Buffett to purchase SLO County solar farm

December 7, 2011

Warren Buffett

A company owned by Warren Buffett announced Tuesday it has entered into a definitive agreement with First Solar to buy the Topaz Solar Farm currently under construction in San Luis Obispo County.

The 550-megawatt solar plant is expected to produce enough renewable energy to power approximately 160,000 California homes.

A subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., MidAmerican said in a press release that First Solar will complete construction of the more than $2 billion California Valley solar farm in 2015. Construction began last month.

“As energy needs continue to increase, the Topaz project will allow MidAmerican to produce renewable energy for thousands of Californians,” said Greg Abel, chairman, president and CEO of MidAmerican Energy Holdings Company. “This project also demonstrates that solar energy is a commercially viable technology without the support of governmental loan guarantees and reflects the type of solar and other renewable generation that MidAmerican will continue to seek to add to its unregulated portfolio.”

In October, the Topaz project lost $1.9 billion in federal loan guarantees because it failed to meet a deadline to start construction.

A few days later, First Solar entered into an agreement with a group of litigants battling against the proposed solar plant. Under the agreement, the 550-megawatt solar plant will be decommissioned after 35 years of operation, the area restored to its natural state, and a conservation easement is to be placed on the land as part of the lawsuit settlement.



  1. Paperboys says:

    WOW, $2 billion? The rep from First Solar told the MB Business Forum that it was going to cost $1 billion and that was earlier this year! So missing out on the fed money really cost this project. Where were Lois Capps and McCarthy when all this was going down?
    I recall that NRG Energy said it was going to buy the other solar farm once it’s built too.
    The thing with these plants is that due to the state mandate for renewable energy supplies, these will both likely be designated as “must run” plants, which means their energy will be bought by the utility companies before other sources, no matter the cost. That goes against the whole idea of deregulation of the energy industry doesn’t it? Deregulation was supposed to encourage competition to lower the costs to consumers. Is it time to declare deregulaiton a miserable failure? Or has that time already passed?
    You can be sure if Warren Buffet is buying this plant for $2 billion he expects to make that money back ten fold and guess where that money will come from? You and me, the rate payers, that’s where.
    Oh well, at least the enviroment — air, water and nuke waste — won’t be made worse with these solar farms. I wish them luck.

    (1) 3 Total Votes - 2 up - 1 down
    • Slowerfaster says:

      I disagree with your assessment of Buffett’s motivations. The man is 81 years old. He has been one of the most visionary of investors in history, without scandal or trying to ‘game’ the system. He is one of the world’s most generous philanthropists in the best sense of that word…done without fanfare and largely anonymously.
      He is at the stage in his life where spending fortunes may be more important than continuing to build one.
      It could be that he sees the civilizational need to move from petrochemicals and ICE’s that pollute into a modern age of sustainable resources; but that these will not proceed without substantial capital investment …both from public and private sectors.

      And if he ( or Berkshire Hathaway ) , does make money by doing something good and productive ? I’m OK with that, too.

      (2) 4 Total Votes - 3 up - 1 down
    • Polititian Not says:

      I use to have a high regard for Warren Buffet.Now I can finally see that pretty much ANYTHING he does is to further his GREED. He harps that he doesn’t pay enough in Taxes to the Federal Treasury.No problem Warren.Quit squeezing every minute deduction that you can take and just man up and send them 35 % of youe net income.If you feel so sorry for your employee for paying a higher rate than you then why don’t you just write a check for her to cover her taxes and quit trying to get the rest of us who are struggling to pay more for YOU.
      By the way……..last I knew neither Heaven or Hell requires you to purchase anything so loosen up.Your not too much farther for this World and ya ain’t taking it with you……

      (-1) 1 Total Votes - 0 up - 1 down
  2. Moderator says:

    A few comments deleted, partisan noise .

    (2) 6 Total Votes - 4 up - 2 down
  3. oto says:

    Wow…How does Warren Buffet know about windmills in the Clarrisa Plains? Is that where all the hoopla is taking place? Let’s see….Do I want to develop oil, nuclear waste, or wind energy? Geez….that’s a hard one, but I’ll go with wind power even if it means some squirrels have to relocate to temporary digs.

    (-1) 3 Total Votes - 1 up - 2 down
  4. smartmouth says:

    Santa Claus is coming to town! Saaa-aanta Cla—aaus is coming to-o -tow-owwwn!

    (3) 11 Total Votes - 7 up - 4 down
  5. Typoqueen says:

    Buffett is no dummy, this is a very good sign. Wish I had the money to buy stocks.

