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Buffet company takes over Topaz

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A Des Moines-based energy production and distribution company owned by billionaire investor Warren Buffet has acquired the Topaz Solar farm project from First Solar.

MidAmerican Energy Holdings Co.—part of Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway—announced Dec. 7 that it had entered into “definitive agreements” with First Solar to take over the $2 billion, 550-megawatt photovoltaic power plant currently being constructed on the Carrizo Plain on the eastern edge of San Luis Obispo County.

The solar farm, covering roughly six square miles, will be the world’s second-largest solar project, and will be capable of powering roughly 160,000 California homes, according to the company. First Solar began construction in November; the project is slated for completion in 2015.

MidAmerican finalized the deal after First Solar failed to secure a federal loan guarantee that would have provided low-interest capital for construction of the Topaz site.

Under the deal, the specific terms of which weren’t disclosed, First Solar will continue to construct the plant for Berkshire. According to a release by MidAmerican, the project will create about 400 construction jobs and maintain 15 current operation and maintenance positions.

The company touted an economic study performed by Cal Poly, which found the project will infuse $417 million into the local economy; the majority of those dollars are in construction jobs, with the remaining effects spread out over the project’s minimum 25-year operating period. In September, First Solar reached an agreement with local activist groups North County Watch and Carrizo Commons: The project will be decommissioned and restored to habitat after 35 years of operation.

“First Solar is very pleased to bring together one of the world’s most significant solar projects with MidAmerican, one of the leading investors in renewable energy,” Frank De Rosa, First Solar senior vice president of project and business development for North America, said in a news release. “This demonstrates solar is an important part of a renewable generation portfolio.”

MidAmerican, an international energy services provider, serves approximately 6.9 million customers worldwide though its subsidiaries, according to its website.

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