Q & A
Imperial Solar Energy Center West

What is the Imperial Solar Energy Center West project?

The Imperial Solar Energy Center West project would use photovoltaic etechnology to generate up to150 MW of power from sunlight. It would use the power of the sun to meet the electric needs of more than 54,000 homes.

What is the status of the West project?

The permitting process for the 1,057-acre Imperial Solar Energy Center West project progressed smoothly. Imperial County has approved the project. Final permits and a construction start are expected in 2012.

Has the public weighed in on the project?
If not, when do they do so?

There was a public Scoping Meeting held in 2010, and the Environmental Impact Report and Environmental Assessment (EIR/EA) for the West project was available for public comment in late 2010 and early 2011. There was public input for the project at the Imperial County Planning Board meeting and the Board of Supervisor meeting prior to approval in 2011.

Who owns the project?

The project is owned by Tenaska affiliate CSOLAR IV West, LLC, a renewable energy company managed by Tenaska Solar Ventures, an affiliate of Tenaska. Tenaska Solar Ventures is dedicated to developing, owning and operating solar projects in North America. Tenaska is an independent energy company headquartered in Omaha, Nebraska, that develops, constructs, owns, and operates non-utility generation and cogeneration plants. Tenaska is an experienced energy developer, having successfully developed 9,000 megawatts of power over its 25 years in the industry.

Who is the developer?

Tenaska Solar Ventures is the developer of the project.

What solar power technology will be used?

The West project is currently proposed to use concentrated photovoltaic (CPV) technology and is in negotiations with Soitec to utilize its Concentrix technology. The system directly converts solar energy to electricity by utilizing semiconductors. Concentrix CPV technology uses ground-mounted concentrated photovoltaic panels with two-axis tracking.

Why is CPV technology being proposed for the West project?

CPV technology is expected to be utilized because it promises to be particularly well suited to the very high solar irradiance prevalent in the Imperial Valley. CPV is more costly to manufacture and operate, yet its productivity is higher when long days with strong sunlight are present. This is expected to result in higher energy production as compared to non-CPV technologies.

Would the environmental impact be significant?

Solar energy has long been recognized as an environmentally responsible energy technology, an indication that the impact would not be significant. The West project's land was in agricultural use, but has been abandoned because it was uneconomic for agricultural production. The solar panels would be mounted on poles above the ground. The panels work by absorbing the light from the sun, minimizing reflection. The panels would not be a cause of hazardous emissions or chemical waste. The minimal amount of water consumed would be used for dust control and sanitary uses. In addition, the project, along with another project under development by Tenaska Solar Ventures, the Imperial Solar Generating Center South, would result in avoided fossil fuel emissions of more than 220,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide annually, an amount equivalent to removing 38,000 cars from California roads.

Could threatened and endangered species be impacted by the solar field and why?

Concern for the environment was among the factors used to evaluate the two project sites. Because the West site is on abandoned agricultural land, the habitat is poor for specific species. Endangered species are protected by federal law and appropriate precautions and mitigations will be in-place to protect these species.

We plan to restore the area under the panels to native vegetation, which would improve habitat while controlling dust.

Who would build the project?

The project will have an EPC (engineering, procurement, construction) contractor. An EPC contractor has not yet been selected for the West project. EPC contractors typically hire the workers who build the projects; however, Tenaska Solar Ventures will work closely with the EPC contractor to achieve local hiring and training, which could include union hiring.

How many workers would be employed to construct the site?

It is expected that the West site will employ nearly 300 at peak construction. The station is expected to take 18 months to two years to complete.

Where will the solar panels be manufactured?

Should the technology currently proposed for the site be ultimately used, Soitec’s Concentrix plans to make its technology available by building a new factory in the San Diego region. The factory, able to produce 200 MW of generating capacity per year, is expected to employ up to 450 workers at full production and supply utility-scale solar power projects throughout the desert southwest, according to Soitec officials.

What is the expected date to begin construction?

The West project is expected to begin construction as early as 2012. Following construction of a factory to produce concentrated photovoltaic systems, the West project completion is expected as early as 2015.

How will the electricity be delivered from the site?

A short power line would be required to link the project to the Imperial Valley Substation. From there, electricity would be distributed to customers of San Diego Gas & Electric. The electricity would be delivered to the WECC (Western Electricity Coordinating Council), the power grid that assures reliable energy in the western U.S. electrical grid.

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Download a fact sheet about Imperial Solar Energy Center:

Fact Sheet - South

Fact Sheet - West