    (2) 10 Total Votes - 6 up - 4 down
    • winedude says:

      Anyone can afford to buy stocks. However, Berkshire-Hathaway class A shares are going for $116,262 per share as of noon today, down over a thousand dollars a share. I don’t know anyone that can afford even a single share.

      (4) 6 Total Votes - 5 up - 1 down
      • Typoqueen says:

        LOL, I’ll go buy a few hundred,,,

        My youngest brother started buying stocks when he was a teenager. He is pretty good at it. He started off buying stocks with his birthday money that he saved up. I knew that BH stocks would be pretty crazy but I didn’t know they were that high.

        (-1) 5 Total Votes - 2 up - 3 down
    • Slowerfaster says:

      I think Warren Buffet is smarter than you.

      You might be smarter than a sponge.

      (3) 9 Total Votes - 6 up - 3 down
      • Polititian Not says:

        It’s not that Buffett is so smart.He knows how to play the System and to reap ALL the benefits that you will NEVER get.Now he hob nobs and pimps for the Biggest Shuck and Jive man this Country has ever elected.I’ll bet that even if this Company loses it’s azz that he won’t lose one thin dime.He will have so many guarantees in place to prevent that.YOU the tax payer will just jump in and bail him out.Then he’s off to another “preferred favorite” endeavor.Should make you sick but I doubt it because he’s the Great Buffett. Now line up as dinner is served.

        (0) 0 Total Votes - 0 up - 0 down
  6. Maxfusion says:

    Solar only makes sense at point of use. This nonsense is simply more fundanomics bolstered by tax dollars. Fraud, from start to finish.


    (-5) 19 Total Votes - 7 up - 12 down
    • oto says:

      Jazus, Max! I thought I was a science dinosaur, but you take the cake. I think wind power gets converted to electrical power which is stored, then generated and transported by other equipment. Is there an electrical engineer in the house?! Help me out here…..

      (0) 6 Total Votes - 3 up - 3 down
  7. Slowerfaster says:

    Expensive ? Let’s talk about peak oil. Bet you’ll like $20/gallon then.
    How about one of those previously ‘unknown’ faults cracking the containment reactors or storage containers at DC ? Can you say Fukushima ?

    We need to develop renewable, sustainable, non or low polluting technologies NOW.
    These advanced methods of energy production are also job creators ….decent paying jobs that make more TAXPAYERS. Abandoning obsolete technologies and embracing the smarter ones of the future can be tough for some people. How are those whale oil lamps in your home, TMA ?

    A mind is a terrible thing to be overtaxed.

    (1) 27 Total Votes - 14 up - 13 down
    • The Gimlet Eye says:

      Economic growth comes from more PRODUCTION. Paying more in “taxes” doesn’t do a gd thing for us. The money gets wasted in boondoggles which curtail our freedoms and impoverish us.

      (-3) 7 Total Votes - 2 up - 5 down
      • Slowerfaster says:

        Oh …Boondoggles like commerce improvements like roads, bridges, railroads, airports ?
        Boondoggles like security needs like police, fire, courts, prisons ?
        Boondoggles like social improvements such as schools, universities, hospitals ?

        Got it !

        Paying taxes provides for civilization.

        Not paying taxes gives us the freedoms of poverty and war.

        GOT IT !

        (0) 8 Total Votes - 4 up - 4 down
        • The Gimlet Eye says:

          You got NOTHING!

          Are you aware the Supreme Court has ruled that the government has no authority to impose a direct unapportioned tax on the labor of the American people, and the 16th Amendment does not give the government that power?

          Paying taxes has come to mean robbery, rapine, and poverty for Americans.

          (0) 0 Total Votes - 0 up - 0 down
  8. Myself says:

    The costs associated with this plant are mostly brought on by the enviromental nazis, Ca Highway patrol has to be on state hwy 58 when trucks are hauling products to the plant, paid for by first solar, base material is kept 2 feet lower than the side of the trailers, this adds up to more truck trips therefore more money, ranches bought for mitigation purposes add up to about 15 million dollars,taking the plant down after 35 years I’m sure is factored in also, now thats a crock, when that plant is built the critters move right back in there is very little destruction of habitat except where buildings and roads are put in all the solar panels are being set up in native grass no clearing of the panel site is going on, weed wash racks that all vehicles have to go thru coming and going out of the plant is just plain silly but costs money, I’m sure there are hundreds more regulations that the nazis have imposed all of this adds up to money that WE the rate payer will eventually pay, thank you greenies. Solar would have been the way to go but it will cost us too much.

