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8minutenergy gets go-ahead for 600MW PV projects

In virtually back-back announcements, California’s 8minutenergy Renewables announced support from the environmental community for its planned 600 megawatts of California solar installations and also approval from the Imperial County Board of Supervisors. The company projects are being developed on previously used land and the company is working to ensure they have little negative environmental impact.

The approvals were for the Mount Signal Solar and Calexico Solar Farms I & II, each project is 200 megawatts. The projects, being developed on low-value farmland in the country were approved by the Sierra Club, Audubon California, Defenders of Wildlife and the Natural Resources Defense Council. “We worked with the Sierra Club and the others for quite a while,”said 8minutenergy President Tom Buttgenbach. “We specifically choose low-productivity and low-value farmland,…which helps conserve water and doesn’t take highly productive land out of circulation.”

Other projects, most recently the Calico Solar Project, have drawn ire—and a lawsuit—from the environmental groups that support 8minutenergy’s projects. Such projects are located on desert lands, often managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), that provide habitat for threatened species.

By choosing to develop projects on private land, the company has been able to appease environmentalists. “As a philosophy we site our projects on to previously disturbed, low-productivity farmland,” Buttgenbach said. “BLM land is much more challenging. The impacts are much higher on BLM land than on previously disturbed farm land.” The cost to develop on private land is roughly the same as on BLM land, he said.

Already 8minuteenergy has a power-purchase agreement in place with San Deigo Gas & Electric in place for the Mount signal solar farm. It also has lined up purchasers for the power produced from the Calexico Solar Farms, according to Buttgenbach. However, he wasn’t able to talk about the off-takers for those projects until the deals are finalized. Construction on the first project is slated to begin in June 2012 and it is expected to start producing power in June 2013.

Overall 8minuntenergy has 2 gigawatts of projects in California, including these, that in the development process. Most of the projects are in the Imperial Valley, but the company also has projects in California’s Central Valley and elsewhere, Buttgenbach said.

Image courtesy of NREL

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