The construction of a solar array on more than 2,700 acres outside of Los Banos that’s estimated to create about 400 local construction jobs is set to kick off on Thursday.
Peninsula Clean Energy, which provides power to all of San Mateo County and its cities, hired Clenera LLC to build the 200-megawatt solar panel project southwest of where Highway 152 and Interstate 5 meet, according to Jan Pepper, Peninsula’s CEO.
As part of the agreement with Merced County, Clenera is required to recruit employees and get as much of its building materials as possible from Merced County, Pepper said.
“We’re excited to have it there. It’s a great solar resource,” she said. “We’re excited to create a lot of good jobs in that area.”
The energy generated by the project would go to homes and businesses in San Mateo, she said. An office about five miles away in Santa Nella would coincide with the completion of the project about a year from now.
The Merced County Board of Supervisors approved the project on grazing land in March 2015, records show.
The solar array represents an important economic investment in the county, according to Mark Hendrickson, director of community and economic development for Merced County.
“This project which will add hundreds of construction jobs in the community, it will bring in millions of dollars of new tax revenues for community benefit and will greatly enhance the effort to make our state and region more environmentally sustainable,” he said in a statement.
The company also estimates the project could bring in as much as $6 million in tax revenue to the region.
News of the environmentally-friendly project comes days after UN scientists announced the dire circumstances that people around the world would face about a decade from now if nations did not drastically cut their carbon emissions. Supporters of solar energy have touted it as a way to effectively cut greenhouse gases.
“We are interested in helping the Central Valley understand what this type of program is like,” Pepper said. “We’re starting to have some conversations with Merced County.”
Peninsula Clean Energy is one of the state’s 19 community-choice energy programs in which residents can pick a different provider than Pacific Gas and Electric Co. The energy provider says it offers energy at 5 percent cheaper than PG&E, leading to an annual savings of $17 million.
Law prohibits PG&E from marketing against such programs.