KINGS COUNTY — CIM Group announced recently that it is advancing the development of Westlands Solar Park in Kings County, one of the largest permitted solar parks in the world. The solar park could grow to more than 2,700-megawatts (2.7 gigawatts) of renewable energy potential at full build out, which could provide clean energy to more than 1.2 million homes, said a press release from CIM Group. The master-planned energy park encompasses more than 20,000 acres in the Central Valley in western Fresno County and Kings County, southwest of Lemoore, and is designed to open in phases to meet the needs of public and private utilities and other energy consumers.
Westlands Solar Park Begins Construction
The first phase of CIM’s development at Westlands Solar Park includes Aquamarine, a 250-megawatt solar photovoltaic project, which obtained all entitlement and conditional use approvals following a full environmental impact review. CIM signed a power purchase agreement with Valley Clean Energy Alliance, a locally-governed electricity provider for the California cities of Davis and Woodland and unincorporated portions of Yolo County, for 50-megawatts of capacity, with initial delivery anticipated to occur in late 2021.
According to the press release, Valley Clean Energy’s decision to select Aquamarine from a competitive solicitation process was based on its board adopting criteria designed to select cost-effective California-based renewable projects that minimize impacts on prime farmland, environmentally protected species, and habitat. CIM said it applies sustainable principles across its real asset portfolios, and at Westlands Solar Park, CIM is repurposing selenium-contaminated and drainage impaired farmland for the development of clean energy.
Kings County Supervisor Joe Neves, whose district includes some of the project’s area, said there are challenges with the land in terms of a shortage of water and it not being suitable for permanent crops, which led to land retirement. Neves said the large project will keep the land active and on to its next application. “I think it’s a good project,” Neves said. CIM said its clean energy projects will also provide solutions to multiple policy objectives for the state of California’s renewable energy mandate, including greenhouse gas reduction and carbon free energy.
Additionally, Westlands Solar Park is expected to contribute to economic development in Central Valley communities by diversifying the region beyond agriculture and creating a substantial number of clean energy jobs over the development of the entire project. CIM earlier completed a 2-megawatt pilot project at Westlands Solar Park in mid-2016 with the Anaheim Public Utility as the off-taker.
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