Largest CCA Renewable Project Comes Online in California

The 200 MW Wright solar project in Merced County is providing solar power to commercial and residential customers of Peninsula Clean Energy in San Mateo County.
Wright solar project in Merced County, Calif. Image courtesy of Peninsula Clean Energy

Community solar is taking a big step forward today as the 200-megawatt utility-scale Wright solar facility in Merced County, Calif.,—the largest renewable energy installation ever built for a Community Choice Aggregation agency—is officially online and providing electricity to Peninsula Clean Energy customers.

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PCE, which launched in October 2016 as California’s fifth CCA, is the official local electricity provider for all of San Mateo County and is saving its customers an estimated $18 million in electricity costs per year. Jan Pepper, PCE CEO, said the CCA has between 290,000 and 300,000 accounts, including residential and commercial users. Facebook is among PCE’s largest corporate customers and the biggest one to enroll in EC 100, which procures 100 percent of its electricity from renewable sources and is 100 percent greenhouse gas emissions free. Other major corporate clients in ECO100 are Visa and Gilead Sciences Inc.

PCE, which has a mix of renewable energy sources including solar, wind, hydro and geothermal, signed a 25-year power purchase agreement with Wright Solar Park LLC in 2018 to buy all of the facility’s electricity once it was completed. The CCA currently gets 40MW from the Cuyama solar facility in Santa Barbara County, Calif., and has a PPA for 100MW of solar from Mustang Two in Kings County, Calif., which is in development.

The Wright project is owned by Centaurus Renewable Energy and the construction and operations are managed by Clēnera LLC. The solar facility was constructed by Swinerton Renewable Energy with approximately 400 union workers from the region, hired as part of a five-union project labor agreement developed by PCE in consultation with local building trades and unions. It took the workers 11 months to install roughly 650,000 4-by-2 foot solar panels and accompanying equipment.

“The sheer size of this project, the largest project for an individual CCA to date, and how it can be a model for other CCAs and communities to follow is very exciting,” Pepper told Commercial Property Executive. “We expect this can prove how large renewable projects can provide affordable and clean power to communities in a timely manner, and include the use of multi-trade local union labor to build these projects.”

Powerful trend

Pepper said the Wright solar project adds to an escalating trend of development of new renewable energy resources throughout California and elsewhere. California’s 19 CCAs have on average added about 1,000 MW annually in long-term renewable energy purchase agreements. They are expected to make long-term investments in more than 10,000 MW of new clean energy resources and energy storage by 2030. In November, PCE teamed up with two other California CCAs, East Bay Community Energy and Silicon Valley Clean Energy, to issue a solicitation for a 30 MW distributed energy storage-plus solar project. PCE would get 10 MW solar plus four hours of storage capacity split between commercial and residential customers. Pepper said PCE is working separately on a long-term PPA for solar plus storage.