Solar data junkies, take heart!

New MW-scale solar installations come in strong second in latest FERC data, while First Solar breaks ground on another big PV project, earns top honors on SPW Top 250 list

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, better known by its nicknamey acronym FERC, tracks the activation of large-scale project infrastructure across the fossil and renewable spectrum. Its latest monthly report focuses on August, and as PV-Tech reports, the data look pretty awesome for big solar. Among new generation assets recognized as coming into service during the month (either newly built or part of an expansion project), 578MW, or 30.8%, of the total came from 20 PV plants ranging from a megawatt or two to 200MW (AC). Although natural gas (1.297GW) accounted for the majority of the newly deployed energy-generating capability, solar came in a solid second. For the year to date, PV accounts for 1.77GW, or 15.9%, of the total of 11.17GW deployed so far, still trailing natgas with its 6.49GW, but ahead of coal and wind.

Three large solar farms—phase one of AES’s Imperial Valley Solar, also known as the Mount Signal Solar project (200MW), Southern Company’s Campo Verde Solar Project (139MW), and phase 1 of LS Power Group’s Centinela Solar Energy (125MW)–made up 464MW of that solar total all on their own. The trio of projects are all located in southeastern California’s development-friendly Imperial Valley, are selling their power via PPAs with San Diego Gas & Electric, and delivering said power via the new Sunrise Powerlink to the utility’s grid.

By July or so of next year, another of the many Imperial Valley projects under construction—Solar Gen 2 near Calipatria—will be added to the FERC total. First Solar—which is also the EPC at Campo Verde in El Centro (which it says, contrary to the FERC report, will be completed in October) and the 130MW Tenaska Imperial Solar East site near Calexico–said it has started to build out the 150MW (AC) power plant. In addition to the likes of Solar Server posting the story, local media covered the groundbreaking ceremony and even included a photo gallery of the event.

A few things are striking about the SG2 project: one, First Solar still owns the site (which it bought from Energy Power Partners last April) and decided to start construction without finalizing a deal with the eventual owner; two, the PPA signed with SDG&E is for 25 years, not just 20; three, the site is split into three portions, each with its own nuances; and four, the entire 150MW (or about 195MW of PV glass measured in DC terms) will be mounted on tracking systems, making it one of the largest such installations in the world–at least for thin-film modules.

On a related note, congrats to First Solar for garnering the number-one position on the recently issued list of the Top 250 Solar Contractors in the U.S., ably compiled by Frank Andorka and his staff at Solar Power World. The Tempe, AZ-based firm blew away the competition, installing a reported 763MW (all in the utility market) in 2012 compared to second-place SolarCity’s 157MW dispersed in much smaller, mostly leased bites across the commercial and residential sectors. The ever-improving SPW list is well worth a gander (and a bookmark), as is the growing number of supportive content published in conjunction with the release of the report.