Late last month, the Topaz Solar Farm came online in San Luis Obispo, California. With a 550 megawatt capacity, Topaz is now the largest working solar plant in the world.
According to project developers First Solar, Topaz will displace an annual 377,000 tons of carbon dioxide and distribute enough energy to power 160,000 average homes.
First Solar developed the plant and received permitting for it between 2008 and 2011. Construction began in 2011, though the project changed hands later that year when the company missed a Department of Energy deadline for a $1.9 billion loan guarantee. American business magnate Warren Buffet purchased the plant through his MidAmerican Energy Holding (now Berkshire Hathaway Energy), though First Solar will continue to operate and maintain the plant.
Built on 3,500 acres, the solar farm utilizes First Solar’s thin-film cadmium telluride photovoltaic modules and will supply electricity to the state through a power purchase agreement with Pacific Gas & Electric from now through 2034.
The Topaz website forecasts an estimated $417 million in economic benefits to California, including property and sales tax revenue for the county, wages from direct and indirect employment and induced spending and supply chain revenues.
A CleanEnergy study states that Topaz will help California to meet its 2020 Renewables Portfolio Standard to obtain 33 percent of its electricity from renewable sources, which applies to “all electricity retailers in the state including publicly owned utilities, investor-owned utilities, electricity service providers, and community choice aggregators.”