EL CENTRO – The IID Board of Directors toured the recently completed Sol Orchard solar project in El Centro Tuesday.
IID General Manager Kevin Kelley also accompanied the Directors along with Sol Orchard President Jeff Brothers and T-Solar USA Director Lars Peter.
The 131 acre solar panel project generates 25.2 Megawatts of power that is sold to IID.
“This is the first solar project that is not constructed on farmland and the power is sold to IID,” said Director Matt Dessert.
The Sol Orchard Solar Farm is comprised of 85,000 Chinese made photovoltaic panels installed on 131 acres. The panels are mounted to a single-axel tracker system that tracks the optimal angle of the sun, even if it is cloudy. The system is programmed for the next 20 years, based on the future movement of the sun.
Built on a galvanized steel frame assembly, the panels are warranted for 25 years and are able to withstand 85 mph winds. The upright poles for the panels are also coated with epoxy paint where they enter the ground. The efficiency of the panels degrades by about .05% per year. Even after 20 years the panels will have 80% of their operating capacity.
The solar panels are cleaned only when the efficiency drops below 95% or when it rains.
Jeff Brothers, President of Sol Orchard, said, “This is an ideal use of land that was needed by IID. It is a buffer between the residents and the gas plant, rather than having it sit here with bare dirt and tumbleweeds.”
The land for the project is very alkali and nothing was growing so no mitigation is needed to keep weeds from growing among the panels.
“Most of the power is dispersed and probably used within the city limits of El Centro,” said Brothers. “It is not shipped to San Diego.”
The project employs 2 to 4 workers and has around the clock security.
“Some of the community benefits include locally harvested renewable energy that is used locally,” said Brothers, “improved roads around the facility, landscaping around the perimeter of the privacy fence, as well as the use of an abandoned lot.”[nggallery id=91]