Enel Green Power North America (EGNA), the local subsidiary of Italian utility Enel, has stated work is underway on Aurora, a distributed solar project in Minnesota, ruled by a judge in 2014 to be a better, more cost-effective investment decision than was a natural gas option.
The project, containing 150MW DC of solar PV, is spread across 16 sites. It is said to be capable of putting 100MW AC into the grid. Forecast to generate 210 million kWh of electricity annually, the entire project is expected to be online by the end of 2016. EGNA will own the project through a further subsidiary, Aurora Distributed Solar.
Enel claims this will be EGNA’s biggest project in North America to date. There is a long-term power purchase agreement in place with Minnesota utility Xcel Energy.
The Aurora solar farm is expected to generate enough electricity to power over 17,000 average US households. Additionally, the facility has calculated it will eliminate 150,000 tons of CO2 emissions per year.
According to the company, the design of the solar farm’s 16 small-scale PV plants, delivers a range of benefits, such as a reduction in transmission costs, reduced in-line loss and geographic diversification of generation assets. All 16 plants of the Aurora facility will utilize linear axis tracking devices to increase efficiency.
“By maximizing the distributed solar model, Aurora highlights how innovation and design are driving the future of renewables, while providing communities with access to energy that delivers both the biggest possible environmental benefits and the most economic value,” said EGPNA chief Rafael Gonzalez.
As reported by PV Tech in January 2014, a Minnesota administrative judge ruled the unsubsidized Aurora project was a better deal for ratepayers than natural gas. This was determined by a competitive bidding process. The state’s regulator, the Public Utilities Commission, had ordered bidding should be structured to help Xcel add 150MW of generation capacity by 2017. The Aurora distributed solar project was eventually chosen from five energy resources.
The Aurora solar project is the third EGPNA PV facility in the US. It accompanies the 61 MW Stillwater geo-PV hybrid plant in Nevada and the 2.4 MW Sheldon Springs Solar plant in Vermont. In total, EGPNA US and Canadian renewable projects include solar, wind, geothermal, and hydropower plants totaling more than 2.5 GW of installed capacity.
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