Innovation in the Heart of the Desert: The Mohave Solar + Storage Project
Co-Authors: Gustavo Monteiro, CEO, EDPR NA Distributed Generation, and Jon Martell, COO, Mohave Electric Cooperative
Mohave Solar Energy Array in Arizona between EDPR NA DG and Mohave Electric Cooperative (MEC) redefines the technology previously used in EDPR NA Distributed Generation projects. With state-of-the-art technology and unmatched efficiency, the Mohave Solar Energy project is a beacon of innovation. However, any project built in the desert presents challenges. What sets Mohave Solar Energy Array apart from other EDPR NA DG Solar + Storage projects built to date can be attributed to three factors: (1) project challenges related to geography, (2) the strategic approach the team took to maximize megawatt (MW) capacity, and (3) the strong partnership with Mohave Electric Cooperative.
Overcoming Desert Challenges
Building a solar and storage facility in the desert comes with its own set of challenges. Like many post-COVID-19 projects, the construction of this project had to contend with supply chain issues and delays for equipment; however, the largest challenge was adapting to the harsh desert climate. Safety and health consideration for team workers is EDPR’s top priority, particularly when temperatures soared to scorching 120+ degree levels for consecutive days.
Another interesting challenge that often goes unnoticed is the need to plan for flooding in the middle of the Arizona desert. Mohave Electric Co-op’s service territory experiences sporadic but intense weather changes including severe wind and rain. To prevent potential damage to the solar panels and various equipment, managing water flow was a must. Thus, the Mohave Solar Energy project incorporates a basin system that collects rainwater and covers around 10 percent of the site. This precaution will help keep the project fully operational. The severity of these rain events necessitates meticulous planning and engineering to safeguard the equipment.
Maximizing Project Capacity
One of the standout features that makes the Mohave Solar Energy Array unique is its deployment of the latest technology in solar energy generation. The project utilizes ATI tracker racking, a system that allows solar panels to follow the sun's path throughout the day. Unlike fixed solar panel installations, this tracking system maximizes energy absorption, ensuring that the panels are always positioned to capture the sun's rays. The result? The Mohave Solar Energy project can harness more energy more efficiently, from dawn to dusk. This dynamic orientation ensures that the project remains at optimal energy production throughout the day, contributing significantly to Mohave Electric’s renewable energy portfolio.
With 24MW of solar capacity and an additional 15MW of energy storage powering over 4,000 homes in one year, the Mohave Solar Energy project doesn't stop at harnessing the sun's energy; it also houses the largest storage capability to this day developed by EDPR NA Distributed Generation, thanks to its partner STEM (NYSE: STEM), a global leader in AI-driven clean energy solutions and services.
The storage component allows for up to 4 hours of energy to be stored, ready for use during peak demand or during outages. This dual capability makes the Mohave Solar Energy project one of its kind, offering both sustainability and reliability to the local power grid.
Mohave Electric Cooperative (MEC)
Partnering with Mohave Electric Cooperative in the construction of this solar and storage was a key factor to the success of the project. Not-for profit electric cooperatives (Co-ops) - such as MEC - play a vital leadership role in transforming communities and an ever-growing force behind the implementation of renewable generation. According to the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), Co-ops have announced more than 6.5 GW of renewable capacity additions through 2026. This is on top of co-ops more than doubling their renewable capacity from 5.7 gigawatts to nearly 14 gigawatts in the last decade.
MEC is keen on bringing clean and cost-effective solutions to its members. At its core, MEC promises to ensure that its community has access to reliable energy, and utility-scale solar projects are helping them achieve just that.
Mohave Solar Energy Array is adding to Mohave Electric Co-op’s existing 15 percent renewable energy portfolio. Located in southeast Fort Mohave, MEC has two commercial solar fields. The first solar field is 5 megawatts on a 34-acre site and produces approximately 10 million kilowatt hours of energy annually, or enough to serve around 820 homes. The second solar field is 11 megawatts on an 85-acre site and produces approximately 30 million kilowatt hours of energy annually, or enough to serve around 2,500 homes. The solar fields help with meeting members’ energy usage, especially during the summer months.
It's EDPR NA DG’s aim that the Mohave Solar Energy Array builds on MEC’s success in providing members with affordable long-term rates and increased reliability preventing extended power outages.
A remarkable milestone
Given all this, the Mohave Solar Energy Array stands out as a symbol of innovation and progress, and the power of partnerships between Co-op utilities like MEC and developers like EDPR NA DG. As the largest facility among the EDPR NA Distributed Generation projects, it not only showcases the potential of solar energy but also sets the stage for future developments in sustainable power generation in the state of Arizona.
The construction and unveiling of the Mohave Solar Energy Array is a testament to modern engineering’s ability to harness the sun's energy even in the harshest of environments. Overcoming desert challenges while implementing cutting-edge technology, the solar energy produced at Mohave Solar Energy Array will build reliability and resiliency into Mohave Electric Cooperative’s power grid.