Another Big Solar Project Gets Under Way in California

The 135-MW Quinto Solar Project, a solar photovoltaic (PV) plant under construction in California’s Central Valley, officially broke ground on July 29.

San Jose–based SunPower Corp. is building the plant in Los Banos, and will sell power from the facility to Southern California Edison under a 20-year power purchase agreement. The project is due for completion in late 2015.

California currently has around 2 GW of solar projects under construction, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association, but only a handful of PV projects, such as First Solar’s Desert Sunlight and SunPower’s Solar Star, are larger than Quinto. Around 300 workers are expected to be employed during construction.

SunPower has a history of selling solar projects before completion—it began development of the California Valley Solar Ranch near San Luis Obispo before selling the 250-MW plant to NRG in 2011—but says it plans to retain ownership of Quinto at least through the end of construction.

The Quinto project has been mildly controversial in the area because it will take about 800 acres of farmland out of cultivation during its lifetime. Area farming interests have historically opposed any projects—residential, commercial, or industrial—that cause a net loss of farming acreage.

—Thomas W. Overton, JD is a POWER associate editor.