Sempra Energy is the company that won a $359 million conditional loan guarantee last week from the Department of Energy regarding the construction of a 700MW solar power plant in the Mesquite desert in Arizona.
In the first phase, the solar power plant, which is slated to cost about $500 million, will be capable of generating 150MW of clean electricity. The construction should begin within a month and will be finished by the end of 2013.
The polycrystalline solar panels are provided by Suntech Solar, one of the largest manufacturers in the solar power field. The reason why this photovoltaic system will be built in the Arizona desert is it uses little or no water. “This is a really good choice for water-constrained areas,” said Scott Crider, a Sempra spokesman.
Unlike other concentrating-solar power plants which use hundreds of thousands of gallons of water a year, photovoltaic systems use only a little water to clean the panels. According to a Solar Energy Industries Association report, First Solar and Sempra have already developed United States’ largest photovoltaic project, with an operational capacity of 55-megawatts. This power plant has used only the water obtained from rain to clean the panels.
The electricity produced in the first phase of the Mesquite Solar project will be delivered to Pacific Gas and Electric, a CA-based utility, with whom it has a 20-year contract.