Yesterday First Solar and NextEra Energy announced that they have put online of one of the largest single-site solar PV plants built to date, the massive Silver State South. At 250 MW-AC, the plant incorporates 3.4 million First Solar thin-film PV modules mounted on single-axis trackers covering 8 square kilometers of public land in Nevada.
Silver State South will be owned and operated by NextEra Energy Resources. Even though the palnt is located in Nevada, it will sell power to California utility Southern California Edison (SCE) under a 20-year power contract.
There is an irony here, in that California requires utilities to purchase an increasing amount of their electricity from renewable energy under its aggressive renewable portfolio standard policy, while conservationists skilled in utilizing the state’s strict environmental laws have blocked many of the plants that represented utilities’ chosen path to meet those requirements: enormous solar and wind plants in the California desert.
Nevada, on the other hand, does not have the same rigor in its laws, which provides developers a means to build these huge plants and sell into California. The other alternative has been to build PV plants on former agricultural land in California, of which there is a great deal in the state, however these tend to be more modest in scale.
By and large, the days of huge solar plants on public land appear to be over. While the U.S. Department of the Interior has designated certain public land as zones for renewable energy development, these have not proven as attractive to developers. In the meantime, the market for solar plants under 100 MW appears to be flourishing.