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California cities to buy power from Sempra solar plant in Nevada

(Reuters) - California power company Sempra Energy said the state's cities of Los Angeles and Burbank have approved a 20-year agreement to buy 250 megawatts (MW) of solar power from Sempra's proposed Copper Mountain Solar 3 project in Nevada.

Sempra plans to build the 250-MW solar photovoltaic project about 40 miles southeast of Las Vegas in Boulder City, Nevada.

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) will buy the bulk of the solar plant's electricity - 210 MW - through an agreement with the Southern California Public Power Authority (SCPPA). Burbank will purchase the remaining 40 MW.

SCPPA finances power and transmission resources on behalf of its 11 municipal utilities, including Los Angeles and Burbank, and one irrigation district.

Sempra will deliver the power from the plant to Southern California through a substation and transmission lines operated by LADWP.

"Copper Mountain Solar 3 is another important step toward reaching our goal of 1,400 megawatts of renewable capacity by 2016," Jeffrey Martin, president and CEO of Sempra's Sempra U.S. Gas & Power unit, said in a release on Wednesday.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said in the release the purchase from Copper Mountain would help the city reduce the use of coal-fired power.

"It is high time Los Angeles kicked its addiction to dirty coal energy," Villaraigosa said.

Sempra said it expects to begin construction of the 1,370-acre (555-hectare) Copper Mountain 3 project next month, creating about 300 jobs at the height of construction.

When completed in late 2015, Sempra said the project will deliver enough electricity to power about 80,000 homes.

COPPER MOUNTAIN 2

Earlier this week, Sempra said it completed construction of the 92-MW first phase of Copper Mountain 2, which consists of nearly 1.5 million solar panels capable of generating enough power for about 27,600 homes.

Sempra started construction of Copper Mountain 2 in December 2011, creating about 630 jobs at the peak of construction.

Sempra sells power from Copper Mountain 2 to California power company PG&E Corp under a 25-year contract.

Sempra said it expects to complete the second phase of Copper Mountain 2 in 2015, producing an additional 58 MW and bringing the total plant output to 150 MW.

Copper Mountain 1, meanwhile, is a 58-MW plant completed in 2010 that can power about 17,000 homes. The power from Copper Mountain 1 is sold to PG&E under a 20-year contract.

Sempra did not disclose the cost to build its solar projects or the amount for which it sells the power in any of its press releases this week.

Local media have reported Copper Mountain 1 cost about $141 million.

Energy experts have estimated it costs much more to build a solar photovoltaic facility - $6.3 million per megawatt, according to federal data.

(Reporting by Scott DiSavino in New York; Editing by Dale Hudson)

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