Kern County

Department of Water and Power Board Approves Large Solar Energy Purchase

The Los Angeles Board of Water and Power Commissioners Tuesday approved one of the largest solar energy purchasing agreements in the utility's history, forwarding the proposed deal to the City Council for final consideration.

Under the proposal, the company 8minute Solar Energy would contract with the DWP to provide power from the Barren Ridge solar project in the Mojave Desert. The board approved the project unanimously, 5-0.

Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Koretz spoke in support of the project at the commission's meeting.

"We need to do it now ... to help the most impacted communities and to be sure that workers who are displaced wind up having a seat at the table, and I believe this solar project does that," Koretz said.  "I think not doing this could be the missed opportunity of a lifetime, and I ask you to do the right thing ... and vote for this project."

The project -- dubbed Eland phases 1 and 2 -- would cost $32.97 per megawatt hour and include battery storage with no escalation over a 25-year period. The deal would cost DWP about $1.1 billion over the 25-year period. Some of the funding in the contract would be used for purchasing more renewable energy.

According to department reports, the energy would be the cheapest solar energy in the nation, and the project would cost less to deliver and store the same amount of energy than fossil fuels. The costs are $19.97 per megawatt hour for solar energy and $13 per megawatt hour for the battery system.

The DWP commission took up the issue last month but delayed a vote until a labor agreement was set in place that would support union workers. Officials with the union representing DWP workers -- the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 18 -- had expressed concerns about the deal, claiming it would cost hundreds of jobs.


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"I want to make sure the work that gets done with the department has fulfilled our obligations," DWP board member Cynthia McClain-Hill said. "I just want to take a second to redirect that attention to the staff. I'm very appreciative that they've embraced that work and that we continue to provide reliable energy."

In 2007, the DWP entered into an agreement to ensure unions would be informed about incoming renewable energy projects, as well as any re-powering of gas power plants, DWP interim General Manager Martin Adams said.

Adams said officials wanted to ensure they were honoring any agreements made with labor parties.

"Having done that, we have now a five-party (agreement) with Kern County unions and with our own labor union that was completed but not signed at the last meeting," Adams said.

About two dozen people spoke during today's meeting in support of the solar energy purchase. A date for when the City Council will consider the agreement has yet to be set.

Copyright CNS - City News Service
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