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California's largest solar photovoltaic plant to start construction

September 24, 2010 | 12:52 pm

Panels below sky

Southern California has gotten the bulk of the solar industry’s attention lately as a group of solar thermal projects weave their way through state regulatory agencies.

But photovoltaic activity is about to kick up farther north as a project set to become the largest of its kind in California readies for construction next week in the Central Valley.

NRG Solar, partnering with Eurus Energy America Corp., is about to launch on a 45-megawatt project in Kings County. Split into three parts, the  20-megawatt Sun City portion and the 19-megawatt Sand Drag section will start going up by the end of September, 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 incoming installation is expected to produce enough power to meet the energy needs of 36,000 homes.

NRG and Eurus, the subsidiary of a Japanese company, have already wrapped the financing process, though they would not disclose how much they had raised.

The California Public Utilities Commission has approved a 20-year  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  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