Massive 250 MW Solar Farm's Construction Begins in California Next Year
December 1, 2010 11:20 AM
comment(s) - last by
A map of the planned 250 MW solar power plant, showing preserved land (green) and installation area (blue).
(Source: NRG Solar/SunPower)
The plant will be located roughly halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles, just south of California's Bay Area.
Plant would take around 15-20 years to break even if electricity was sold at coal power rates
If there's one thing critics and proponents of solar power alike can agree upon, it's that solar power, like any commodity, will go down in price when it is produced at a greater volume. Recently announced plants, like a
280 mega-watt (MW) installation
in the Arizona desert go a long way towards achieving that sort of volume increase.
As does a new 250 MW installation in San Luis Obispo County, California which was
this week. Construction on the new plant will commence
next year and is expected to create 350 construction jobs.
San Luis Obispo is a coastal county that is relatively rural and lightly populated by Californian standards. It's roughly halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco, two of the state's biggest cities.
The new plant will be a joint venture between NRG Solar, Inc. and SunPower Corp. -- two veteran solar power firms (SunPower, alone, will have installed over 1.5 GW of solar power by the year's end). NRG Solar is expected to pitch in $450M USD over the four year launch period. NRG will own the plant, it is basically contracting SunPower to design, build, and operate the plant.
The plant will begin producing electricity in late 2011. By 2012 to 2013 it is expected to reach full capacity, as construction completes. The plant is expected to provide enough power for 100,000 households.
The new plant is named the "California Valley Solar Ranch".
NRG Solar is seeking government loans from the U.S. Department of Energy to initially finance the construction. While U.S. President Barack Obama recently
handed out $1.85B USD
in grants to solar power projects, the new installation likely will not receive any of this money.
Securing a government loan is critical to the NRG and SunPower's plan. States Howard Wenger, president of the utility and power plants business group at SunPower, "The DOE is playing a critical leadership role in supporting renewable energy that provides economic and environmental benefits, as well as a secure, stable energy supply in the U.S."
The project has been in the works for the last two years. It is expected to be operational for at least 25 years.
Challenges to the plant's success remain. Currently environmental activists in California are
vigorously resisting large solar and wind installations
, which they fear will damage fragile ecosystems. They have filed lawsuits to try to block similar projects.
The California Valley Solar Ranch project may placate these critics, thanks to the 2,399 acres it sets aside as a wildlife habitat. The plant and associated facilities are expected to occupy 1,966 acres of land.
Another challenge is the underlying economics. While the California Public Utilities Commission has agreed to buy 25 years worth of power from the installation, likely at an inflated price, it remains to be seen exactly how much money the plant will make. Coal power costs around $0.06-$0.08 USD per kilowatt-hour, so if the solar plant's power was sold at an equivalent rate, it would take around 15 to 20 years for the plant to break even. Thanks to large markups to alternative energy power, though, it should break even much sooner, boosting NRG Solar and SunPower. Nonetheless, some consumers may be unhappy with paying this kind of markup so that their power can be "greener".
Still, it's common knowledge that you have to invest up front to gain access to new technology. And with large scale installations like this new one in California and the currently developing one in Arizona, the cost per kilowatt hour of solar power in the U.S. should fall over the next few years.
This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled
RE: Massive is all relative.
12/2/2010 10:11:31 AM
I love coming to Dailytech and running into comments such as the one posted by namechamps which lay out the information and makes it easier to put into perspective. Thanks.
Sure, it would be great to get some more nuclear reactors online, but considering the insane amount of whining and crying that would cause in this country, at least a solar farm is a move, albeit small, in the right direction. I just hope there isn't some sort of endangered desert amoeba that will stall this project.
RE: Massive is all relative.
12/3/2010 1:28:10 AM
at least a solar farm is a move, albeit small, in the right direction.
No, it isn't. It's a symptom of the overall problem: That a small cabal of industrialists essentially created this "alternative energy" industry by creating a fear-mongering narrative that convinced people to "go green". It's dependent on government handouts; it couldn't possibly be competitive otherwise.
A "step in the right direction" would be if someone figured out how to make it profitable without taxpayer help. Or if we passed necessary legislation that makes it easier to actually finish building a nuclear plant.
"Can anyone tell me what MobileMe is supposed to do?... So why the f*** doesn't it do that?" -- Steve Jobs
Obama Gives $1.85B for Solar Energy Plants
July 5, 2010, 10:37 AM
Californian Environmentalist Senator Fights Solar, Wind Projects
December 22, 2009, 9:33 AM
Massive 280 MW Solar Plant Coming to Arizona in 2011
February 28, 2008, 10:45 AM
Creationists are Mad About Google Doodle Depicting Evolution
November 24, 2015, 8:48 PM
DHS and TSA: Whoops, We Missed That 73 Airport Employees May be Terrorists
November 19, 2015, 2:16 PM
Star Wars Spinoff Film "Rogue One", Theme Park Attractions Announced
August 17, 2015, 12:20 PM
SpaceX Falcon 9's Seventh Supply Mission to ISS Ends w/ Fiery Stage 1 Explosion
June 28, 2015, 1:10 PM
Cool Science Video: Glowing Millipede Prowls the Nevada Desert
May 18, 2015, 12:00 PM
Newly Discovered Costa Rican Glass Frog is Kermit's Doppelgänger
April 22, 2015, 11:26 AM
Latest Blog Posts
Sceptre Airs 27", 120 Hz. 1080p Monitor/HDTV w/ 5 ms Response Time for $220
Dec 3, 2014, 10:32 PM
Costco Gives Employees Thanksgiving Off; Wal-Mart Leads "Black Thursday" Charge
Oct 29, 2014, 9:57 PM
"Bear Selfies" Fad Could Turn Deadly, Warn Nevada Wildlife Officials
Oct 28, 2014, 12:00 PM
The Surface Mini That Was Never Released Gets "Hands On" Treatment
Sep 26, 2014, 8:22 AM
ISIS Imposes Ban on Teaching Evolution in Iraq
Sep 17, 2014, 5:22 PM
More Blog Posts
Copyright 2016 DailyTech LLC. -
Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information