Calif. utility agrees to buy solar power from two proposed plants

Pacific Gas and Electric announced Thursday that it has entered into agreements to purchase 800 megawatts of power from two solar plants to be built on the Carrizo Plain.

The agreements will make the northern Carrizo Plain around California Valley one of the state's major producers of solar electricity. Three solar projects have now been proposed for the area, each with agreements to sell their power to PG&E.

Senior executives with PG&E are calling the agreements a landmark in renewable energy production in California. With them, the utility now has more than enough renewable energy sources to fulfill its share of the requirement that 20 percent of the state's energy comes from renewable sources that also include wind, biomass and geothermal.

The larger of the two new solar farms is called Topaz Solar Farms which will produce 550 megawatts of photovoltaic power on a site covering 9.5 square miles north of Highway 58, mostly east of Bitterwater Road.

The facility is proposed by OptiSolar Inc. of Hayward. The company applied with the county for the permit to build the plant in July.

The other solar plant would be called High Plains Ranch II and produce 250 megawatts of photovoltaic power. Proposed by SunPower Corp. of San Jose, the facility would cover 3.5 square miles and would be located south of Highway 58 east of California Valley.

Together, the two plants would produce enough electricity for nearly 239,000 homes.

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