The Sacramento Municipal Utility District’s (SMUD) Rancho Seco is getting a new lease on life. The nuclear generating station, decommissioned in 1989, will be home to a new 11 MW solar array.
In 1984 a 3.2 MW solar array was built near the nuclear reactors. In 1989, following a series of environmental and financial concerns, voters decided to close the nuclear generators. The solar arrays at the site continued to produce power until 2013, when five of the six were decommissioned at the end of their lifespan. Now a new solar project is slated to take their place. The plant is expected to be operational in the fall of 2016.
Programs such as Brownfield and Superfund clean contaminated spaces so they can be redeveloped. In this case, the area was already safe, according to a California Environmental Quality Act study that was completed before SMUD approved the project.
The proposed solar project makes use of 62 acres of previously developed land and existing power lines, serving to decrease the environmental impact of the project. It will also help SMUD meet its Renewable Portfolio Standard goal of 33 percent renewable power by 2020. It is currently at 27 percent.
The plant will be owned by First Solar. SMUD will buy the power through a 20 year power purchase agreement (PPA). The power will be added to its SolarShare community solar program. Available to both homeowners and businesses, the program currently has 1 MW of solar available. The addition of the 11 MW plant will be quite an expansion to the program.
Amanda Beck, senior project manager in SMUD’s project development and power-generation group. was quoted in the Sacramento Bee as saying, “I think this is a great reuse project that SMUD can provide for companies and commercial users that can’t put solar on their roofs because of space or other reasons. It helps them meet their renewable and sustainable energy goals.”