A 1,900-acre installation of solar panels near Tranquillity fired up commercial power production on Monday, generating up to 200 megawatts of electricity for Southern California Edison.
The Tranquillity Solar Facility is jointly owned by Southern Power and Canadian Solar. Construction of the plant began in July 2015, and Southern Power bought a 51 percent stake in the project in September 2015. The plant is producing electricity that is being sold to Southern California Edison under a 15-year power purchase agreement.
Canadian Solar subsidiary Recurrent Energy developed the Tranquillity project. Recurrent employed as many as 456 workers during the peak of construction, and nearly two-thirds of them were hired from communities within 50 miles of the site near Dinuba Avenue and Highway 33, several miles southwest of Tranquillity. The companies estimate that about $5.7 million was spent locally for construction materials.
Southern Power and Canadian Solar expect the project to generate $14.6 million in taxes for Fresno County.
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The Tranquillity project uses photovoltaic solar panels that convert sunlight into electricity. The panels are mounted on single-axis trackers that keep the panels facing the sun as it moves across the sky throughout the day to maximize power production.
At 200 MW – enough, according to the two ownership companies, to meet the electricity needs of about 50,000 homes – the project is the largest single installation among about three dozen utility-scale photovoltaic solar power projects of 10 or more megawatts that have entered production in recent years in the central San Joaquin Valley. Taken together, these large projects have a production capacity of nearly 1,100 MW of electricity.
And more are in store. According to the California Energy Commission, another 21 large projects are expected to be operational in the four-county region by the end of 2017, adding another 1,100 MW of electricity to the state’s power grid. That includes a second phase of about 200 MW for the Tranquillity project.
Like Tranquillity Solar, many of these are being built across large swaths of retired farmland on the Valley’s west side, where soil has become unfarmable either because of built-up salt concentrations or because there is no water to irrigate crops.