Sempra Energy (Sempra) has dedicated its 10 megawatt (MW) El Dorado Energy Solar facility in North America on January 22, 2009. The project’s entire 10 MW output has been contracted under 20 year power purchase agreement with Pacific Gas and Electric Company. First Solar, Inc. has manufactured the solar modules, was the engineering, procurement and construction contractor for the project and is charged with monitoring and maintaining the plant. Construction of the project began in July 2008.

The project has been completed in December 2008.

The project is located adjacent to the company’s existing 480 MW El Dorado Energy natural gas-fired power plant near Boulder city, Nevada, about 40 miles southeast of Las Vegas.

The El Dorado project is Sempra Energy’s first solar power-generation project and required just six months to construct. It involved the installation of more than 167,000 solar modules on 80 acres of desert property designated as a renewable energy zone and leased from Boulder city.

The power purchase contract is subject to approval by the California Public Utilities Commission.

At peak production, El Dorado Energy Solar will generate enough electricity to power around 6,400 homes.

“Sempra Energy’s new solar project illustrates substantial foresight and the willingness to deploy an advanced photovoltaic technology on a scale attractive to utilities and other major power customers,” Governior Jim Gibbons said. “I look forward to seeing more projects like this in the Silver State.”

“Confronting climate change and the need for new, clean electric resources is one of the great challenges we face,” said Neal Schmale, president and chief operating officer of Sempra. “We are excited about the potential of solar power and see this project as an important advance in solar power in North America.”

The new installation’s advanced thin-film semiconductor technology converts sunlight into electricity without air emissions or water use. The solar modules will produce more electricity under real-world conditions than conventional solar modules with similar power ratings.

An additional 50 MW expansion phase of the project is under active consideration.

Unlike some solar power projects, El Dorado Energy’s solar power plant will not use water or other liquids in the power-generation process. This water conservation feature makes the project especially suitable to the arid U.S. Southwest. As with other solar projects, the new Sempra Generation facility will generate electricity during the day when customer demand peaks.