Sempra Generation completes largest U.S. photovoltaic solar power plant

The 48-megawatt (MW) Copper Mountain Solar facility, located in Boulder City, Nev., about 40 miles southeast of Las Vegas, is now generating enough emission-free electricity to power about 14,000 average homes.

“Completing Copper Mountain Solar is a major accomplishment. It demonstrates that large-scale solar can be developed at a rapid pace to help this country meet its clean energy needs, and further solidifies our position as one of the leading solar developers in the U.S.,” said Jeffrey W. Martin, president and chief executive officer of Sempra Generation. “We have a focused plan aimed at developing more than 1,000 MW of solar projects in California, Arizona and Nevada that will provide solid returns well into the future.”

Construction on Copper Mountain Solar began in January 2010 at the 380-acre desert site. About 350 construction workers at peak installed nearly 775,000 thin-film photovoltaic solar panels, which convert sunlight directly into electricity.

First Solar of Tempe, Ariz., supplied the solar panels and served as the engineering, procurement and construction contractor.

“Safely completing construction on a solar power facility of this magnitude in less than a year is an unprecedented achievement,” said William R. Engelbrecht, Sempra Generation’s vice president of planning and construction. “This is a massive project, and Sempra Generation’s construction team, working with First Solar, did an outstanding job of meeting our aggressive goal to build the entire project by the end of the year.”

The power from Copper Mountain Solar and Sempra Generation’s adjacent 10-MW El Dorado Solar power plant has been sold to Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) under separate 20-year contracts. California utilities are required to procure 20 percent of their energy supply from alternative sources by the end of 2010, increasing to 33 percent by 2020.

Sempra Generation is expanding its renewable energy portfolio throughout the Western U.S. The company expects to begin construction on the first phase of a 600-MW solar energy project in Arizona next year, and recently received approval to build a 200-MW solar farm in Kern County, Calif. The company also recently announced that it has become an equal partner with BP Wind Energy in the development of a 250-MW wind farm project in Colorado that is currently under construction.

Sempra Generation operates and maintains a fleet of natural gas-fueled power plants, and develops solar and wind power facilities that serve U.S. markets. Sempra Energy (NYSE: SRE), based in San Diego, is a Fortune 500 energy services holding company with 2009 revenues of more than $8 billion. The Sempra Energy companies’ 13,600 employees serve about 25 million consumers worldwide.

The Copper Mountain Solar facility is owned and operated by Copper Mountain Solar I, LLC; the El Dorado Solar plant is owned and operated by El Dorado Energy, LLC; and the proposed Mesquite Solar facility in Arizona will be owned and operated by Mesquite Solar 1, LLC, all subsidiaries of Sempra Generation.

Sempra Generation is not the same company as the utility, San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) or Southern California Gas Company (SoCalGas), and Sempra Generation is not regulated by the California Public Utilities Commission.