Topaz Solar becomes largest solar power project

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

A recent expansion has made a California solar energy project the world’s largest solar facility. Built in three phases, MidAmerican Renewables LLC’s Topaz Solar project in San Luis Obispo County now sports 550 MW total generating capacity.

A small distributed solar photovoltaic installation in Arches National Park, Utah -- much smaller than the Topaz Solar project.

Iowa-based MidAmerican Renewables LLC is a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway Energy formed to handle its expansion into the unregulated renewables market.  Its subsidiaries MidAmerican Solar, MidAmerican Wind, MidAmerican Geothermal and MidAmerican Hydro each focus on particular types of renewable energy generating technology.  In all, MidAmerican controls over 3,000 MW of renewable generating capacity in the U.S.

MidAmerican acquired the Topaz Solar project from First Solar in January 2012, after First Solar had acquired previous project developer OptiSolar, Inc.  Project construction began in November 2011, and proceeded in three phases.  Earlier phases came online in February 2013 and in January 2014, for a total of 300 MW of capacity.  With the recent expansion, the 550-megawatt project includes over 8 million photovoltaic modules, installed on 4,700 acres of the Carrizo Plain in the southern California desert.

The power produced by the project is sold to utility Pacific Gas and Electric Company under a 25-year power purchase agreement.  Topaz Solar won the long-term contract rights through its response to a 2007 solicitation by PG&E for renewable power.

According to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the Topaz Solar project is now the world's largest solar energy plant.

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