Construction Starts on Warren Buffett's Solar Project

Workers install photovoltaic panels on a frame at Antelope Valley Solar | Photo: PRNewswire

Construction has launched on a solar project its developers are calling the world's largest, on more than 3,200 acres straddling the Kern-Los Angeles county line west of the Antelope Valley town of Rosamond. Antelope Valley Solar I and II are being built for MidAmerican Solar, a Phoenix-based energy development company indirectly owned by financier Warren Buffett.

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Antelope Valley Solar I and II are not to be confused with the nearby First Solar project Antelope Valley Solar Ranch, whose construction was halted by Los Angeles County officials recently after serious dust control violations at the site. Though locals probably dislike the First Solar project more, Antelope Valley Solar I and II have come in for their share of criticism as contributing to the overall industrialization of the formerly rural western section of the Antelope Valley. Despite having somewhat less habitat value than other places in the Mojave slated for energy development, the site was habitat for burrowing owls and a few other sensitive species of Mojave Desert wildlife.

When built out, which is expected to happen by the end of 2015, the dual project's photovoltaic panels will deliver a maximum of 579 megawatts of power to the utility Southern California Edison. MidAmerican claims that its project will provide 650 temporary jobs and pump $500 million into the economy of the Antelope Valley.

The project, being built for MidAmerican by SunPower, will incorporate single-axis tracking mounts to aim the photovoltaic panels more directly at the sun, increasing the plant's output by a claimed 25 percent.

"The Antelope Valley Solar Projects are already creating needed jobs and economic opportunity in local communities, while at the same time, providing direct, long-term environmental benefits," said Paul Caudill, president of MidAmerican Solar, in a press release.

MidAmerican Solar is a subsidiary of MidAmerican Renewables, which is contained Russian-nesting-doll style in the Des Moines-based firm MidAmerican Energy Holdings Company, which is controlled by Warren Buffett's firm Berkshire Hathaway. MidAmerican Solar, which already owns the 550-megawatt Topaz solar project in San Luis Obispo County, bought Antelope Valley Solar I and II in January.

About the Author

Chris Clarke is a natural history writer and environmental journalist currently at work on a book about the Joshua tree. He lives in Joshua Tree.
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