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Building California's largest solar energy project

30 November 2017

Aera Energy and GlassPoint Solar announced plans to build California’s largest solar energy project, located at the Belridge oilfield west of Bakersfield.

Artist rendering of the Belridge solar project (Credit: GlassPoint)

The integrated solar project will be the first of its kind in the world to use solar steam and solar electricity to power oilfield operations, efficiently reducing the field’s carbon emissions. Once complete, the Belridge Solar project will deliver the largest peak energy output of any solar plant in California.

“Aera is committed to safe, responsible operations and is thrilled to extend our environmental leadership by using solar to power our production. Adding solar energy at Belridge allows us to continue to lead the way in the safest, most environmentally responsible energy extraction there is,” said Aera Energy President and CEO Christina Sistrunk. “The people of California are counting on us to help them get to school and work each day, allow their businesses to grow and thrive and help get California-grown food on their dinner tables. We are proud to be an active part of California’s low carbon future and lead the industry by adopting bold solutions to deliver valuable energy, more efficiently while protecting the environment.” 

Belridge Solar will consist of an 850MWt solar thermal facility, producing 12 million barrels of steam per year, and a 26.5MWe photovoltaic facility that will generate electricity. The solar-generated steam and electricity will reduce natural gas currently used onsite in oilfield operations. 
   
The facility is projected to save more than 376,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year, offsetting the equivalent of 80,000 cars, more than one-third of the cars in Bakersfield today. The project is also expected to create hundreds of direct and indirect jobs in California throughout the oil and gas supply chain and supporting industries. 

“GlassPoint is thrilled to partner with Aera to scale our solar oilfield technology in California and deliver meaningful carbon reductions. By harnessing the power of the sun to produce oil, oil operators can efficiently reduce emissions using advanced technology, creating long-term benefits for the local economy and environment,” said Sanjeev Kumar, GlassPoint SVP, Americas. “Our partnership with Aera demonstrates the growing energy convergence where renewables and traditional energy leaders are working together to address some of the biggest challenges of our time.”

Aera and GlassPoint plan to break ground on the Belridge Solar plant in the first half of 2019. The project is expected to start producing steam and electricity as early as 2020. 

“Our local energy producers continue to invest in cutting edge innovation and compete globally to provide needed energy resources for our nation in an environmentally responsible way,” said 34th District Assemblyman Vince Fong. “Our community will benefit greatly from the added jobs that further boost our local economy. Aera continues to be an exemplary energy partner.”

“By harvesting the power of the sun, Aera Energy is leading us into the future of energy reliability and sustainability,” said 32nd Assemblyman Rudy Salas. “The exciting new Aera Energy and GlassPoint Solar project will have a positive impact locally and globally, using cutting edge technology to create jobs and grow the economy while conserving valuable resources and reducing carbon emissions,” he added.

GlassPoint’s solar technology provides low-cost renewable energy for extracting heavy oil, which accounts for half of California’s crude oil production. Heavy oil is produced by injecting steam in to the reservoir to heat the oil so it can be pumped to the surface. This process, known as thermal Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR), typically generates steam using natural gas. By harnessing the sun’s thermal energy to replace the combustion of natural gas, GlassPoint is enabling Aera to reduce its energy consumption and carbon footprint at Belridge. 

In 2011, GlassPoint unveiled its first commercial project with Berry Petroleum in Kern County. Following the success of the pilot project, GlassPoint scaled its technology overseas in Oman and is currently constructing Miraah, a landmark project with Petroleum Development Oman (PDO). Once complete, Miraah will produce over one gigawatt of peak thermal energy, making it one of the world’s largest solar plants of any kind.


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