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Sacramento Valley Town to Buy Solar Power From Kern County

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Lost Hills' old-style energy developlent: giving way to solar? | Photo: David~O/Flickr/Creative Commons License

The upscale Sacramento suburb of Roseville will buy 325,000 megawatt-hours of electrical power from a solar facility more than 260 miles south of the city, in a Kern County town more readily known for oil wells than solar fields. Roseville will buy all the power from First Solar's Lost Hills solar facility for four years.

The 32-megawatt photovoltaic solar plant is scheduled for construction sometime next year on agricultural lands in northern Kern County, near the intersection of state routes 46 and 33. Though Kern County's Planning Department seems not to have made the full Draft Environmental Impact Report available online, what portions are available indicate that the plant will be built on land that's potentially habitat for the San Joaquin kit fox and the blunt-nosed leopard lizard, both of which species are listed as Endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act.

Roseville''s municipal utility, the first such public utility with which First Solar has signed a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA), serves about 55,000 customers in the small city at the base of the Sierra Nevada gold country foothills.

"We are pleased to acquire renewable electricity to help us reach the state's requirement for 33 percent [renewable energy] by 2020," said Roseville Electric Utility Director Michelle Bertolino in a press release. "As a community-owned utility, contracts such as this help minimize the cost impact on our customers while maintaining highly reliable service."

Delivery of power from Lost Hills to Roseville is expected to start in 2015, and the city's grid will receive 100 percent of the project's output until a previously signed First Solar power purchase agreement with Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) kicks in in 2019. After that, PG&E and Roseville will share Lost Hills' output.

Roseville's utility will pay $24 million for the 325 megawatt hours it will receive from Lost Hills over the 10 years of the PPA, which works out to about 7.4 cents per kilowatt-hour.

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