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Big SLO County Solar Projects To Energize

The two sprawling utility-scale solar projects in eastern San Luis Obispo county are approaching their second season of construction this fall and both are targeting energizing – hooking the panels up to PGE –  in coming months.

“We’re working on the third of six phases now” says First Solar on-site spokesperson Dawn Legg ”with well over 400 people working.” Ms Legg addressed the county Board of Supervisors this week to give them a progress report on the 550MW Topaz project being built by First Solar but owned by MidAmerican Solar. Legg says the workforce is mostly local and includes plenty of  stories of people glad to be working near home including returning veterans.

“We are on target to energize 48MW by the end of this year” says Legg – noting the complexity of coordinating all the moving parts including construction of a new substation and working with PG&E.

At the second large solar project in the Carrizo Plain – California Valley Solar Ranch –  being built by SunPower and Bechtel and owned by NRG – the 250MW project is a few months ahead of the other on their construction schedule and according to county planner John Mckenzie “energizing is likely in the next few weeks” – some 21 MW that will go out on the grid. About 400 people are working on this project as well.

“People who take a drive out here say when they approach the site – it is pretty impressive. There is no doubt about it – we are building a big power plant “adds Legg that will make sure the light stay on as the state moves to 33% renewables.” The Topaz project has been estimated at $417 million including property and sales tax revenues for the County, wages from direct and indirect employment, induced spending and supply chain revenues.The Sunpower project has been estimated to be valued at $ 315 million in a Cal Poly study.

It will be another two years before both projects are completed.

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