California: 250 MW solar PV plant begins commercial operations

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The final phase of one of the largest solar plants in the world has been completed, bringing into commercial operation 250 MW of solar power for 100,000 Californian homes.

The California Valley Solar Ranch (CVSR) is located in San Luis Obispo County, midway between San Francisco and Los Angeles. CVSR is jointly owned by NRG Yield and NRG Energy, after the company acquired some ownership rights from SunPower in 2011. Pacific Gas & Electric have signed two long-term PPA agreements to provide the clean power it generates to the local community.

During the plant’s two-year construction phase, more than 700 jobs were created, generating an estimated $315 million in economic development locally. The plant was initially backed by a $1.2 billion federal loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Loan Programs Office, and now fully operational is expected to remove 336,000 tons of carbon emission per year – the equivalent of taking 63,500 cards off the road.

"Beyond offsetting carbon emissions and offering clean energy from one of the world’s largest solar facilities, this project’s design takes a leap forward by integrating the surrounding environment in a sustainable manner," said NRG Solar’s senior VP, Randy Hickok. "In addition to its nine solar PV arrays, CVSR includes a water recycling plant that minimizes annual water use and a plan for protecting and conserving more than 12,000 acres of land in and around the facility."

Having begun construction on the project in September 2011, SunPower provided their expertise and knowledge to the final round of EPC services. They will also jointly operate and maintain the plant for two more years before NRG assumes sole responsibility for site operations.

SunPower president, Howard Wenger, said: "CVSR is now delivering 250 MW of cost-competitive solar power in San Luis Obispo County, thanks to the combined efforts of NRG Solar and SunPower, PG&E, San Luis Obispo County officials and community members, our subcontractors and vendors, and the hard-working men and women who engineered and constructed this remarkable project."