Santa Barbara County, Calif. - Santa Barbara County is staking a claim to solar power energy on the Central Coast.
The County Planning Commission is recommending approval of the county's first big solar energy farm in the Cuyama Valley east of Santa Maria.
The company behind the project says it will also power local job creation and government tax revenue.
If and when the Cuyama Solar project is buil, it would be the first major solar power energy plant in Santa Barbara County.
The project calls for solar panels on more than 325 acres of low-grade agricultural land in the eastern Cuyama Valley, with the complete support and blessing of the farmer who owns the land.
The company behind the project, First Solar, says it will generate 40 megawatts of energy every year, enough to power some 16,000 homes.
"We convert sunlight into electricity, its not heat, there's no water, no air emissions, no waste production", says Dawn Legg of First Solar, "our technology is low cost and cleaner compared to dirtier fossil fuels that are still in use today."
First Solar is the company behind the massive, 500-megwatt Topaz Solar Farm in the Carrizo Plain area of eastern San Luis Obispo county.
First Solar says the power generated will help prevent brownouts in the Cuyama Valley and be put on the grid with PG&E.
"So we have an affordable, sustainable energy source to power about 16,000 homes", Legg says, "that is the equivalent of displacing 30,000 metric tons of carbon and greenhouse gases per year, which is the equivalent of taking about 6,000 cars off the road every year."
First Solar says the Cuyama Solar Facility project will create as many as 200 construction jobs.
"There will be between 8 and 14 months of employment", Legg says, "that will be a combination of electricians and other construction type jobs, water truck drivers, low skill sets to higher skill sets."
Yet after the Cuyama solar plant is built, only a handful of people will be needed to operate it.
First Solar says the Cuyama Power Plant will generate hundreds of thousands of dollars in direct and indirect economic benefits to the area, including sales tax and property tax revenue for local government.
The project is expected to come before the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors for final approval later this year.