EL CENTRO â€“ With one snip of the scissors, Tenaska officials celebrated the start of commercial operation at Tenaska Imperial Solar Energy Center South with a ribbon-cutting ceremony Thursday at the facility southwest of El Centro.
The traditional red ribbon was replaced with a green one to symbolize solar powerâ€™s sustainability and environmental benefits for California.
Executives from Tenaskaâ€™s solar energy project development, engineering and construction and long-term operations groups attended the ribbon-cutting for Tenaska Imperial South, a solar photovoltaic electric generating station that began commercial operation Nov. 1 under a 25-year power purchase agreement with San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E).
At 130 megawatts (MW), the solar fieldâ€™s nearly 2 million panels are able to generate enough electricity to power approximately 44,000 homes in SDG&Eâ€™s service territory.
The gathering was a symbolic handing over of the plant management from the Tenaska units that developed and constructed the project to the Tenaska Operations and Asset Management group.
â€œTogether, with the vision of area leaders and SDG&Eâ€™s commitment to delivering renewable energy to its customers, we were successful bringing this major investment to fruition and starting the growth of a new energy economy,â€ said Todd Jonas, Tenaska senior vice president of operations and asset management.
â€œWe look forward to continuing our work with Valley leaders and SDG&E throughout the long-term operation of Tenaska Imperial South.â€
According to Vasu Pinapati, the Tenaska project director who oversaw the construction of Tenaska Imperial South, the project was:
Â·Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Tenaskaâ€™s first solar-powered electric generating station.
Â·Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â One of the largest commercially financed solar energy projects in the U.S.
Â·Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â The first utility-scale solar project to begin construction in the Imperial Valley.
Â·Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â The first large-scale solar project in the Valley to connect to SDG&Eâ€™s Sunrise Powerlink, a 117-mile transmission line from the Imperial Valley to San Diego.
Â·Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â The first solar project to commit in its conditional use permit to declaring Imperial County the point of sale for construction-related goods and services, resulting in more than $3 million in local sales tax payments.
Â·Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â The first solar company to work with the Imperial County Workforce Development One-Stop Centers and the California Employment Development Department to host a local job fair.
â€œTenacity, hard work and human ingenuity built this Valley into one of the nationâ€™s most successful agricultural regions more than 100 years ago,â€ said Tenaska Vice President of Development Bob Ramaekers, who oversaw permitting and local development arrangements for the project.
â€œSeventy-five years later, Tenaska was founded on those same principles â€“ the word â€˜tenacityâ€™ inspired our name. Itâ€™s not surprising that we felt at home in the Imperial Valley.â€
Tenaska and its contractor, a subsidiary of First Solar, Inc., worked to maximize hiring of qualified local workers during construction, which began in December 2011.
Of the more than 500 construction workers hired to work at the site, approximately 70 percent were from communities in Imperial County, including Brawley, El Centro, Heber, Imperial and Calexico.
Tenaska Imperial South received the 2013 Project of the Year Award from the Imperial Valley Economic Development Corporation (IVEDC) for its economic contributions to the region, including working with IVEDC to develop a renewable energy qualification program for local contractors and vendors.
Tenaska Imperial South awarded more than $20 million in contracts to a number of local companies.
First Solar Electric (California), LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of First Solar, Inc., operates the facility under a contract with Tenaska.
During the more than 25 years of commercial operation, the project is expected to pay millions in local sales and property taxes and contribute hundreds of thousands of dollars to the area economy annually in salaries and local contracts and supplies.
Tenaska Solar Ventures, an affiliate of Tenaska focused on developing solar energy projects in North America, is developing other projects in the Valley, including Tenaska Imperial Solar Energy Center West, a 150-MW facility near El Centro. Construction for Tenaska Imperial West, which has a 25-year power purchase agreement with SDG&E, is expected to begin in the first half of 2014.