Enel, through its unit Enel Green Power North America, has started construction of the Aurora utility-scale distributed photovoltaic solar project in Minnesota. Once completed, Aurora will be the Enel Group’s largest solar power plant in North America.
“The Aurora project marks a significant step forward in the growth of our solar portfolio,” said Rafael Gonzalez, Head of Enel Green Power North America. “By maximizing the distributed solar model, Aurora highlights how innovation and design are driving the future of renewables, while providing communities with access to energy that delivers both the biggest possible environmental benefits and the most economic value.”
Aurora, which is owned by EGPNA unit Aurora Distributed Solar, will consist of 16 PV plants with a total installed capacity of 150 MW and will be able to generate over 210 million kWh annually. The 16 sites are expected to be online by the end of 2016.
The construction of the Aurora solar project will require an overall investment of $290 million and is in line with Enel’s strategic plan. The investment will be partly funded through a capital contribution agreement with State Street Bank and Trust Co. in the amount of 140 million US dollars. The Aurora solar project has a long-term power purchase agreement with utility Xcel Energy in Minnesota.
The project features a distributed solar design that consists of the installation of multiple small-scale solar sites and delivers a range of benefits, including a reduction in line loss, elimination of transmission costs and geographic diversification of generation assets. Each of the 16 solar facilities will use linear axis tracking devices to maximize efficiency and production, and will be interconnected into the off-taker’s distribution system, providing energy and capacity to the local distribution network. Together the sites will create approximately 400 construction jobs at the peak of the building process.
Aurora is EGPNA’s third PV solar project in the U.S. and combined with the existing Stillwater Solar and Sheldon Springs Solar sites, increases its total solar portfolio to almost 180 MW. EGPNA already owns and operates two wind farms in the state of Minnesota — Prairie Rose and Minnesota Wind — which have a combined installed capacity of 230 MW. Once online, the Aurora project will increase EGPNA’s total installed capacity in the state to 380 MW.
EGPNA is present in 21 US states and two Canadian provinces with more than 2.5 GW of installed capacity spread across four different renewable energy technologies: wind, solar, geothermal and hydropower.