EL CENTRO â€“ To show its appreciation of Imperial County and celebrate the final commercial operation of Tenaska Imperial Solar Energy Center South near El Centro, CA., Tenaska is instituting an annual college scholarship program to benefit Imperial County students.
The program will award $8,000 in scholarships, starting with the class of 2014.
Todd Jonas, Tenaska senior vice president, Operations and Asset Management, announced the program Thursday at the Imperial Valley Economic Development Corporation (IVEDC) annual dinner in Heber, where he was the keynote speaker.
â€œThe relationships weâ€™ve been able to form in Imperial County, and the community support weâ€™ve received for Tenaska Imperial Solar Energy Center South, were integral to its successful completion,â€ said Jonas.
â€œWhile Tenaska Imperial South is an important investment in the local economy, scholarships are an investment in the countyâ€™s greatest treasure â€“ its youth, each of whom embodies our collective future hope and dreams.
These scholarships are a way that we can show our appreciation now and in the future. Thank you, Imperial County!â€
Jonas noted that it was fitting that Tenaska was able to make the scholarship presentation during National Education Week.
Tenaska will award scholarships each spring to college-bound seniors from the following Imperial County public schools: Brawley Union High School; Calexico High School; Calipatria High School; Central Union High School and Southwest High School in El Centro; Holtville High School; Imperial High School and San Pasqual Valley High School in Winterhaven.
The scholarships can be applied toward two- or four-year post-secondary education programs at accredited institutions.
The scholarships will be funded by CSOLAR IV South, LLC; the partnership that owns the solar field, of which an affiliate of Tenaska is managing partner.
A committee at Tenaskaâ€™s headquarters in Omaha, Neb., will select the scholarship recipients. Preference will be given to students who demonstrate that they are prepared for higher education, rank in the top half of their class, have good character and show financial need.
Scholarship applications will be available from guidance counselors beginning Dec. 2 at participating schools this winter. Completed applications must be received from applicants no later than March 3, 2014.
â€œLike the energy the sun creates shining on the solar panels, Tenaskaâ€™s gift of scholarships to Imperial County public schools will be a positive source of energy in the Valley for years to come,â€ said Ann Mallory, Imperial County superintendent of schools. â€œThe teachers and staff of Imperial County care about our students and work diligently to prepare them to be college- and career-ready. Tenaskaâ€™s college scholarships will help continue the work weâ€™ve started. Scholarships are tickets to bright futures for our students!â€
Tenaska Imperial South, which began construction in December 2011, was the first utility-scale solar project to begin construction in the Imperial Valley and the first to connect to San Diego Gas & Electricâ€™s (SDG&E) Sunrise Powerlink.
The solar field achieved commercial operation on Nov. 1, delivering 130 megawatts (MW) of renewable energy â€“ enough to serve 44,000 California homes â€“ to SDG&E under a 25-year power purchase agreement.
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.
Construction of Tenaska Imperial South created hundreds of jobs and paid more than $3 million in local sales taxes.
Tenaska and its contractor, a subsidiary of First Solar, Inc., worked to maximize hiring of qualified local workers. Of the more than 500 construction workers hired to perform work at the site, approximately 70 percent were from communities in Imperial County.
First Solar Electric (California), LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of First Solar, Inc., is also operating the facility under a contract with Tenaska.
Tenaska Imperial South received IVEDCâ€™s 2013 Project of the Year Award for its contributions to the region.
In addition to the significant economic benefits of the project, Tenaska worked with IVEDC to establish a program to identify and hire qualified local vendors for solar projects in the Imperial Valley.
Tenaska Imperial South awarded at least $20 million in contracts to a number of local companies, including Duggins Construction Inc. and Granite Construction.
Tenaska Solar Ventures, an affiliate of Tenaska focused on developing solar energy projects in North America, developed Tenaska Imperial South and has other projects in the Valley.
Tenaska Imperial Solar Energy Center West, also near El Centro, is expected to begin construction in the first half of 2014, with initial commercial operations scheduled for 2015.
When complete, it will produce up to 150 MW of electricity under a 25-year power purchase agreement with SDG&E, meeting the needs of approximately 55,000 California homes.