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Solar co. Nextlight lands 230-MW deal with PG&E

by Camille Ricketts, June 8, 2009

NextLight Renewable Power, a solar company developing 2,100 Californian acres into what will be the AV Solar Ranch — a $1 billion solar array producing 230 megawatts — has landed a power purchasing contract with Pacific Gas & Electric. The plant will break ground next year in Antelope Valley, Calif., and is expected to be fully operational by 2013. The project could ultimately generate 592 gigawatt-hours of electricity a year for up to 90,000 PG&E households in northern and central California.

NextLight, owned wholly by San Francisco firm Energy Capital Partners, has several other major solar projects underway in California, Arizona and Nevada — totaling about 1,000 megawatts. But this is the first utility contract the company has landed. It agreed on a base price of $129.15 per megawatt-hour for 2013 and $132.90 per megawatt-hour for 2014, but no further financial details were disclosed.

As part of its involvement, PG&E will need to support the construction of a new transmission line and energy substation. It has submitted plans to do so to the California Public Utilities Commission, which has yet to approve them. An unnamed third-party company will be supplying the single-axis photovoltaic panels. However, engineering renderings suggest that the contractor might be SunPower — a company that is already working on a 250-megawatt project with PG&E. This has not been confirmed.

PG&E says this deal (the third of its kind this year) is the harbinger of more to come — it’s currently in the process of reviewing offers from energy generation company like NextLight. In addition to funds from the utility, NextLight will take additional equity from Energy Capital Partners. It will also be eligible for a stimulus package grant that could cover 30 percent of the ranch’s development costs.  NextLight’s has a larger solar-thermal facility in the works for Yuma County, Ariz., costing as much as $1.5 billion and producing between 280 and 330 megawatts.