Construction at one of the world’s largest PV farm, Mount Signal, begins

A First Solar array on farmlandThe 800 megawatt DC Mount Signal Solar power plant is being built in Imperial County, Calif. 8minutenergy Renewables massive photovoltaic farm is being built on 1,940 acres of low-productivity farmland and has got the support of several environmental groups including the Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

The first phase of the Mount Signal project is a 266 megawatt DC (200 megawatt AC) phase. It’s part of a project pipeline for 8minutenergy that’s over 2 gigawatts in size. “This 200 megawatt project will be the first project that goes online [for the company],” said 8minutenergy CEO Martin Hermann. “We are targeting getting the entire facility online by 2014. We don’t comment on intermediate steps,” he said.

In all the 800 megawatt—600 megawatt AC—project will consist of three phases. The company is installing First Solar modules for the project, according to Hermann. During construction it’s expected to generate about 1,000 jobs.

Since the project was located on previously disturbed lands 8minutenergy was able to get approval from leading conservation groups likes Sierra Club and Natural Resources Defense Council. Earlier this year, the organizations said they applauded the company’s approach of developing the low-yield farmland. “By working with the Sierra Club and the rest of the environmental community to provide additional stewardship for the burrowing owl they have demonstrated that they will go the extra mile,” said Bill Corcoran, Western Regional Director of Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign.

The company’s entire pipeline of projects actually is on previously disturbed land. A total of 15,000 acres that it is developing, including Calxico I and II. “The environmental organizations shared our assessment that using the land for solar generation will increase the environmental value of the selected land. We built our portfolio based on how we can improve the usage from an environmental and economical perspective,” Hermann said.

8minutenergy made the announcement after the final hurdle, financing, was cleared. The company’s partner AES Solar finalized $636 million in project financing. When completed Mount Signal Solar will electricity to about 65,000 households under a 25-year power purchase agreement (PPA) with San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E).

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