Major Solar Power Plant Opens On Guam

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$200 million project produces electricity for 6,000-10,000 homes

By Gaynor Dumat-ol Daleno

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Oct. 7, 2015) – In the middle of green valleys in rural Inarajan, a new power plant has officially started producing enough energy for the needs of 6,000 to 10,000 homes.

This is the first power plant of its kind on Guam, and officials on Tuesday marked the project's completion.

No toxic smoke, no noise, and no chemical smell come out of the 160-plus-acre site.

What you can feel are gentle breezes as you see the horizon and its blue shimmer of 120,000 photovoltaic panels that catch energy from the sun.

NRG Renew LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of NRG Energy Inc., which considers itself the country's largest independent power producer, invested in the roughly $200 million solar power plant. The Boeing Co. was NRG Renew's technical partner in the project.

Guam Power Authority has agreed to buy all of the solar power NRG Renew produces for 25 years.

The plant can produce as much as 25.6 megawatts of power when the sun's really bright, but at sundown, its energy production fades.

Neither NRG Renew nor GPA has the facility at this time to store solar energy for use at night, when Guam's island energy use peaks at around 250 megawatts.

GPA is addressing the lack of solar energy storage capability in a separate competitive bid process.

The issue of lack of storage aside, Tuesday was a cause for celebration among officials.

NRG Renew had been testing the facility for weeks and, after the tests, it now officially provides power at a crucial time for GPA.

"I can confirm that NRG can produce 25.6 megawatts of power," said GPA General Manager John Benavente, for about 6,000 to 10,000 homes.

GPA lost 78 megawatts of power supply after the Aug. 31 explosion and fire at the Cabras 3 and 4 power plants in Piti.

NRG Renew is proud to bring its expertise to the island, said HazenBurford, senior vice president with NRG Renew.

"We believe the environmental and economic benefits of this project will be an example in the region and pave the way for similar projects in the future," Burford said.

The opening of the solar power plant, said Gov. Eddie Calvo, "comes at a time when we need this energy."

The facility will "sustain our people, now and in the future," the governor said.

"This project further diversifies our energy resources here on Guam, helps us meet our renewable energy goals and lessens the impact that imported oil has on our island," said Consolidated Commission on Utilities Chairman Joey Duenas.

Cost may be an issue

The environmental benefits of solar energy and the high cost of fuel oil at the time were among factors GPA considered when it signed the 25-year agreement to purchase energy from the solar power plant.

At the time GPA's power purchase agreement was signed in 2013, oil hovered around $83 per barrel.

Oil prices have recently been close to $48 a barrel on the international market.

GPA agreed to buy the power plant's energy at 19 cents per kilowatt hour for the next 25 years.

With recent oil prices dropping by almost half compared to two years ago, GPA's latest fuel surcharge for residential customers is at 10.4 cents per kwh.

Solar energy makes up only about 3 percent of GPA's total energy supply because the solar farm can't produce power during the nighttime, so solar energy isn't expected to have a big impact on power bills, Benavente said.

Also, the extra cost of solar energy isn't expected to increase the fuel surcharge, in part because fuel oil prices have decreased and fuel oil still is the biggest factor in the fuel surcharge, Duenas said.

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