News and analysis about energy in California with an eye toward renewables.

L.A. City Council Approves $1.6 Billion DWP Solar Power Deal

LADWP just got a little more solar. | Photo: Michael Chen/Flickr/Creative Commons License

You might not have noticed it even if you were in the room at the time, but the Los Angeles City Council this morning unanimously approved a power purchase agreement between the Los Angeles Department of Water And Power (DWP) and the largest utility-scale solar project on tribal land in the United States. Under the agreement, DWP will buy all the power from the K Road Moapa Solar plant for 25 years, at a cost of $1.6 billion, with several options to buy the plant outright.

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The vote came without discussion, as council members agreed unanimously to approve a packet of 10 agenda motions including the Moapa agreement, as well as unrelated items ranging from approving rewards for the apprehension of criminals to upgrading park infrastructure.

The agreement isn't rock-solid yet: there's still a chance a council member will bring the agreement up for further discussion during the Council's Wednesday, November 21 meeting, and the agreement must make it past Mayor Villaraigosa's desk. Given the Mayor's historic support of utility-scale solar, and DWP's urgent need to nail down long-term contracts for renewable energy in order to meet the state's Renewable Portfolio Standards requirements, the likelihood of the agreement failing to sail past those speed-bumps is rather slim.

The K Road Moapa project is expected to go online in 2016. Comprising more than 900,000 solar panels, the plant's peak output will be in the neighborhood of 250 megawatts, about 4% of the DWP's customers' demand.

The plant, approved this summer by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar whose department encompasses the Bureau of Indian Affairs, has been seen by many of its Moapa Paiute neighbors as a route toward closing the neighboring 557-megawatt coal-fired Reid Gardner Power Station, which the Moapa say has burdened them with ailments related to toxic pollution from the plant's stacks and from coal ash allegedly dumped on the reservation.

Despite that hope, Reid Gardner was recently given a new lease on life by the EPA, which permitted the plant to keep operating if its owners installed emissions control equipment.

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About the Author

Chris Clarke is a natural history writer and environmental journalist currently at work on a book about the Joshua tree. He lives in Joshua Tree.
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I wonder what $256 million a year for 25 years would do to reduce 4% of demand? I mean, is it possible for us to use less energy and maintain a high quality of life?