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Construction Set To Start For Cuyama Valley Solar Farm

The 327-acre First Solar project was approved by Santa Barbara County in 2014

The Cuyama Solar Facility is planned for 327 acres on Kirschenmann Road in the Cuyama Valley. Santa Barbara County approved the project in 2014 and construction is set to start soon.
The Cuyama Solar Facility is planned for 327 acres on Kirschenmann Road in the Cuyama Valley. Santa Barbara County approved the project in 2014 and construction is set to start soon.  (Contributed photo)

Construction should begin soon on the Cuyama Valley Solar Facility three years after receiving approvals from Santa Barbara County.

The solar farm is planned for 327 acres at 596 Kirschenmann Road in the northeastern corner of the county.

First Solar has obtained the permits needed for construction, with plans to start site preparation in June, said Steve Krum, director of corporate communications for First Solar. 

Full construction should start in July, Krum added.

“We’re looking forward to this one,” Krum said. “It’s exciting to be building the project. It’s yet another large-scale project in that region of the United States that we’ve done some other good work in and we’re always excited to get a project underway.”

First Solar also built the much-larger Topaz Solar Farm — 550 megawatts generating enough power for 60,000 homes — on the Carrisa Plains in eastern San Luis Obispo County.

Once operational, First Solar officials said the Cuyama project will generate 40 megawatts of electricity, which equates to enough to power approximately 16,000 homes.

The Cuyama solar farm is considered a mid-sized project, Krum said. 

Approximately 600,000 photovoltaic modules, 2 feet by 4 feet, would convert sunlight directly into low-voltage direct current. The modules will be mounted on steel and aluminum support structures in a horizontal tracking device that follows the sun. It will connect via the Cuyama substation.

Some work has already been done, including adding the interconnect point, the high voltage transmission line junction to allow the solar power to feed into the electrical grid.

Construction on the Cuyama facility should be completed by the end of 2017, Krum said.

First Solar is working with IBEW Local 413 in Buellton to hire as many local workers as possible and plans to participate in a Santa Maria job fair in the near future, Krum said.

The firm expects to hire approximately 200 workers from a wide variety trades, he added.

Work at the site will come three years after the Santa Barbara County Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors granted approvals in mid-2014.

First Solar expects to find a buyer for the facility which already has a long-term contract for Pacific Gas & Electric Co. to purchase the power. 

“We’re not in the business to own power plants,” Krum said. “We build them, and we’ll operate them for owners, but we don’t hold on to those assets once we’ve built them.”

Potential buyers usually are independent power providers or a holding company that manages power generation assets, Krum added.

Based in Tempe, Arizona, First Solar provides comprehensive photovoltaic solar systems across the globe. 

In recent years, First Solar has donated more than $50,000 to assorted Cuyama Valley organizations.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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