SCE Teams With Lockheed Martin on Huge Solar Farm Expansion
Now up and running in Palmdale: a 20-megawatt, ground-mounted solar farm that is the largest Net Energy Metering project in Southern California Edison’s 50,000-square-mile service area. The 130-acre farm is helping to power Lockheed Martin’s famed Skunk Works, the birthplace of several cutting-edge military aircraft, including the U-2, SR-71 Blackbird and F-117 Nighthawk stealth fighter.
The solar project is operational following more than two years of intense work from SCE and Lockheed Martin, a global security and aerospace company.
“This was the result of a lot of collaboration,” said Rita Chavez, senior advisor for key accounts in SCE’s Business Customer Division. “The team at SCE went above and beyond for this customer to get the project in operation ahead of schedule.”
The project is an expansion of an existing 1 MW solar farm that Lockheed Martin began operating at the Palmdale site in 2016. Since then, the company’s business has grown rapidly, bringing more facilities and operations to the Palmdale complex and increasing energy demand.
“This was a solution to not only offset our growth, but also to meet our ‘Go Green’ measures and our environmental stewardship,” said Rowena Striff, aeronautics enterprise energy manager at Lockheed Martin. “The stars lined up, and Edison really played a good part in that.” While the project aligned with Lockheed Martin’s sustainability goals, “it had to make financial sense as well.”
When Lockheed Martin’s leadership signed off in 2020 on the business case for expanding the solar farm to 20 MW, the clock began ticking. By completing the project this year, Lockheed Martin could take advantage of a 26% federal investment tax credit, which was later increased to 30% when the Inflation Reduction Act was passed in August.
SCE began with studies to determine the impacts and upgrades to circuits and nearby substations required to interconnect the solar farm expansion to the grid. SCE’s project team created a plan to upgrade the substation and extend existing circuits to the facility, including installing vaults and additional equipment. The project also included the installation of new underground fiber between the substation and the solar farm and associated technology to monitor the new solar generation.
Implementing the plan required scores of meetings between each company’s project teams to stay in synch and overcome hurdles, as well as frequent on-site visual inspections to ensure safety and regulatory compliance. The COVID-19 pandemic and supply chain issues added pressure to meet tight deadlines.
Twice during the project, planned power outages were needed that shut down sections of the Palmdale facility, first to install switches and, later, to complete the interconnection to the grid.
“We needed about 48 hours for each of these outages,” said Dalton Cobb, major construction project manager on SCE’s Transmission & Distribution team. “The teams worked very hard to strategize and line up people and equipment.
“Thanks to the tremendous efforts of the SCE distribution team, they were able to complete the work in less than half the time, minimizing the impact on the customer. In terms of coordination and complexity, the team’s effort was exceptional.”
This year, SCE delivered Lockheed Martin a conditional “Permission to Operate” notice, indicating that the expanded solar plant was safely interconnected to the grid and had the green light to begin operation.
“Edison was able to meet the timelines that we needed,” Striff said. “Credit Edison for providing us with that kind of support.”
“This project was unique in both scope and complexity,” said SCE’s Cobb, “but it also demonstrated SCE’s everyday commitment to delivering timely interconnections for all customers, residential or commercial, large or small.”
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