The entire team from LMUD and NextEra stand together to commemorate the moment the solar power became a reality to the local utility. Left, Tyson Grul from NextEra, Jonathan Hichborn from NextEra, Theresa Phillips, LMUD public relations manager, Doug Smith, LMUD general manager, Bud Bowden, LMUD board president, Pat Holley, LMUD assistant general manager, Matt LeDucq, from NextEra, Fred Nagel, LMUD board member and Robert Pennington from Greenleaf Energy. Photo by Jake Hibbitts

Solar array helps utility meet goals

The much-anticipated Honey Lake Solar Project owned by NextEra is ready to bring more clean and reliable energy to Lassen County.

The Lassen Municipal Utility District hosted the dedication ceremony for the project Wednesday June 5 at the Diamond Mountain Casino’s Willow Room.

Representatives from NextEra — the world’s largest generator of wind and solar energy — and LMUD shared the celebration of the project and agreement with the utility.

The 30-year contract LMUD has with NextEra Energy Resources will provide the utility’s grid with 7.625 megawatts of solar energy.

According to a press release from LMUD, the “renewable energy generated from the solar array will … provide enough power to serve approximately 1,600 homes in Lassen County in the first year.”

The project itself is owned and operated by Greenleaf, a subsidiary of NextEra, but LMUD will purchase all of the energy generated by the solar system under the contract.

The project is located on approximately 60 acres of land in Lassen County and features 29,000 single-axis tracker modules and panels. The project is also located adjacent to an existing biomass plant in the town of Wendel.

NextEra shared some of the benefits to having the system in the community:

It provides safe, clean renewable energy; it provides employment opportunities; creates no air or water pollution and uses no water to generate electricity.

“If every house had 20 panels on it, you’d have 1,500 homes in this community that would be powered exclusively from this system,” said Matt Handel, vice president of development at NextEra.

The new solar system is the 64th asset for NextEra, which has 15 other projects coming down the pipeline in California.

LMUD general manager Doug Smith spoke at the dedication event and said, “I’ve been here about five years, and discussions about this project started before I got here.”

Smith gave credit to assistant general manager Patrick Holley for his work on the project, “Holley has worked both sides of the project. He was working with Greenleaf when they proposed the project, and now has been instrumental in getting the thing done.”

Smith shared that the new project will now provide about 15 percent of all the energy used in the community, which is roughly half of the currently required California renewable portfolio standard.

The standards require that 60 percent of a utility’s retail sales come from qualifying renewable energy sources by 2030.