Distributed Energy Resources

IID community solar project to serve low-income customers

California public power utility Imperial Irrigation District on Sept. 25 brought online a first-of-its-kind community solar project for all of IID’s qualified, low-income customers in the Imperial and Coachella valleys.

The project will serve upwards of 12,000 electric customers in this economically stressed desert area of California who will see their monthly bills reduced under IID’s Residential Energy Assistance Program (REAP) and the district’s new eGreen Program.

IID partnered with Citizens Energy Corporation to develop the low-income community solar project. Citizens Energy Corp. is a Boston-based nonprofit founded by former U.S. Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy II.

The project is considered to be one of the largest low-income community solar projects in the nation, and unique among community solar energy projects in its structure and implementation, IID said.

The solar project will generate 30 megawatts of power for the IID grid under a 23-year purchase power agreement.

IID will directly pass on these savings to all of its qualified low-income electric customers in the form of an additional monthly discount on their electric bills.

As part of Citizens Energy’s $100 million investment in the Sunrise Powerlink transmission line, it committed to use its profits from that investment to benefit low-income customers in IID’s service area. The community solar project is a direct result of that commitment.

Under the partnership with IID, Citizens Energy is able to reach thousands more customers than with their original rooftop solar assistance program with IID.

The solar project, which features approximately 107,000 solar panel modules, is located on approximately 200 acres of IID-owned land near the district’s Midway Substation outside of Calipatria, California where it is connected to IID’s electric grid. IID will have an option to purchase, own and operate the solar project at the end of the agreement.

IID said the cost of the energy from the solar project is the lowest it has ever been able to procure for solar energy.  Net first year costs to IID are expected to be approximately $19.83 per megawatt hour.

IID’s total cost of purchased power over the life of the agreement is estimated at $36 million.

The cost of constructing the facility by Citizens is estimated at $46 million.

With the addition of IID’s eGreen Program, low-income customers enrolled in the district’s REAP program can expect to see an additional discount, which is estimated at 5%, applied to their October billing statement. All IID REAP customers will be automatically enrolled in the eGreen Program.