Largest Solar Plant in US Approved in Los Angeles

An artist’s rendering of the completed Eland project. (Photo courtesy of the LA Mayor’s Office)

LOS ANGELES (CN) – While the White House began the United States’ formal withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement this week, the city of Los Angeles on Wednesday approved the construction of the largest solar plant in the country.

The Eland Solar and Storage facility will be located in the Mojave Desert and is estimated that it will power over 280,000 homes across Los Angeles when it is fully operational. The sprawling not-yet built facility will sit on 2,650 acres in Kern County, California, north of city limits, and capture 400 megawatts (MW) of solar energy and store up to 1,200 megawatt-hours (MWh) of energy, according to developer 8minute Solar Energy.

While the U.S. will phase out its participation in the Paris climate agreement, the city of Los Angeles and many other cities across the country say they will continue those green practices to curb emissions. Los Angeles seeks to become 100% renewable by 2045.

The project was initially approved by the LA Department of Water and Power’s board of commissioners this summer.

On Wednesday, the LA City Council unanimously approved the Eland project, which is expected to cost about $5 per year for each utility customer. Construction of the project is expected to be complete no later than 2024 and will prevent up to 727,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions.

“We are entering a make-or-break decade for the preservation of our planet, and L.A. is leading the transition to a low-carbon future that will combat the climate crisis, create new clean energy jobs and keep the lights on without relying on dirty fossil fuels,” LA Mayor Eric Garcetti said in a statement.

The city’s embrace of the economic and environmental policies set out in the proposed Green New Deal have been met with skepticism and derision from the union that represents employees with the utility company. They claim the city’s shift away from fossil fuels will eliminate thousands of jobs and increase energy bills across the region.

Earlier this summer when the utility commission approved the project, USC Center for Sustainability Solutions director Antonio Bento told Courthouse News that LA’s buy-in signals to the rest of the  industry that there is incentive to invest in new technologies and research.

Still, the logistics on existing technology have yet to be tested on the magnitude that is proposed with the Eland project.

“How much can we really store? During times when we’re not capturing solar power. It’s a logistics bottleneck. It’s a financial bottleneck,” said Bento. “Still, I think that policy stability from (LADWP) and signal to the industry is the biggest benefit.”

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