NRG Energy, Inc. and First Solar, Inc. announced that NRG, through its wholly owned subsidiary, NRG Solar, has agreed to acquire the 290-megawatt (MW) Agua Caliente solar project from First Solar. The project is scheduled to be completed by 2014 and has a 25-year power purchase agreement with Pacific Gas and Electric Company. When completed, Agua Caliente is expected to be the largest operational photovoltaic (PV) site in the world.
Located in Yuma County, AZ, the Agua Caliente project is expected to generate state and local tax revenues, provide wages for up to 400 construction jobs and create economic benefits for many local businesses.
“Solar power is critical to transitioning our nation to having a greater emphasis on large-scale clean energy technologies and it is going to be projects of the scale of Agua Caliente that will help us achieve this ambitious goal,” said David Crane, President and CEO of NRG Energy. “This investment significantly increases our presence in the state and benefits the residents of Arizona while providing attractive returns to NRG’s stakeholders.”
At full capacity, NRG estimates the 290 MW project will provide clean, zero-emission electricity for more than 225,000 homes. The project is expected to offset approximately 5.5 million metric tons of CO2 over 25 years, the equivalent of taking over 40,000 cars off the road annually. Agua Caliente will generate electricity with no air emissions, no waste production and no water consumption.
“Agua Caliente is representative of our mission to provide clean, affordable, sustainable solar energy, capitalizing on our advanced thin-film technology and the tremendous solar resource of Arizona,” said Rob Gillette, CEO of First Solar. “We are very pleased to further expand our relationship with NRG as the owner of Agua Caliente, the first of our multi-hundred-megawatt utility-scale projects to begin construction.”
An application has been submitted to the U.S. Department of Energy for a federal loan guarantee in connection with the financing of the project, which is expected to be one of the first in the U.S. to start construction under the program. Closing of the acquisition is contingent on receiving the federal loan guarantee. NRG plans to invest up to $800 million of equity in the project through 2014 through a potential combination of cash on hand in addition to third-party investor equity.
Situated on 2,400 acres of land between Yuma and Phoenix, AZ, the Agua Caliente project has secured all necessary permits for construction and the early construction phases have begun. First Solar has developed the project and is the engineering, procurement and construction contractor, using its advanced thin-film PV modules. First Solar will provide operations and maintenance services.
The Agua Caliente solar project is the latest in a series of clean energy advancements NRG has made in Arizona this year. In June, NRG purchased the district energy system in Phoenix, NRG Energy Center Phoenix, that produces and distributes chilled water to customers in the Phoenix central business district as well as operating and maintaining district energy/combined heat and power plants for Arizona State University and in Tucson. In September, NRG began an initiative with Kennedy Partners to develop solar arrays for Arizona schools to meet their own electricity needs while providing new teaching tools and shade for parking. NRG is also developing a 25 MW solar photovoltaic project for Tucson Electric Power to help meet the energy demands of the state with renewable energy.
“Arizona is a key area of growth for NRG where our investment is creating local jobs and building infrastructure,” said Tom Doyle, president of NRG Solar and a Phoenix resident. “It is very gratifying to be able to see the benefits of our partnerships with local schools, providing cooling and heating for local businesses and universities and developing solar fields like Agua Caliente and our project for Tucson Electric Power. This is a relationship that will benefit all Arizona residents for a very long time.”