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Construction to start on California's largest solar photovoltaic plant

September 24, 2010 | 12:28 pm

Blythe-chocmtns NRG Solar, owner of California’s largest operating photovoltaic power plant, is about to one-up itself with construction that starts this month on an even larger installation in the Central Valley.

The 45-megawatt project, planned for Kings County, will consist of three parts. The 20-megawatt Sun City portion and the 19-megawatt Sand Drag section will start going up next week, while the final Avenal Park piece will follow in about a month.

NRG, a subsidiary of NRG Energy Inc. of Princeton, N.J., owns the state’s previous record-holder -– a 21-megawatt facility in Blythe. The company will partner on the Kings County project with Eurus Energy America Corp., a subsidiary of Japanese firm Eurus Energy Holdings.

Using cells that convert energy from the sun into electricity, the installation will produce enough power for 36,000 homes, according to the companies. The financing process is complete, though the companies would not disclose how much they raised.

The California Public Utilities Commission has approved a 20-year power purchase agreement for Pacific Gas & Electric Co. to start buying power from the project once it starts operating in mid-2011.

Minneapolis-based real estate firm Ryan Companies US Inc. will construct the solar farm with thin-film panels from Sharp Electronics. The company, Japan’s largest manufacturer of solar panels, agreed to pay $305 million to buy San Francisco-based solar power developer Recurrent Energy earlier this week.

The Avenal trio joins a growing group of solar installations in the Central Valley. Earlier this year, a 5-megawatt plant spread across 50 acres in Mendota became the state’s first photovoltaic project to connect to the California power grid.

-- Tiffany Hsu

Photo: NRG's Blythe project. Credit: NRG