Big solar project north of Havasu pushes forward

April 4, 2019

After nearly a decade of delays, officials from Utah-based Sterling Solar and New Jersey-based Elumis Solar Development announced this week the Sterling Solar project is close to entering its first phase of construction. The project will comprise about 8,000 acres of solar panels northwest of the junction of I-40 and State Route 95, and will be one of the largest combined solar and battery storage facilities in the world once it’s completed, according to the developer.

The project’s first phase will create two solar arrays, one near Golden Shores and another near the intersection of State Route 95 and I-40. To increase reliability of the system, which will ultimately produce 1,200 megawatts per acre, developers will add 765 megawatt-hours of battery storage capacity to the projects. According to a Monday news release from Sterling Solar LLC, Mohave County and Arizona are poised to become leading producers in solar energy throughout the U.S.

Mohave County Supervisor Hildy Angius confirmed the report Tuesday afternoon. “I think it’s awesome,” Angius said. “I’m really happy for them, that they’ll finally be able to start.”

Originally slated to become a master planned community of almost 40,000 homes, Sterling shifted the scope of its project after the economic recession, and focused on the promise of solar energy. The project was originally planned as a $5 billion investment in 2010, construction phases of the project were expected to employ as many as 3,000 over a five-year period, and provide more than 400 full-time jobs thereafter.

According to Sterling Solar Principal Jack Jakub, the project will include a road to ease travel between the project site and Golden Shores while EPA officials and county officials continue to inspect the proposed construction sites.

“People are going to see a lot of activity out there,” Jakub said in a Tuesday interview. “There are going to be a lot of people coming and going, and people are going to talk. We wanted to be sure that it was accurate. It’s taken a lot of time, trying to get through the permitting process, and we’re hoping to be done by this fall. It’s something that’s always been worked on … now that we have all the financing, and everything’s in place, we’re moving with it.”

The project has faced roadblocks such as cost, transmission access issues, the need for upgraded power lines, permitting issues and possible environmental concerns about native desert tortoise populations. The project was granted a two-year extension by the Mohave County Board of Supervisors last September to obtain permits for the solar array from the Western Area Power Association and the National Environmental Protection Act.

According to Jakub, construction on the project’s first phase could begin by late 2020.