First stage of California Valley Solar Ranch powered up

The first section of one of the largest solar photovoltaic (PV) plants in the world is now delivering energy to the grid.

The first 22 MW of the 250-MW California Valley Solar Ranch (CVSR), owned by NRG Energy (NYSE: NRG), started operations this week after construction has been ongoing for about a year.

SunPower is developing the plant for NRG after the integrated module manufacturer and project developer sold the project to NRG a little over a year ago.

CVSR is one of the largest central station photovoltaic solar plants in the world. It has created approximately 350 jobs since construction started in September 2011, and is expected to inject $315m into the local economy over its two-year construction period. NRG completed the acquisition of CVSR on Sept. 30, 2011 just before the financial closing of the project’s $1.2bn loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Loan Programs Office.

Once completed, CVSR will power a yearly average of 100,000 homes. It is sited on more than 12,000 acres of land in and around the Carrizo Plain in southeastern San Luis Obispo County, about 100 miles northwest of Los Angeles. Electricity from CVSR is being sold to PG&E (NYSE: PCG) through 25-year power purchase agreements.

“The private sector’s role is to demonstrate successful performance that speeds commercialization of technology—on time and on budget—and that’s what we’re doing at CVSR and all of NRG’s major solar projects,” said Tom Doyle, president of NRG Solar and NRG’s West Region. “Equally important, through large scale deployment, the private sector is accelerating cost reductions through supply chain improvements, lower balance of system costs and progress through experience that can’t be achieved at the lab bench or in the factory.”

The project is expected to be fully online by December 2013. SunPower designed the project, and along with Bechtel, is providing balance of plant, engineering and procurement services, and construction services.

NRG has four large-scale solar plants fully or partially operational and three other projects currently under construction across California, Arizona and New Mexico, plus several distributed solar projects at locations across the country. In the U.S., approximately 190 MW of large-scale SunPower plants are operating, with more than 1,000 MW under contract. NRG Solar LLC, a subsidiary of NRG, has more than 2,000 MW of photovoltaic and solar thermal projects under development or in construction across the southwestern United States.