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April 18, 2014

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Solar power plant opens in Boulder City

New Eldorado Valley facility is largest thin-film plant in North America

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Sempra Generation has completed its 10-megawatt photovoltaic power-generation facility in Boulder City, with hopes to expand the plant to 60 megawatts in the future.

The new power plant features more than 167,000 solar modules on 80 acres and sits adjacent to the company's existing 480-megawatt, natural-gas-powered El Dorado Energy power plant.

It is the second solar power plant to open in the Eldorado Valley. Acciona Energy dedicated a 64-watt plant last February.

Sempra Energy spokesman Hanan Eisenman said the El Dorado Energy Solar project relies on new thin-film solar technology, which, unlike other solar plants, does not require water. He said the project is the largest operational thin-film plant in North America.

"One of the benefits of thin-film technology is that it's the most cost-effective solar technology available," Eisenman said. "It's the least expensive to manufacture."

He noted this technology would prove especially attractive in the arid Southwest.

Construction began in July 2008 with 110 employees. It was engineered and built by First Solar and marks Sempra Energy's first solar facility to come online. Eisenman said the company is developing other solar projects throughout the region as well.

"Given the challenges of climate change and the need for new electrical resources, one of the ways we can confront these challenges is by producing clean, renewable energy," Eisenman said. "With this project, Sempra Energy is taking a leadership role in this effort."

The plant will produce enough energy to power 6,400 homes, and will generate electricity during the day, when customer demand peaks. The entire output will go to Northern and Central California customers served by Pacific Gas and Electric, which entered into a 20-year contract with Sempra.

Eisenman said Sempra benefited from using the existing infrastructure at the El Dorado facility.

"It also happened to be a very good solar site as well," he said.

The facility will be manned by one full-time staff person, and will be monitored remotely.

"Once they are in, they don't need much maintenance," Eisenman said.

Expansion of the plant could begin as early as next year, he said.

Dave Clark can be reached at 990-2677 or [email protected].

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