NRG Energy’s 250 MW solar power plant to begin operations in 2012

NRG Energy, Inc. (NYSE: NRG) and SunPower Corp. (NASDAQ: SPWRA, SPWRB) held a ceremony today to celebrate the formal groundbreaking of the 250-megawatt (MW) California Valley Solar Ranch (CVSR). Construction of the San Luis Obispo County project commenced in September.

“We fully expect the price of solar to continue declining, which will make solar power increasingly cost-competitive with fossil fuel generation for many states in the near future.”

First announced more than three years ago by SunPower, CVSR is one of the largest central station photovoltaic solar plants in the world. It is expected to create approximately 350 jobs over its two-year construction period and to inject $315 million into the local economy. NRG completed the acquisition of CVSR on September 30.

Once completed, CVSR will power a yearly average of 100,000 homes with clean, renewable solar energy, sold to PG&E through 25-year power purchase agreements that have been approved by the California Public Utilities Commission.

“Today’s groundbreaking marks an important milestone for one of the most significant renewable energy projects to serve PG&E’s customers,” said Tony Earley, PG&E Corporation Chairman, CEO and president. “We look forward to the completion of the California Valley Solar Ranch and its bolstering our delivery of clean energy to Northern and Central Californians.”

“NRG’s investment in large solar installations like California Valley Solar Ranch creates hundreds of construction jobs and provides clean, renewable power to thousands of homes in tandem with our distributed solar installations at sports stadiums, on rooftops and in parking lots,” said Tom Doyle, president of NRG’s Solar and West Region. “We fully expect the price of solar to continue declining, which will make solar power increasingly cost-competitive with fossil fuel generation for many states in the near future.”

NRG is the sole owner of the project, which is expected to begin partial operations by early 2012, with the balance of the project coming online later in 2012 and 2013. SunPower will complete the project’s design and construction, working with Bechtel, which is providing balance of plant engineering and procurement services and construction services. Once completed, NRG and SunPower will jointly operate and maintain CVSR for two years, after which NRG assumes sole responsibility.

At the site, SunPower is installing the SunPower Oasis™ Power Plant product, a fully integrated, modular solar power block that is engineered to rapidly and cost-effectively deploy utility-scale solar projects while optimizing land use. Each power block integrates the SunPower® T0 Tracker with SunPower high-efficiency solar panels, pre-manufactured system cabling, the Oasis smart inverter, and the Oasis operating system. SunPower Oasis also features the SunPower advanced Tracker Monitoring and Control System (TMAC™) for wireless control of the power plant. The power block kits are shipped pre-assembled to the job site for rapid field installation, and offer the highest capacity factor and the most reliable long-term performance.

“With more than 500 megawatts of SunPower power plants generating emission-free, affordable solar power around the globe today, our technology delivers guaranteed performance, optimized energy production, and long-term reliability,” said Howard Wenger, president, regions for SunPower. “We congratulate our partners NRG and Bechtel and the community here in San Luis Obispo for breaking ground on this historic project, which is creating significant numbers of local jobs and injecting millions of dollars into the local economy, while protecting and conserving more than 13,000 acres of land in and around the Carrizo Plain.”

NRG has three large-scale solar plants operational and four other projects currently under construction across California, Arizona and New Mexico. In the U.S., large-scale SunPower plants are operating in Florida, Nevada, Colorado and Arizona, and the company is on track to begin construction on three additional California plants.