The Kern County Board of Supervisors recently approved the Maricopa Sun project with a 5-0 vote. The project will bring online 700 MW of installed capacity – roughly the capacity of one of the medium sized nuclear reactors at Japan’s Fukushima Nuclear complex or enough electricity to consistently power 300,000 homes.
The Developer, Maricopa Sun LLC President Jeff Roberts, said the company purchased the land eight years ago but couldn’t farm it because it lacked a vital component for agriculture: water. “This is land we tired for eight years to find water for,” said Roberts. This is yet another solar park cultivated on distressed agricultural lands. The project was supported by environmentalists and there was no opposition. The local community is anxious for the jobs and tax revenue that will be realized as the Maricopa Sun Project moves forward.
Solar projects have multiple benefits: They make best use of those lands that cannot be sustainable farmed, eliminate contaminated drainage from impaired lands, reduce water demand from the Bay Delta, provide a major source of safe and carbon free energy, and create new installation and maintenance jobs in the Central Valley. Solar projects will be a major source that California will develop to meet the 33% Renewable Portfolio Standards in recently enacted legislation (SB 2X).
Maricopa Sun Project joins the growing list of several other California solar projects, and more are on the drawing board. This momentum follows the fourth recommendation in PCL’s “8 Affordable Water Solutions for California” – “Use Drainage Impaired Lands in the San Joaquin Valley to Generate Solar Energy.”