America’s most powerful rooftop PV plant goes live

As Americans, we’re obsessed with superlatives, and particularly biggest. In the mid-20th century the Empire State building was the tallest building in the world, and while we lost that title decades ago, we still have the many of the world’s largest roadside attractions.

So it should come as little surprise that in the 21st century there is a competition over who has the nation’s biggest solar project. That title is currently held by Apple, which commissioned a 17 MW PV array on the roof of its new headquarters in Cupertino.

But while Apple has the biggest, the City of Los Angles is boasting the nation’s most powerful PV project on the roof of a warehouse and distribution center near the port of Los Angeles in San Pedro. The Westmont solar project is by no means small at 16.5 MW, and may well be the second-largest rooftop solar project not only in the nation, but is the second-largest known to pv magazine globally.

The project’s 50,000 PV modules spread over 50 acres will produce an estimated 28 gigawatt-hours annually, which the city of Los Angeles argues is more than Apple’s plant, due to “highly efficient solar panels and unique roof design”.

The Westmont project was built by local installation company PermaCity solar, and enabled by the city of Los Angeles’ feed-in tariff program, which was championed by Mayor Eric Garcetti. Under this program the city’s municipal utility is compelled to buy the power from the installation at a fixed rate. And while feed-in tariffs have been a common policy mechanism in Europe, Los Angeles has not only the largest but one of the only such programs in the United States.

Through a partnership with EmPower America, PermaCity trained 50 veterans of the U.S. military in project management, roofing and electrical skills during the construction of the project.

A video of the project, which inaccurately claims it is the largest in the nation, can be seen on YouTube: