An energy community choice aggregator (CCA), MCE has announced a power purchase agreement (PPA) to buy the initial 40 megawatts of electricity from the first phase of construction of First Solar’s Little Bear Solar Project in Fresno County, CA. At 40 megawatts the project amounts to what could be considered one of the largest community solar projects to date.
Little Bear is the first collaboration between First Solar and a CCA. A not-for-profit, community-based electricity provider, MCE offers its customer base an opportunity source 50 to 100 percent of their energy from renewable sources like solar, wind and hydroelectricity at competitive rates throughout California. MCE also allows its customers to choose which kind of green energy they want, whether it be wind, solar or a combination without the initial high costs of leasing equipment and construction.
The Little Bear project is set to break ground in 2019 and should be complete by 2020. After that MCE will have the option to expand the PPA as customer demand increases and as the project enters in to new phases, potentially growing to a 160-megawatts in size.
"MCE is dedicated to getting more renewable energy on the grid in California, and providing climate-friendly energy choices for customers," said Dawn Weisz, CEO of MCE. "By empowering communities and customers with green energy choices like Light Green 50% renewable and Deep Green 100% renewable, MCE is able to stimulate build-out of California solar projects, providing a competitive new marketplace for enterprising energy suppliers like First Solar."
As the renewable energy market rapidly expands across the US, community solar projects provide customers with more low-cost clean energy options. According to SEIA, there are now community solar projects larger than 2 megawatts. Already more than 91 community solar projects are completed and many more are under development. Just a few years ago there were only a few community solar projects and the size of most community solar installations were under 100 kilowatts.
"MCE is at the forefront of community-based power, a trend that is growing not only in California but across the United States. We are excited to partner with an early leader in this important energy segment, and we look forward to expanding the relationship as MCE's customer base grows,” said Brian Kunz, First Solar's Vice President of Project Development.
First Solar continues to expand its community solar projects in California and across the US, echoing its approach to the development of utility-scale solar farms in recent past. In August (2016) First Solar announce that it was adding 121 megawatts of community solar projects to its portfolio by working with multiple utility partners. Already 41 megawatts of community solar projects using First Solar modules are being built by M+W Energy as small, closely sited solar projects.