Investment in Transmission Leads to Reinvestment in the Imperial Valley

  • California Energy Markets
  • By L.D.P

A new community energy project is providing 12,000 low-income residents in the Imperial and Coachella valleys with solar power and decreasing their monthly bills.

The Imperial Irrigation District and Citizens Energy Corp., a Boston-based nonprofit, announced the 30-MW project Sept. 25. The project is being touted as “one of the largest low-income community solar projects in the nation.”

The project will “help provide clean, locally generated, renewable energy to thousands of people in the Imperial and Coachella valleys, all of whom will also receive additional monthly savings on their energy bills,” Erik Ortega, president of the Imperial Irrigation District Board of Directors, said. “Now, IID’s low-income customers can say they too form a part of California’s green energy revolution.”

The $46-million project will be sited on 200 acres owned by the district near its Midway Substation outside of Calipatria. It will consist of roughly 107,000 solar-panel modules. The energy is being provided to IID’s grid under a 23-year power-purchase agreement.

The district will have an option to purchase, own and operate the solar project at the end of the agreement.

The price of energy from the project is purportedly “the lowest the district has ever been able to procure” for solar-generated power. The first-year costs are estimated to be $19.83/MWh. The total cost of purchased power throughout the agreement is estimated to be $36 million.

Qualified customers will have their bills reduced through the irrigation district’s Residential Energy Assistance Program and its new eGreen Program.

When Citizens Energy made a $100-million investment in the Sunrise Powerlink—a 120-mile, 500-kV transmission line connecting the San Diego area with renewable energy resources in the Salton Sea area and Imperial County—it pledged to use the profits from the project to benefit low-income customers in the Imperial Irrigation District service area.

“This project is a direct result of that commitment,” the two groups said in a news release. “Under the partnership with IID, Citizens is able to reach thousands more customers than with their original rooftop solar assistance program with IID.”

Citizens Energy, founded by former U.S. Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy II, uses revenues from its varied successful energy ventures to invest in programs that help disadvantaged communities.