Abandoned Solar Power Plant

The remote Carrizo Plain's status as one of the sunniest places in the state was exploited by the solar power industry from 1983 to 1994. This was by far the largest photovoltaic array in the world, with 100,000 1' x 4' photovoltaic arrays producing 5.2 megawatts at its peak. The plant was originally constructed by the Atlantic Richfield oil company (ARCO) in 1983. During the energy crisis of the late 1970s, ARCO became a solar energy pioneer, manufacturing the photovoltaic arrays themselves. ARCO first built a 1 megawatt pilot operation, the Lugo plant in Hesperia, California, which is also now closed. The Carrizo Solar Corporation, based in Albuquerque, NM, bought the two facilities from ARCO in 1990. But the price of oil failed to rise as  predicted, so the solar plant never became competitive with fossil fuel-based energy production. Carrizo sold its electricity to the local utility for between three and four cents a kilowatt-hour, while a minimum price of eight to ten cents a kilowatt-hour would have been necessary in order for Carrizo to make a profit.  (Another photovoltaic facility was planned for the site by the Chatsworth Utility Power Group, and with an output of 100 megawatts it would have been many times larger than the existing plant, but the facility never got off the drawing board.)  The Carrizo Solar Company dismantled this 177-acre installation in the late 1990s, as the panels were said to be impaired by a design flaw that caused them to lose output. The used panels were resold, and many are still in use in small domestic installations. This site, however, has been stripped clean and re-graded. It was a solar plant before its time.