Gemini Solar Development Company LLC announced March 6 that it has been selected to build a 30-megawatt (MW) photovoltaic solar power plant for Austin Energy, a municipal electric utility in Austin, Texas.
This landmark solar power plant will be built on 300 acres of city-owned land located approximately 25 miles east of Austin. Totaling 30MW, the solar array will be operational by the end of 2010. When completed, the solar generated power will eliminate approximately 30,000 tons of CO2 per year and provide enough electricity to power 5,000 homes.
"Austin Energy's leadership in renewable energy is a great example for utilities across the country," said Kristina Peterson, president of Gemini Solar. "Gemini is proud to have been selected for this showcase project. This reflects Austin Energy's strong commitment to the increasing adoption of renewable energy and is a great step forward for Texas, a global energy industry leader. Solar is the new cost-effective energy source," Peterson added. "We hope state policy makers build on Austin Energy's decision and bring new jobs and clean energy to Texas with long-term, supportive incentive policies."
Gemini Solar is a joint venture between Suntech Power Holdings Company Ltd., the world's largest manufacturer of photovoltaic (PV) modules, and financier and developer MMA Renewable Ventures, a subsidiary of Municipal Mortgage & Equity LLC. Gemini Solar was formed in October 2008 to develop and finance photovoltaic projects of 10 megawatts and larger. Gemini Solar will own and operate the solar power plant and sell the electricity to Austin Energy under a 25-year non-escalating power purchase agreement. Suntech's solar panels will be installed in the 30MW power plant.
"By partnering with Gemini on this landmark project, Austin Energy is demonstrating true vision when it comes to environmental sustainability," said Matt Cheney, CEO of MMA Renewable Ventures. "Through a long term power purchase agreement (PPA), Austin Energy will be able to deploy solar without upfront installation cost or ongoing maintenance expenses. Customers will benefit from lower utility costs over the long term, as well as a cleaner environment."
Steven Chan, Suntech's chief strategy officer and president of Global Sales and Marketing, said, "Suntech has invested in developing a multi-pronged capability in the U.S. so that we can provide customers with the full range of solar solutions from the module to the solar system, to selling energy. This Gemini Solar project with Austin Energy is a major step forward in our efforts to bring cost-effective, utility-scale solar solutions to the U.S."
In 2003, the Austin City Council adopted a strategic energy policy, which calls for the development and use of clean energy by Austin Energy. A key component of this energy policy is the commitment towards the development of solar energy with goals of 30 MW by 2010 and 100 MW by 2020. In 2007, the Austin City Council launched the Climate Protection Plan initiative which calls for Austin Energy to develop more aggressive energy conservation and establishes a goal that 30 percent of its energy be from renewable energy resources by 2020. This solar project will make a major contribution toward these objectives.
"Suntech solar panels have an extensive track record in utility scale solar projects globally and we are looking forward to putting our reliable and high performance solar panels to work in Austin," added Chan.
MMA Renewable Ventures has financed, developed, owns and operates more than 40MW of solar projects in the U.S., including the 14MW solar power system at Nellis Air Force Base.