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SunPower California Valley Solar Ranch

STATUS: In progress, with opposition

TYPE: Solar

OPPOSITION: Local residents; Alliance for Responsible Energy Policy


BACKGROUND: SunPower's planned 250 MW solar ranch, would be located in San Luis Obispo County's California Valley and will deliver an average of 550,000 megawatt-hours of clean electricity annually. The solar plant will be completed in phases, with the first phase planned to begin operation in 2011.

On February 6, 2009, a Renewable Energy Education Forum sponsored by the Strategic Energy Alliance in San Luis Obispo set off a very lively debate regarding the project between SunPower supporters and NIMBYs who oppose large industrial solar plants.  Local residents are unhappy about the proliferation of solar projects planned for their home turf. “We’re tired of everyone looking at the desert like a wasteland,” said Donna Charpied, who lives with her husband, Larry, in Desert Center, CA.  Jim Harvey, a founder of the Alliance for Responsible Energy Policy, an environmental group in Joshua Tree, said, “Our position is that none of this is needed. We support renewable energy, and we support California’s renewable energy targets, but we think it can be done through rooftop solar.”

In August 2010, the Environmental Impact Report was released for public comment. The project site is home to 13 different species listed as endangered either by the state or federal government.  The impact of the project on each of those species as well as rare vegetation had to be assessed by biologists in separate studies.  Responding to feedback from the local community, SunPower revised several aspects of its original power plant design to minimize environmental impacts and enhance the system's visual profile.

SOURCES: San Luis Obispo County web site: http://www.slocounty.ca.gov/planning/environmental/EnvironmentalNotices/sunpower.htm;
New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/24/business/businessspecial2/24shrike.html?ref=businessspecial2;
San Francisco Gate: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/08/14/BUP412B774.DTL;
Renewable Energy World: http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/rea/news/article/2010/05/sunpower-adds-40-mw-to-california-valley-solar-ranch ; Greentech Media: http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/sunpower-california-valley/;
Socioeconomic and Fiscal Impacts of California Valley Solar Ranch and Topaz Solar Farm Projects: http://www.sloplanning.org/EIRs/CaliforniaValleySolarRanch/deir/apps/Ap14_Fiscal_Impacts_Study.pdf

Last updated November 5, 2010