Construction has begun on Westlands Solar Park, a project located in Fresno and Kings counties that developers are touting as "one of the largest permitted solar parks in the world."
Although developers have secured only two power-purchase agreements to date, the energy park could potentially generate roughly 2.7 GW when fully built out, according to the CIM Group, which on March 2 announced the latest progress on the project.
The park is on some 20,000 acres of farmland near Lemoore that are contaminated by selenium and drainage-impaired. The Los Angeles-based CIM Group reportedly has an operational 2-MW project at the site, which was completed in July 2016. Anaheim Public Utilities is the offtaker.
Construction will be phased "to meet the needs of public and private utilities and other energy consumers," CIM Group said in a news release. An environmental impact report for the entire project has been completed, but no additional information was available.
CIM Group did not respond to requests for comment.
The first phase is a 250-MW solar-photovoltaic project known as Aquamarine. Valley Clean Energy, a community choice aggregator serving Davis, Woodland and portions of unincorporated Yolo County, will be the offtaker for 50 MW after signing a PPA with CIM Group Feb. 14. VCE will use the 15-year contract to replace its current array of short-term power contracts. Its goal is to have 75-percent renewable energy by 2022.
"Valley Clean Energy is pleased to have CIM Group's Aquamarine project as a new, long-term partner," Don Saylor, a Yolo County supervisor and VCE board chair, said in a news release. "This solar project is a win-win enterprise, generating cost effective renewable power on brownfield land that is unusable for agriculture due to excess salt accumulation in the soil."
The contract helps VCE meet its regulatory compliance needs and provides customers with competitively priced, stable energy long term, Gordon Samuel, assistant general manager and director of power resources, told California Energy Markets via telephone. The project was selected "based on criteria adopted by the VCE board designed to select cost-effective California renewable projects that minimize impacts on prime farmland and avoid environmentally protected species and habitat, " he said.
When formed in June 2018, VCE initially procured power via short-term contracts. "It's taken us a while to get up and running," Jim Parks, director of customer care and marketing for the CCA, said in the same phone conversation. He said this is VCE's first long-term and first solar contract.
VCE is interested in purchasing more solar resources and will go out for bid on those in the near future, Parks said.