The project partners placed emphasis on successfully co-locating the project with one of the largest working cattle ranches in the US while minimizing and mitigating the environmental impact of constructing the solar plant. Ranch employees worked in tandem with the construction and operation teams, with input from stakeholders, to assess and plan the development; as a result, the facility has a very low visual impact and cannot be seen from any public roads. The project supports and complements the sustainable cattle operation of the ranch, which provides grass-fed beef to Whole Foods Market’s Southern Pacific region, reducing pressure to use the ranch land for other commercial purposes.
“The California Flats Solar Project helped us meet our goal of finding a sustainable solution to keep the 73,000-acre Jack Ranch intact as a historic working cattle ranch using traditional and time-proven ranching methods for our grass-fed Hearst Ranch Beef program,” said Steve Hearst, VP and GM of Hearst Western Properties .
The project, which covers approximately 3% of the area of the ranch, was built in two phases and is fully contracted under two long-term PPAs serving both utility and corporate renewable customers. First Solar completed development and constructed the facility after acquiring the project in 2015. Capital Dynamics acquired the project from First Solar in August 2017 .
The project is powered by First Solar’s high-performance thin film technology, including Series 6 modules. The Series 6 modules, manufactured by First Solar in the United States, have approximately half the carbon footprint of conventional crystalline silicon PV panels.
“This project confirms that solar energy can successfully co-exist with the natural environment and an active agricultural operation while generating clean, renewable energy and local economic benefits,” said Troy Lauterbach, SVP of EPC and energy services for First Solar.
The California Flats project created significant jobs and economic benefits for Monterey County. Construction of the project took approximately three years, creating about 2.1 million work hours, and had a peak construction workforce of over 1,100 people. The facility covers an area equivalent to the square footage of 449 football fields. The California Flats Solar Project will generate clean solar energy equivalent to the needs of about 116,000 average California households per year.