Agua Caliente Solar Farm, Arizona, United States of America


The 290MW Agua Caliente Solar farm is the world's largest operational photovoltaic (PV) power plant. The ground-mounted solar project is located in the east of Yuma County, Arizona, US.

NRG Energy and MidAmerican Energy Holdings own the $1.8bn project.

The project was initiated by Next Light Renewable Power but was sold to First Solar in July 2010. NRG Energy acquired the project from First Solar in August 2011. MidAmerican Energy bought a 49% stake in the project from NRG Energy, in January 2012.

"The solar farm will generate 626.2GWh of electricity."

The solar farm will generate 626.2GWh of electricity, which is sufficient for 100,000 average homes and will reduce 220,000t of carbon dioxide emissions annually. The power generated will be entirely sold to Pacific Gas & Electric Company through a 25-year power purchase agreement (PPA).

The project won 'Project of the Year' title at the Excellence in Renewable Energy Awards competition held in February 2012. Construction began in 2010 and is expected to be completed in 2014.

An expected 400 construction jobs will be generated by thr project, in addition to 16 monitoring and operating jobs.

Agua Caliente solar farm location and development details

Agua Caliente solar farm is being developed in an area of 2,400 acres near Dateland and Hyder communities.

The project will be completed in two phases. The first will have an installed capacity of 100MW, while the second will add 190MW to take the total plant capacity to 290MW.

Plant make-up of Agua Caliente solar farm

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The solar farm will consist of five million advanced thin-film cadmium telluride (CdTe) PV modules designed to generate electricity with no emissions, minimal waste or water usage, less noise, and a low visual impact.

CdTe PV modules have the smallest carbon footprint and fastest energy payback time when compared with other PV technologies.

The project will also include installation of 200 power conversion station (PCS) vaults, with each consisting of a pair of Sunny Central PV inverters by SMA. The inverters are equipped with fault-ride-through and dynamic voltage regulation technology, which increases the reliability and sustainability of the electric power system. Agua Caliente is the first plant in the US to use this inverter technology.

Agua Caliente solar plant design and details

Solar panels will be mounted to metal rocks installed at a height of 6m above the ground and will be capable of withstanding high winds. The installation requires lesser new transmission infrastructure.

The land in which the solar farm is located was previously a distributed agricultural land, located 65 mile on the White Wing Ranch. The site was chosen because of its access to transmission lines, larger amount of sunlight, and current land use.

The Hassayampa-North Gila 500kV transmission line located adjacent to Agua Caliente site will provide transmission access. A new regional switchyard was also constructed at the site.

Agua Caliente solar power station construction

"Solar panels will be mounted to metal rocks installed at a height of 6m above the ground."

Phase one construction started in 2010 and finished in early 2012. The first solar PV panel was installed in June 2011. The second phase construction is expected to be completed by 2014.

The first phase started commercial operations in January 2012, by generating 30MW of electricity and transferring it to the grid successfully.

Grid-connected power exceeded 100MW by early 2012 and reached 200MW by mid-2012.

Contractors involved with the solar power project in Arizona

The engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contract for the solar project was awarded to First Solar. The contractual scope also includes the operations and maintenance of the plant.

Agua Caliente solar plant financing

A loan guarantee of $967m was provided by the US Department of Energy (DOE) in August 2011, for the construction of the Agua Caliente solar project.

NRI Energy Technology