Pacific Swell | Southern California environment news and trends

San Jose company set to build solar plant in Baja California

A field of solar panels.
A field of solar panels.
Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images

Solar energy systems supplier Solfocus has committed to building a 450-megawatt power plant near the border of Mexico and California. A joint operation between San Jose-based Solfocus, Mexican real estate developer Grupo Musa and Synergy Technologies in America, the plant will be built in 50-megawatt tranches. As announced in a press release, construction will begin on the first tranche later this year, with operations scheduled to begin sometime in 2013.

“The project is in direct alignment with the Mexico and U.S. bilateral clean energy agenda. The countries share a common goal of achieving strong economic growth and energy security while addressing climate change and increasing the reliability of energy infrastructure,” said Lic. David Munoz, Director General of the Baja California State Commission of Energy in the release. “Mexico has been successful with wind energy, and now this large solar project will support our energy infrastructure and economic development efforts in the very near future.”

Mexico has historically lagged behind America in terms of solar energy. As reported in the San Francisco Chronicle, there is currently more solar electricity generated in the city of San Diego than all of Mexico combined.

"The country wants to be sustainable," said Nancy Hartsoch, vice president of marketing and business development for SolFocus. "They currently don't have the best environmental footprint with their energy…But certainly, I think the desire is there.”

Given the extreme sunlight that falls in Northern Mexico, experts see this new plant as a step in the right direction.

"It's ideal," said Daniel Kammen, a UC Berkeley professor working on renewable energy projects and policy at the World Bank for the past year. "And there's a lot of open land. So you would think there would be more solar."

With the ultimate goal of being able to see solar energy back to California utilities, Solfocus also has designs on building a nearby factory to supply a bulk of the equipment for the project.