A study by Cal Poly’s Economics Department shows that the 550-megawatt Topaz Solar Farm proposed for the Carrizo Plain would inject $417 million into the county’s economy.
Three-quarters of that impact will come during the three-year construction phase planned to begin in September — when an estimated 400 jobs will be created.
Stephen Hamilton, chairman of the department, said that between 60 percent and 100 percent of those jobs would be filled by workers from San Luis Obispo County. The rest would be filled by Kern County workers.
The percentage of local employment is that high because many in the construction trades are unemployed or underemployed as a result of the downturn in the economy that has hit the housing industry particularly hard, Hamilton said.
A similar study by Hamilton released in January showed that the economic impact of the other solar plant proposed for the Carrizo Plain, the 250-megawatt California Valley Solar Ranch, will be $315 million. An estimated 250 workers would be employed during construction, which would begin this summer.
The Topaz study estimates that $190 million will be direct impacts to the economy in the form of worker wages. The remainder will be indirect impacts in the form of material purchases and workers spending their wages on food, entertainment and other services.
“These types of projects provide great potential for creating more head-of-household jobs throughout the county through supportive businesses,” said Michael Manchak, president of the county’s Economic Vitality Commission.
Once built, the project, proposed by the company First Solar, is expected to employ a staff of 15 and will operate over a lifespan of 25 years. It will generate enough electricity to power about 160,000 homes.
The county Planning Commission is scheduled to have its first hearing on the Topaz project March 31. The commission has already approved the other solar project, which faces an appeal to the Board of Supervisors in April.