NRG Energy Inc., NRG Yield Inc. and SunPower Corp. completed the final phase of the California Valley Solar Ranch photovoltaic (PV) generating facility in San Luis Obispo County, California, bringing total electric generating capacity of the plant up to 250 MW (AC).
NRG acquired the solar energy project from SunPower in 2011, and the project is jointly owned by NRG Yield (48.95 percent). CVSR will sell its electricity to Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) under two long-term power purchase agreements.
The project received a federal loan guarantee for $1.2 billion from the U.S. Department of Energy's Loan Programs Office. CVSR created more than 700 jobs during its two-year construction period and generated an estimated $315 million of economic development for the local economy.
The energy generated annually by the solar power project is equivalent to that used by 100,000 homes. Using solar power avoids generating more than 336,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions per year, or roughly equal to removing 63,500 cars from California's roads, according to estimates provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
SunPower designed and provided engineering, procurement and construction services for the project, which began in September 2011. In October 2012, the first 22 MW began delivering power to PG&E's transmission lines. NRG and SunPower will jointly operate and maintain the project for two years, after which NRG will assume sole responsibility for operating the site.
NRG's remaining ownership of CVSR (the portion not owned by NRG Yield) is one of six NRG assets that are subject to a Right of First Offer Agreement between NRG and NRG Yield.
At the project site, the SunPower Oasis Power Plant was installed. This is a fully integrated, modular solar power block that is engineered to rapidly and cost-effectively deploy utility-scale solar projects while optimizing land use.
The project's design and construction approach minimized impacts to the 4,700-acre CVSR site. Solar arrays cover only 30 percent of the total site, requiring minimal grading and water usage. Other beneficial features of the project include reseeding to promote vegetation recovery around the arrays and preserving wildlife migration pathways. Also, an abandoned gypsum mine on the site was cleaned and restored.