Modesto Irrigation District leaders on Tuesday agreed to buy about $230 million-worth of power from solar farms in Southern California over two decades, even though none of that electricity will end up here.
MID will purchase the energy to boost its total percentage coming from renewable sources. That complies with state law, even though the district will turn around and sell it to others.
MID's cost for buying the energy is fixed now, but the resale price will vary, so the district can't say whether the venture will end up costing a bundle.
"The revenue would offset a large portion of the cost," MID's Martin Caballero told board members.
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The district gets most of its renewable energy credit from wind farms in northwest states. MID will make the state's threshold of 33 percent from renewable sources in 2020, but would fall behind a higher mandate by 2023 without the new solar purchase. Other deals will be needed to comply with even higher mandates in future years, Caballero said.
MID and its sister agency on the Tuolumne River, the Turlock Irrigation District, receive no credit for electricity generated by turbines at Don Pedro Dam in the foothills. Although hydropower is largely considered green energy, such "large" plants are excluded from the state's definition.
In technical terms, MID will spend about $7 million a year buying solar power from NextEra Energy's Blythe IV, a solar farm in Riverside County near the Arizona border. MID will pay another $5 million a year for power from Recurrent Energy's Mustang Two Barbaro solar farm in Kings County near the Lemoore Naval Air Station. That's about $12 million a year for both sources.
Garth Stapley: 209-578-2390