Calif. solar plant would be among world's largest

About 30,000 fallow acres in western Kings and Fresno counties in California could return to productivity as home to a massive installation of solar power panels.

Westlands Water District has a lease contract with Westside Holdings, a private investment group with plans for a 5,000-megawatt solar power plant, large enough to serve between 2.5 million and 4 million households. If built, it would be one of the largest installations of solar photovoltaic panels in the world. And it could help spur a “green energy” surge, diversifying the west-side economy from its historic reliance on agriculture.

Westlands Solar Park is one of a growing number of solar projects being pitched for sunny stretches of land in the western and southern San Joaquin Valley. There are at least a dozen utility-scale projects, ranging from 5 to 250 megawatts, planned in Fresno, Kings and Tulare counties. Their development, however, can get bogged down by regulatory and environmental review and fundraising. Only one plant has been built -- the 40-acre, 5-megawatt CalRenew-1 plant in Mendota. It awaits testing and connection to the power grid.

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