Green Ribbon-cutting Celebrates Start of Commercial Operations at Tenaska’s First Solar Facility


Tenaska Imperial SouthEL CENTRO – 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 power’s sustainability and environmental benefits for California.

Executives from Tenaska’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 field’s nearly 2 million panels are able to generate enough electricity to power approximately 44,000 homes in SDG&E’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.

“Together, with the vision of area leaders and SDG&E’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,” said Todd Jonas, Tenaska senior vice president of operations and asset management.

“We look forward to continuing our work with Valley leaders and SDG&E throughout the long-term operation of Tenaska Imperial South.”

According to Vasu Pinapati, the Tenaska project director who oversaw the construction of Tenaska Imperial South, the project was:

·         Tenaska’s first solar-powered electric generating station.

·         One of the largest commercially financed solar energy projects in the U.S.

·         The first utility-scale solar project to begin construction in the Imperial Valley.

·         The first large-scale solar project in the Valley to connect to SDG&E’s Sunrise Powerlink, a 117-mile transmission line from the Imperial Valley to San Diego.

·         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.

·         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.

“Tenacity, hard work and human ingenuity built this Valley into one of the nation’s most successful agricultural regions more than 100 years ago,” said Tenaska Vice President of Development Bob Ramaekers, who oversaw permitting and local development arrangements for the project.

“Seventy-five years later, Tenaska was founded on those same principles – the word ‘tenacity’ inspired our name. It’s not surprising that we felt at home in the Imperial Valley.”

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.


  1. I do have to say that the construction of this project seems to have had a positive impact on the area in terms of jobs and tax revenues, especially when both are desperately needed. Better that a natural, clean, renewable resource be used than finite resources that further pollute the environment.

  2. “the first solar energy project connected to the Sunrise Powerlink bypassing disproportionately more natural resources and revenue from our region to the coast than the financial resources they leave behind.” They put on a great show though with all the back slapping ceremonies, token million dollar styrofoam check presentations and the free solar systems Joe Kennedy annually hands out to a handful of our low income citizens. Damn- suckered again by those shiney shoed city slickers.

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