NRG Solar (get it?) and SunPower -- neither of which are strangers to extracting juice from that glowing ball of fire in our sky -- have just linked up to build one of the world's largest photovoltaic solar plants. The tandem will start construction in San Luis Obispo County next year, creating around 350 jobs in the process and helping California inch ever closer to realizing its 33 percent renewable portfolio standard. The 250-megawatt plant still pales in comparison to a few others (namely this guy in Arizona), but it dwarfs the vast majority of factories in operation today. The project is expected to stretch out for three or four years, but when all is said and done, around 100,000 homes (yeah, even the home of one Vincent Chase) will be given sun-sourced energy thanks to this here installation. That said, the actual energy bills for Californians everywhere probably won't sink -- but hey, at least you're throwing Ma Earth a well-deserved bone, right?
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NRG Solar and SunPower Agree to Build 250-Megawatt California Valley Solar Ranch

- Construction Planned to Begin in 2011 -


PRINCETON, N.J. and SAN JOSE, Calif., Nov. 30, 2010 /PRNewswire/ -- NRG Solar, a subsidiary of NRG Energy, Inc. (NYSE: NRG) and SunPower Corp. (Nasdaq: SPWRA, SPWRB) today announced groundbreaking agreements to begin construction next year of the 250-megawatt (MW) California Valley Solar Ranch in San Luis Obispo County. The solar power plant is expected to create approximately 350 jobs during construction, will power about 100,000 homes and will be one of the largest photovoltaic solar power plants in the world, when complete. NRG Solar plans to invest up to $450 million of equity in the project over the next four years, subject to final total project cost and negotiation of the financing terms and conditions.

Under the agreement announced today, NRG will, subject to certain conditions, assume all ownership and financing responsibilities for the California Valley Solar Ranch. SunPower will continue to develop the project, and will design, build, operate and maintain the solar power plant. Construction is expected to start in the second half of 2011, with a portion of the project expected to begin operating by the end of 2011 and the balance coming on line in 2012 and 2013. When fully operational, the solar power plant will help California achieve its 33% renewable portfolio standard.

The project is currently seeking a loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Loan Guarantee Program Office, which supports accelerated commercial use of innovative energy technologies to help sustain economic growth, yield environmental benefits, and produce a more stable and secure energy supply. The DOE Loan Guarantee Program Office has provided a draft term sheet for the California Valley Solar Ranch project, which is a significant milestone in the process leading to a conditional loan guarantee commitment.

"California Valley Solar Ranch will be an important component of our multi-technology portfolio of clean, zero-emission solar power facilities," said Tom Doyle, president of NRG Solar. "We are pursuing large-scale photovoltaic projects across the Southwest and working with like-minded companies that can ensure our projects will be exceptionally successful. SunPower has the proven technology and experience building solar power plants around the world to deliver a well-designed solar project that will be a major contributor to helping California meet its ambitious renewable portfolio standard by the end of the decade."

"This partnership with NRG Solar and the DOE represents a major milestone in delivering 250 megawatts of clean, renewable solar power to California's electricity customers," said Howard Wenger, president of the utility and power plants business group at SunPower. "For two years, SunPower has been working to develop this project responsibly, with respect for the environment and the community. We are delighted to have found in NRG a partner that shares our vision to build a solar power plant in San Luis Obispo County that enhances the local economy, protects local habitat and generates emission-free solar power for California. The DOE is playing a critical leadership role in supporting renewable energy that provides economic and environmental benefits, as well as a secure, stable energy supply in the U.S."

California Valley Solar Ranch has executed 25-year power purchase agreements with Pacific Gas & Electric for delivery of 250 megawatts. The power purchase agreements have been approved by the California Public Utilities Commission. The closing of the NRG and SunPower agreements announced today is subject to the satisfaction of customary closing conditions and the completion of development, including obtaining required permitting and regulatory approvals.

By the end of 2010, SunPower will have installed more than 1,500 megawatts of solar power systems worldwide, including 400 megawatts of ground-mounted power plants.