By Tracy Correa
CANTUA CREEK—The completion of a second year of new PG&E-owned solar photovoltaic generation plants was celebrated today (June 25) at one of three new solar plants on Fresno County’s west side.
About 100 people—including school administrators, elected officials, contractors and PG&E representatives—attended the event at the 20-megawatt Cantua Solar Station on an unseasonably cool but sunny morning.
“So, electricity from the sun, how cool is that? Today, we celebrate 50 megawatts coming online right now,” Randy Livingston, PG&E’s vice president of power generation, said while welcoming guests.
The dedication of Cantua, the 20-megawatt Huron Solar Station and the 10-megawatt Giffen Solar Station, marked the second phase of a five-year, 500-megawatt program aimed at building PG&E’s power generation portfolio.
The five-year plan includes 250 megawatts of new solar photovoltaic generation, owned and operated by PG&E and the other half from those built by independent developers. Last year, the first phase of PG&E-owned sites was dedicated in the Fresno County community of Five Points.
Will power 150,000 homes once complete
Once complete, the 500-megawatt program will generate enough clean energy to meet the needs of about 150,000 homes.
Against a backdrop of rolling hills and 109,824 solar panels that make up the Cantua station, speakers commended PG&E, its contractors and the community for supporting the projects that will add an additional $1.5 million in local property taxes.
“It’s an honor and a privilege to stand here,” said Boris Schubert, CEO of Q-Cells, who hailed the progress of solar energy.
Calling the sun “the source of energy that fuels all of our lives,” Paul Aggarwal, vice president of operations for Cupertino Electric, thanked the more 200 local workers who made the solar stations possible.
Another contractor, Mary Jo Avila, president of MJAvila Construction, recalled her company having worked in the west side in years past grading fields for farmers.
“Today, we are producing green energy and reducing the carbon footprint,” she said.
Avila’s company hit a record 225 employees working on the solar projects, many of whom thanked her personally when she handed out paychecks at the job site two days before Christmas.
PG&E gives back to community
Recently, PG&E and its solar station contractors came together to give back to the community when they volunteered for renovation projects at Cantua Elementary School on June 9. Athletic fields were repaired and a new public address system was installed in the cafeteria. Donations to the school amounted to about $60,000 and included $25,000 from PG&E that will be used to buy interactive educational technology for the classroom.
“That’s a big chunk of dollars for us,” said a grateful Tony Arredondo, principal of Cantua Elementary. He said the children will be surprised when they return back from summer vacation.
Fresno County Supervisor Phil Larson provided a bit of history about the area when he talked about how Joaquin Murrieta—known as the Mexican Robin Hood during the 1850s—was rumored to have buried some of his treasure in the nearby hills before being shot dead. He also reminded people about how the Valley’s agricultural bounty feeds the nation and was now giving back in solar energy.
Larson commended PG&E for its work in the community, including the volunteer effort at the school, adding: “Thank you PG&E for what you do.”
Then, in what has become a PG&E solar-dedication tradition, the crowd moved over to a giant switch that was flipped, symbolically activating the stations.
E-mail Tracy Correa at Tracy.Correa@pge.com.