Department of Energy

Solar Goes Big: Launching the California Valley Solar Ranch

October 31, 2013

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The California Valley Solar Ranch produces clean, renewable electricity at the scale of traditional power plants. | Photo courtesy of SunPower.

The California Valley Solar Ranch produces clean, renewable electricity at the scale of traditional power plants. | Photo courtesy of SunPower.

Aerial shot of the California Valley Solar Ranch in San Luis Obispo County, California. | Photo courtesy of SunPower.

Aerial shot of the California Valley Solar Ranch in San Luis Obispo County, California. | Photo courtesy of SunPower.

According to NRG Energy, the California Solar Valley Ranch project has created thousands of jobs and put an estimated $315 million into the local economy. | Photo courtesy of SunPower.

According to NRG Energy, the California Solar Valley Ranch project has created thousands of jobs and put an estimated $315 million into the local economy. | Photo courtesy of SunPower.

Today marks a major solar milestone for sunny San Luis Obispo County, California, with the start of commercial operation for California Valley Solar Ranch. This facility is one of the world’s largest solar photovoltaic (PV) power plants with the ability to shift the position of panels wirelessly to track weather and optimize solar input -- ensuring the panels collect as much of the sun’s energy as possible. The 250 megawatt project is led by NRG Energy and SunPower and was made possible by a $1.2 billion loan guarantee from the Energy Department’s Loan Programs Office.

California Valley Solar Ranch now produces enough energy to power more than 42,000 homes. According to NRG Energy, the project sponsor, the project also has created hundreds of jobs and put an estimated $315 million into the local economy. 

This isn’t just big news for California. It’s part of a broader clean energy transformation that is taking place across the country. Solar energy facilities are now producing electricity at the scale of traditional power plants.  These utility-scale projects show that solar power is no longer found just on rooftops.

The Energy Department’s Loan Programs Office has played a key role in realizing the promise of utility-scale solar energy. In fact, Energy Department loan guarantees have helped finance the first five utility-scale solar PV facilities in the U.S., leading the way to making utility-scale solar energy a commercial reality in the U.S.  Now, similar projects are moving forward with private financing.