MidAmerican Solar and First Solar, Inc. (Nasdaq: FSLR) marked the start of major construction at Topaz Solar Farms, located in San Luis Obispo County, Calif. The 550-megawatt photovoltaic project will employ approximately 400 workers during its three-year construction period; will generate nearly $417 million in local economic impact, the majority of which will be generated during construction; and will provide California with renewable electricity.
When complete, the Topaz project will be the largest solar electric power plant in the world, providing enough energy to power approximately 160,000 average California homes.
"The Topaz project will benefit the environment and the local economy," said Paul Caudill, president of MidAmerican Solar. "A project of this size creates jobs and plays a major role in our nation's long-term electric energy supply. We are excited to be a part of the local San Luis Obispo community, and we look forward to having a major presence with stakeholders now and in the future. In addition to providing clean energy and jobs, we're committed to working hand-in-hand with stakeholders to demonstrate how large-scale solar projects and geographies, such as the Carrizo Plain, can co-exist and benefit native biological species."
On May 3, MidAmerican Solar and First Solar representatives held a groundbreaking celebration at the project site at which they discussed the project's construction schedule, environmental values and community-centered plans for the future with local and state community leaders and landowners. The groundbreaking event was followed by a community celebration at nearby Santa Margarita Ranch. More than 400 people attended the festivities.
"First Solar is pleased to be working on the Topaz project and other PV solar projects with MidAmerican Solar," said Jim Lamon, First Solar senior vice president of engineering, procurement and construction, and operations and maintenance. "Utility-scale PV projects like Topaz are the quickest and most cost-effective way to bring significant solar power to the grid."
"PG&E provides its customers with some of the cleanest power in the nation, and is committed to meeting the state's aggressive renewable energy goals," said John Conway, PG&E's senior vice president for energy supply. "As Topaz is phased-in over time, it will help us meet that commitment while moving the state one step closer toward achieving its long-term environmental objectives."
The Topaz project is owned by MidAmerican Solar and will be constructed, operated and maintained by First Solar. Construction began in November 2011 and is expected to be complete by early 2015.
Pacific Gas and Electric Company will purchase the electricity from the Topaz project under a 25-year power purchase agreement, helping California meet its mandate to generate 33 percent of its power from renewable sources by 2020.
Developed by First Solar, the Topaz project will incorporate the company's advanced thin-film PV modules, which generate electricity with no emissions, waste or water use and have the smallest carbon footprint of any PV technology. Electricity generated by the Topaz project will displace approximately 377,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year - the equivalent of taking approximately 73,000 cars off the road.