SACRAMENTO & ROSEVILLE, USA: Aerojet, a GenCorp company, Solar Power Inc. and SMUD announced that the companies have completed the 2.4 megawatts (MW) expansion of the existing 3.6 MW solar system at Aerojet’s Sacramento facility.
The site is located within the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) and has now increased its capacity to 6MW, making it the largest single-site industrial photovoltaic solar electric generating facility in California and one of the largest in the country. The installation of this array was made possible through the public-private partnership that was created by Aerojet, SMUD, Solar Power, Inc. and the EPA last year.
The solar array at Aerojet is a ground-mounted system utilizing a single-axis tracking system that follows the sun’s course throughout the day to maximize electricity production. The 6MW system utilizes 22 tracking arrays and more than 29,000 of Solar Power Inc.’s SPI 205 watt photovoltaic modules. Based on its performance characteristics, the SPI 205 watt module is currently ranked the number-one PV solar module in its class with the California Energy Commission.
All of the power generated by the 6MW system will be utilized by Aerojet operations. The electricity produced could power 30 percent of Aerojet’s extensive groundwater treatment projects in the Sacramento region. “This initiative is a major step in Aerojet’s efforts to help the environment, reduce its carbon footprint, and return approximately 40 acres of a Superfund site to beneficial use -- in essence, to turn it into an environmental asset,” said Aerojet’s Vice President of Sustainability, Ron Samborsky.
The local community benefits as well. The project replaces the need for nearly 10 GigaWatt hours of energy per year that would otherwise have been generated from fossil fuel resources. Additionally, solar technology is most efficient during peak energy use periods, i.e. hot summer afternoons. It is a valuable part of increasing the stability and reliability of the SMUD grid.
The Aerojet-Solar Power Inc.-SMUD partnership directly responds to increased federal and state regulations concerning climate change and reliability. The 6 MW Aerojet array represents an approximate 30 percent increase in the solar portion of the SMUD renewable energy portfolio. “The key is how to address these challenges in a way that maintains quality of life, reliability and affordability,” said John DiStasio, SMUD General Manager and CEO.
The Aerojet 6 MW-DC solar array will help SMUD conform to California state law (SB-1) mandating the implementation of solar PV systems that meet a state-wide goal of 125 MW by 2016 intended to lower the costs of solar PV.
In addition, state law requires utilities to meet 20 percent of their electricity demand with renewable energy by 2010. SMUD is the first large utility in the state that is on track to meet the 20 percent renewable mark. “SMUD has taken a long view. We have made early investments in renewable resources that, combined with our hydroelectric resources, represent a substantial down payment on a low-carbon future,” said DiStasio.
“We are very pleased to have completed this second phase of system construction,” said Steve Kircher, chairman and CEO of Solar Power Inc. “Aerojet, SMUD and the EPA have been wonderful to work with throughout the entire project. The entire 40-acre array is testimony to how the creative energies of public and private enterprises can be focused to achieve objectives that benefit not only the organizations involved, but an entire region both economically and environmentally.”
During construction of the 40-acre array, approximately 200 skilled workers were employed to build the system and another 100 indirect jobs were created to support construction activities. Environmental benefits of the array are significant.
During its first year of use, the Aerojet system is expected to offset approximately 6,000 tons of carbon dioxide, 23.8 tons of sulfur dioxide and approximately 9.3 tons of nitrogen oxide that would have otherwise been produced using fossil fuel power production.
The first-year net clean energy benefits equate to removing approximately 1,075 combustion engine vehicles from California’s highways or the clean air benefits realized from planting 1,396,423 trees. With a system life expectancy of 25 years, the cumulative life-cycle environmental offsets for a system of this scope are significant.