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AV Solar Ranch

California utility PG&E on Friday announced a contract to buy 230 megawatts of electricity from a photovoltaic solar farm to be built by San Francisco-based NextLight Renewable Power.

NextLight — backed by private equity firm Energy Capital Partners — will build the AV Solar Ranch on agricultural land in Los Angeles County’s Antelope Valley.  PG&E (PCG) says the solar power plant will begin producing electricity in 2011. When fully built out by 2013, it will generate enough power for 90,000 homes, according to the utility.

Since the project will deploy solar panels rather than solar thermal technology that uses mirrors to heat liquids to drive a turbine, it does not need to go through the laborious California Energy Commission permitting process.

NextLight apparently also plans to build solar thermal farms — the company has filed lease claims on some 20,000 acres of Mojave Desert land owned by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management for two 500-megawatt solar trough power plants.

Friday’s agreement follows PG&E’s deal in May with BrightSource Energy to buy 1,300 megawatts of solar electricity to be produced by seven solar power plants.

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