By the end of 2012 SunPower Corp. expects to have 130 megawatts of the 250 megawatt California Valley Solar Ranch providing energy to Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) customers. It’s a significant jump for the project, which commissioned its first 22 megawatts in September.
The project, which is using SunPower modules on its T0 Tracker system, is slated for completion next year. “When completed in 2013 the power plant will supply enough renewable clean energy for 100,000 homes,” said Skyler Shipley, a project field engineer for SunPower.
Construction on the project began just over a year ago, braking ground in September 2011. After SunPower broke ground on the project it was purchased by NRG Energy which will sell the power produced by the project to PG&E. “This is one of our top two projects in the PG&E portfolio,” said PG&E Senior Vice President Energy Procurement Fong Wan. “We have over 60 solar projects, this is in the top 2.”
It is among the largest single photovoltaic farms in the world and is growing on pace with some of the other gigantic solar farms in the U.S., like the Agua Calienete solar photovoltaic farm being built in Yuma, County Ariz., by First Solar. That project, a 290 megawatt AC project is slated to come online in 2014. However, it already is producing 200 megawatts of electricity. First Solar stopped delivering modules to the site earlier this year since it met current targets for installations.
The SunPower project is across the border in the eastern part of California’s San Luis Obispo County. The project has already resulted in 350 jobs during the construction phase, helping reduce unemployment in the county. It also is injecting $315 million into the local community, according to SunPower.
As part of the project, SunPower also is protecting more than 12,000 acres of wildlife habitat for perpetuity through the project. The land set aside is intended to help grow the amount of land under protection on the Carrizo Plain.