First Solar To Power East Camden Renewable Energy Project, Officials Say

by Wesley Brown ([email protected]) 336 views 

Nashville-based renewable energy provider Silicon Ranch Corp. said today that it has selected publicly traded First Solar in Tempe, Ariz., to provide power for a 12-megawatt (MW) solar energy project planned for the Highland Industrial Park in East Camden.

In February, Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corp. and East Camden defense contractor Aerojet Rocketdyne first announced the deal to build and manage what will officials said would be the largest solar field in Arkansas.

Since then, Entergy Arkansas has announced plans to build an even larger 81-megawatt photovoltaic solar energy generating facility in Arkansas County. That emissions-free solar energy facility is not expected to be connected to Entergy Arkansas’ transmission grid until the end of the decade, if approved by the state Public Service Commission.

The East Camden Solar facility, however, is expected to come online in late 2015. Under the terms of the deal, Silicon Ranch will build the solar field next to Aerojet Rocketdyne’s 1,200-acre manufacturing and test facility in the fast-growing industrial park. There, Aerojet Rocketdyne, a subsidiary of publicly traded GenCorp., produces propulsion motors for the Lockheed Martin’s Patriot missile system in the South Arkansas city.

“This project is on the leading edge of a trend by U.S. industrial companies to commit to clean, renewable energy,” said Silicon Ranch CEO Matthew Kisber. “Aerojet Rocketdyne understands that solar is a responsible choice from both environmental and economic considerations. It is a smart, enlightened strategic procurement decision. Silicon Ranch is proud to help them achieve that objective.”

Electricity from the solar generation facility will directly supplement Aerojet Rocketdyne’s daytime operations. Under a unique set of power purchase agreements, excess electricity generated by the installation will be released AECC and integrated into the cooperative’s diverse generation portfolio.

It is expected to generate enough electricity to power the equivalent of 2,400 single-family homes and provide clean supplemental daytime power to both AECC and Aerojet Rocketdyne, officials said.

Kisber said Silicon Ranch’s selection of First Solar was based on the company’s bundling of a single-axis solar tracking technology and wiring and mounting system that allows solar panels to follow the sun across its daily arc. This tracker technology produces up to 25% more energy than fixed mounting systems, and is a configuration preferred by utility-scale solar projects around the world, officials said.

“Silicon Ranch’s choice to partner with First Solar shows how this technology contributes to a competitively designed commercial and industrial solar power project,” said Dana Diller, First Solar’s vice president of U.S. Business Development. “This market segment includes large-scale business operations seeking ways to save on energy costs while adopting sustainable, environmentally sound purchasing practices. First Solar enables power plant operators and owners to mitigate their risk and maximize their energy return.”

First Solar’s deal to provide power for the Arkansas plant is another big win for the fast-growing Arizona-based renewable power system operator that recently said it expects to see sales of $750 million to $850 million in the second quarter.

Last week, First Solar announced a strategic alliance with agri and farming manufacturer Caterpillar Inc. to develop an integrated photovoltaic (PV) solar solution for microgrid applications.

Under that deal, First Solar will design and manufacture a pre-engineered turnkey package for use in remote microgrid applications, such as small communities and mine sites. The package will feature Caterpillar-branded solar panels manufactured by First Solar and will include a balance of system components, company officials said.

In a nod to the nation’s increasing focus on solar energy, the Arkansas Advanced Energy Foundation (AAEF) has invited an expert in the field to speak at a luncheon series in June to promote innovations and developments in renewable technologies.

Adam Browning, co-founder of San Francisco-based Vote Solar, will be the guest speaker at the AAEF luncheon event, scheduled for June 4 at Heifer Village in Little Rock. Since forming Vote Solar in 2001, Browning has spearheaded state, local and federal campaigns to remove regulatory barriers and implement key policies needed to bring solar to scale.

AEFF officials said Arkansas has some policies in place to facilitate small-scale renewable energy, yet many barriers remain and only about 320 renewable energy facilities are installed to date across the state, AAEF officials said.

“Solar photovoltaic power may well be the present and the future of electricity generation because it has no moving parts, requires no fuel and is 100% carbon free,” said Steve Patterson, Executive Director of AAEF. “Adam is a national leader in moving solar power into the mainstream and we are privileged to bring him before the state’s energy community to share the economic good news story that has accompanied solar development.”