Stanislaus Solar Tour: A Shining Success

MODESTO, CA – Over one hundred people turned out today for the first ever ‘Stanislaus Solar Tour’ and crowded onto and around a cement viewing platform at the McHenry Solar Plant. Paul McMillan of SunPower Corporation gave a brief presentation about the 25-megawatt AC power plant and then answered many of the attendees questions.

Sunpower Corporation designed and manufactured the solar panels and tracking system of the panels installed at the McHenry Solar Plant located at 6700 McHenry Avenue. Sunpower also develops projects such as the one at the McHenry location which is under contract with the Modesto Irrigation District for twenty-five years.

Sunpower won the contract for the plant through a competitive bid process in 2008. MID had been looking to expand their renewable energy portion of their overall electricity generation. MID additionally looked into wind and bio-gas projects as well.

The solar panels at the McHenry plant produces enough energy for 6,000 average ratepayer residences. The energy from the plant goes into the grid, but is mostly consumed by the residences in the immediate neighborhood.

“SunPower’s claim to fame is that they have the highest conversion efficiency of any solar manufacturer out there” McMillan said. He explained the tracking system and how the panels are aligned to prevent shadows and follow the sun. He then introduced Sean Gallagher of K Road Power which purchased the McHenry plant project from SunPower several months ago. SunPower will still be involved with the plant’s operations for several years.

The question and answer period lasted approximately thirty minutes followed by a viewing of the panels and tracking units. The panels were dust-laden as a result of nearby agricultural harvest and weed removal around the panels themselves but McMillan maintained that the panels were still efficient at that level and only washed a couple of times per year. Hydro-seed will be planted under the panels for ground cover.

Maps were distributed for other sites on the solar tour including five residences, a church and a lecture at Modesto Junior College’s West Campus by Adrian De Angelis on his solar installation class.

On Wednesday, October 10 from 4-5 pm, Randy Schack from will present a free lecture, “Science and economics of Rooftop Solar Electricity Systems of Modesto” in Science 208 at Modesto Junior College East Campus. The Stanislaus Solar Tour is co-sponsored by The Modesto Junior College Civic Engagement Project and