Less than two weeks after its official groundbreaking ceremony, MidAmerican Solar and First Solar, Inc. (Nasdaq: FSLR) marked another milestone at Topaz Solar Farms, located in San Luis Obispo County, Calif. On Wednesday, the first solar panel was installed on what is the largest solar project under construction in the world. When complete, the 550-megawattAC project will include nearly 9 million photovoltaic panels.
To mark this significant event, the first solar panel was installed by Greg Abel, chairman, president and CEO of MidAmerican Energy Holdings Company, and Walter Scott, Jr., who serves on the boards of directors for Berkshire Hathaway Inc. and MidAmerican.
"The installation of this first solar panel is more than symbolic," said Paul Caudill, president of MidAmerican Solar. "It represents nearly five months of hard construction work put in by a dedicated crew of craftspersons and on-site supervision, a large majority of whom live in the local area. They are helping us achieve our goal of safely and reliably delivering energy to our customer, Pacific Gas and Electric Company, all while adhering to our core value of respect for the environment."
On May 3, MidAmerican Solar and First Solar held a ceremony at the project site to discuss the project's construction schedule, environmental values and community-centered plans for the future with local and state leaders and landowners.
The Topaz project will create approximately 400 construction jobs 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. The Topaz project will provide enough energy to power approximately 160,000 average California homes.
"We're very pleased that Topaz has progressed rapidly to the module installation phase," said Jim Lamon, First Solar senior vice president of engineering, procurement and construction, and operations and maintenance. "We're proud to be working with an energy leader like MidAmerican Solar in bringing utility-scale renewable generation to our country's power grid."
The Topaz project is owned by MidAmerican Solar and will be constructed, operated and maintained by First Solar. Construction began in late 2011 and is expected to be complete by early 2015. PG&E 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.
"PG&E is pleased to mark this project milestone with MidAmerican Solar and First Solar," said John Conway, senior vice president of energy supply for PG&E. "Solar projects such as Topaz will allow us to continue to deliver one of the cleanest energy portfolios in the nation to our customers and help the state meet its green energy goals."
First Solar's advanced thin-film PV modules generate electricity with no emissions, waste or water use and its systems have the smallest carbon footprint of any PV technology. Each module is approximately 4 feet by 2 feet and weighs 27.5 pounds.
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. First Solar's pre-funded collection and recycling program provides a responsible end of life for the PV panels. More than 90 percent of the material is re-used.