Mendota's solar powered field of dreams

FRESNO, Calif. This particular commodity doesn't rely on water to make it grow or to create a platform for new 'green' jobs. And that is music to Robert Silva, Mendota's mayor, "The field of dreams, it's a reality. It's there."

Mayor Silva his small Westside town worked tirelessly to bring a solar power project to the Valley's Westside. The 50 acre 'field' of more than 50-thousand solar panels brings five 'green' mega watts of power to California's power grid. And it is the first such solar electricity plant to connect directly to that grid.

It was built by the U.S. division of New Zealand's Meridian Energy company. Guy Waipara is its development director, "We're thrilled to be in California and we're actually pleased to be Mendota and the Central Valley."

The company invested 20-thousand dollars locally to train the dozens of Westside workers who built it. Michael Zurita was struggling when he grabbed the opportunity to learn new skills and a new job, "To be honest, no. it would have been hard. This job helped me get through it. As a contractor, it's up and down."

The town of Mendota is an enterprise zone with incentives for companies to invest here. And it lobbied hard says Silva to get this plant. He expects more solar plants and more jobs to locate there, "There's more projects that are coming around in the Central Valley. These folks here are already trained. They're gonna follow these projects."

Meridian Energy USA, Inc. has another solar 'farm' on the drawing board for the Westside and says others in the solar power business do too: "Guy Waipara, if we can use these people it's fantastic but if other people also use them it's great as well. It would be great to be standing up not too far from here in 12 to 18 months time and dedicating our second project."

This field of dreams was dedicated, growing a viable crop that energy hungry Californians want and need.

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