Tranquility solar project begins operation in California

Another mammoth solar PV plant has been put into operation in California, as the 200 MW Tranquility solar project officially begins generating electricity. Built on a huge expanse in Fresno County, the project took just over a year to complete and adds another large block of solar capacity to the U.S. state that is leading the way in PV deployment.

Canadian Solar’s subsidiary Recurrent Energy developed the project from start to finish, building the giant plant on 1,900 acres of retired agricultural land in Fresno County. The construction began in July 2015, so it took a total of 14 months to complete, which is not bad for a site of this size.

Originally Canadian Solar had full ownership of the site, but in August 2015 Southern Power, a subsidiary of Southern Company, bought 51% of the plant, leaving Canadian Solar with the remaining 49%.

“The Tranquility Solar Facility will help meet the energy needs of customers now and in the future,” commented Southern Power President and CEO Buzz Miller. “Through strategic acquisitions we continue our solar generation growth, creating one of America’s largest renewable portfolios.”

The project has been built on lands that are retired from agricultural production, which means that the project has not adversely affected local farmers. It has been a popular project in the local community, while the electricity will be sold on 15-year PPAs to various offtakers, including Southern California Edison.

“Recurrent Energy’s Tranquility solar project is a Smart from the Start project that uses drainage impaired, marginally productive farm lands being retired from agricultural production,” said Carl Zichella, Director of Western Transmission for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). “Recurrent Energy should be commended for its responsible development practices.”

“The Tranquility solar facility is the product of long-term collaboration with financial partners, local communities and other stakeholders,” said Chairman and CEO of Canadian Solar Shawn Qu. “This milestone is a testament to our commitment to the communities and ecosystems where we operate, which is a critical ingredient of our project development success.”

The Tranquility solar plant is an impressive sight, but new large-scale developments such as this are likely to become less common, as new utility-scale projects are getting smaller in the U.S. in general and in California in particular. The one notable exception to this is Texas, where there are still large utility-scale project getting developed, with more expected for the next five years.