    (10) 28 Total Votes - 19 up - 9 down
    • Slowerfaster says:

      The ‘environmental nazis’ you so disdain helped to get lead out of gasoline. lowered arsenic and mercury in aquifers and seafood, eliminated DDT from pesticides…

      So many other changes to make air breathable, water drinkable, and an environment less cluttered by junk and waste products that would otherwise have been dumped by profiteers .

      Course, there is an obvious solution to assuage your anger toward a costlier but livable surrounding:
      Stop eating, drinking and breathing.

      Either that, or move to some objectivist paradise like Somalia.

      (-7) 25 Total Votes - 9 up - 16 down
      • Myself says:

        I can see you didn’t read my response very well, I think solar would be good for us if the nazis would have kept their noses out of things, the penduleum has swung so far off course that on one particular job site they don’t want water from a water truck to slosh and get on the road that it travels on, at another site the enviromental fruit cakes are destroying range land for an escape route should a disiaster strike on a former oil site that has no petroleum products left onsite any longer, these people cost us the taxpayer and rate payer way too much money for the little good that is being done today.

        (2) 12 Total Votes - 7 up - 5 down
        • Slowerfaster says:

          Sorry. I don’t do ‘sympathy’ well. It’s between ‘scheiss’ and syphilus in my dictionary.

          You use right-wing framing ala Rush Limbrain…’nazis’.

          Do you even know how offensive your vapid diatribes are to people that actually fought real nazis ? Do you even care ?

          (-1) 7 Total Votes - 3 up - 4 down
          • Myself says:

            Too bad if the word nazis seems to offend you but that isn’t the issue here.
            Just like the ones we’ve fought before we need to keep a diligent eye on the enviros that we have now because they are leading us down a bad path, all they have done is cause havoc and raise the cost of jobs and comodities, again I have nothing against solar or wind or hydro I think those are great but the costs of working with the enviromental nut jobs defeats the purpose of what is trying to be accomplished. Just trying to get across to you people that all is not rosey.

            (1) 7 Total Votes - 4 up - 3 down
    • R.Hodin says:

      Godwin’s Rule: “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one.”

      Thanks for truncating the (potential) discussion. Now I can go do something productive.

      (7) 11 Total Votes - 9 up - 2 down
  9. TaxMeAgain says:

    $2B+? At that cost, Diablo would have been $24B+ (2200MW/550MW*3 since the solar plant will only put out grid energy about 1/3 of the time. PEOPLE! Do you realize how expensive this is???

    Bills will be going up and up again after the very first quake up there levels the plant.

    LOVE solar, but it’s just too expensive.

    (2) 26 Total Votes - 14 up - 12 down
    • sloslo says:

      When Diablo Canyon finally opened in 1985, it’s total costs were around $13 billion. If you were to build Diablo today, it would cost well over $24 billion. Also, don’t forget to factor in the staggering maintenance and security costs of Diablo canyon, which are many times greater than the equivalent solar plant. Other factors like disaster risk, disposal of nuclear waste,etc are all important concerns – you can’t just look at the construction cost alone.

      (10) 20 Total Votes - 15 up - 5 down
      • Typoqueen says:

        Great points!

        (-1) 13 Total Votes - 6 up - 7 down
      • Mr. Holly says:

        I wonder what the “security” costs will be at the solar plant to keep the endangered species either in or out or whatever they are trying to do out there?

        (0) 8 Total Votes - 4 up - 4 down
        • maybe not says:

          Compared to the security costs at Diablo?

          (2) 4 Total Votes - 3 up - 1 down
      • TaxMeAgain says:

        sloslo, no. Diablo Canyon tipped the scales at $5.5B, not $13. Get the math right or all credibility goes out the window. The plant has been a cash cow for years and provides a huge portion of PG&Es earnings…even after all costs.

        (2) 4 Total Votes - 3 up - 1 down
        • sloslo says:

          Naturally you focus on one number and ignore the real substance of what I said: That a nuclear plant would cost far more to construct today, and that the construction costs are only part of the equation for nuclear which also includes maintenance, security, processing new uranium, handling spent waste, etc.

          But fine, let’s talk about the number I quoted. If you read carefully, I said “total costs” were around $13 billion. The construction cost was $5.5 billion and financing costs were an additional $7 billion, which is where the $13 billion came from. But again what is really relevant is how much a nuclear power plant would cost to construct *today*, not 25 years ago.

          “Solar photovoltaic system costs have fallen steadily for decades. They are projected to fall even farther over the next 10 years. Meanwhile, projected costs for construction of new nuclear plants have risen steadily over the last decade, and they continue to rise.”


          (-1) 1 Total Votes - 0 up - 1 down

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