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Gov. Brown signs pact to streamline energy transmission projects

In a move to create jobs and help preserve California’s leadership in renewable energy, the state and the federal government have expanded a partnership to bring more solar, wind and other clean energy sources on line.

During a news conference at an Elk Grove solar farm Friday, Gov. Jerry Brown and U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar signed a new agreement to streamline the permitting and planning process for hundreds of miles of transmission lines connecting to new energy sources.

The 2-year-old federal-state partnership has helped speed up the approval process for more than a dozen utility-scale solar-power projects in California and more than 130 other green energy projects.

“Putting these construction projects on a fast track will put people back to work and keep California a leader in renewable energy,” Brown said.

Prior to Friday’s news conference, Brown and Salazar toured the Elk Grove solar farm, which is being built and managed by Recurrent Energy of San Francisco.

Google Inc. and Wall Street private equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. recently acquired a majority stake in the project.

Sandwiched between a dairy farm and strawberry patches, the project has created more than 220 construction jobs in a town hard hit by the nation’s foreclosure crisis.

The soon-to-be completed solar project will produce enough electricity to light 12,000 homes and will help the Sacramento Municipal Utility District meet the state-mandated goal that utilities procure 33 percent of the electricity they sell from green sources by the year 2020.

Brown, a solar power advocate since the 1970s, took issue with “naysayers” who don’t believe that California can invest in its energy, water and educational future.

Despite the ongoing shakeout among the nation’s solar manufacturers – including the highly publicized bankruptcy of Solyndra Inc., the Fremont solar panel maker that received $535 million in federal loan guarantees – new projects like Recurrent’s continue to create thousands of construction jobs in California, he said.

“There will be screw-ups, there are going to be bankruptcies, there are going to be indictments,” Brown said. “But we are going to keep going.”