Bird Knocks Out 84% of Massive California Solar Farm

By Millicent Dent | June 21, 2019

An “avian incident” sparked a fire at one of California’s biggest solar farms, affecting 1,200 acres and knocking out 84% of the California Valley Solar Ranch’s generating capacity.

The June 5 incident didn’t damage solar panels at the 250-megawatt power plant, but distribution poles and cables need to be replaced, according a regulatory filing Wednesday from owner Clearway Energy Inc. The company didn’t say exactly how the blaze was ignited.

“We are pleased that in the aftermath of the fire at California Valley Solar Ranch, our team and first responders were able to ensure the safety of the surrounding community, our employees, and fire officials,” the company said by email. “While fires remain an unfortunate and growing reality in California and across the west, incidents such as these give us continued confidence in our risk prevention and mitigation plans.”

About 40 megawatts of the San Luis Obispo County facility are in operation, and it’s expected to return to full service by July 1. Clearway expects the incident to cost $8 million to $9 million this year, after estimated insurance recovery.

The California Valley project was built by SunPower Corp. and was funded in part with a $1.24 billion loan guarantee from the U.S. Energy Department. It was completed in 2013 and sells power to PG&E Corp.

–With assistance from Brian Eckhouse.

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