Solar gets California utility closer to portfolio standard

MID installs 25-megawatt solar plantThe Modesto Irrigation District’s new 25-megawatt solar array brings it close to meeting California renewable energy portfolio standard requirements.

The installation, owned by K Road Power, is the municipal utility’s first solar project and it provides 2 percent of MID’s total power generation capacity.

The road to establishing the solar installation was a long one. MID issued a request for offers in 2008 to help the utility meet the California renewable energy portfolio standard, said MID spokeswoman Melissa Williams.

“We were looking for someone who could take advantage of our local resources,” Williams said.

While the request was simply for renewable energy projects with no specification for solar, Williams said the utility was happy to gain some solar generation. It is, after all, an abundant resource in Modesto.

“We already had a lot of wind,” Williams said. “The solar helps us to diversify.”

MID selected K Road, who partnered with SunPower to install and maintain the system, in 2010.

The project created 150 construction jobs, according to a release about the solar installation.

The new McHenry Solar Plant generates enough electricity to power 6,000 homes, according to the release. And Williams said it has made a major impact on the utility’s renewable generation capacity.

“This brings our renewable generation to 29 percent,” she said. “So we’re really close to the 33 percent requirement.”

That’s with seven years to go before the 2020 deadline to meet the renewable energy portfolio standard.

With that timeline, the utility could meet requirements ahead of schedule, but Williams said there are no plans to issue new requests for offers right now and she’s not sure when MID will begin pursuing the remaining 4 percent.

“We’re probably not going to add anything new right away,” she said.

The utility is buying the solar from K Road through a power purchase agreement. K Road, founded in 2006, owns and operates 20,000 megawatts of traditional and renewable energy generation throughout the country.