The arid lands across the Western United States offer excellent natural conditions for generating electricity from the sun. However, for many years large-scale solar development was largely confined to California, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada and Colorado, with limited activity in other states.
That is changing. In 2015 Utah put online its first utility-scale solar projects, and the Oregon and Idaho markets began booming in 2016. And this year Washington will get its first solar project larger than 1 MW.
Large-scale solar is coming to Wyoming as well. On Tuesday the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) gave the final environmental approval for Wyoming’s first utility-scale solar project located on roughly 700 acres of land in Sweetwater County, most of which is public land managed by the BLM.
The Sweetwater Solar plant is a project of 174 Power Global, the project development subsidiary of Hanwha Q Cells. The developer holds a 20-year power contract with Rocky Mountain Power, a subsidiary of Pacificorp, for the output of a 102 MW-DC/80 MW-AC project to be built on the site.
The project is only 2.5 miles to a 220 kV substation, and 174 Power has noted the good site access due to a highway running through the site.
The schedule for the project to be built is unclear. The BLM site features a January 2017 presentation from 174 Power, which offers a timeline that would have the project substantially completed in October. However, the company was not able to begin construction on that timeline without BLM approval.
Other details are also not clear. It is assumed that 174 Power will build the plant using Hanwha Q Cells modules, however project documents mention two different possible configurations, with single-axis tracking for the main option and fixed-tilt racking and/or tracking for an alternative site configuration with smaller-wattage modules.
Additionally, Sungrow has mentioned that it is supplying the largest solar project in Wyoming. We have concluded that this means the Sweetwater, as the U.S. Department of Energy’s project databases do not show any other solar projects larger than 1 MW in the state. These are likely to be central inverters, as project documents mention inverter pads.