Southern California Edison plans to install 250 megawatts of solar-power generating capacity in California’s southern and central valleys over the next four years. Another 250 MW could be secured through contracts with independent providers as part of the utility’s $875-million initiative.
By the end of this year, SCE expects to have the first 50 MW of capacity online or in the final stage of construction. It annually will undertake 50 MW of construction activity until the full 250 MW is online.
Power will come from some 100 new stations; some will be stand-alone solar farms, while others will entail the installation of photovoltaic panels on existing rooftops. SCE’s plan dovetails with a recently enacted rule in California that requires utility companies to get 20% of their power from renewable energy sources by 2012 and 33% by 2020.
SCE’s first round of 36 long-term power purchase contracts was let to independent producers last July. The second round of contracts could hit the streets in the first quarter of 2011, according to SCE spokesman Gil Alexander.
The largest project—an $18 million, 6.7-MW station in Porterville on city-owned industrial property—is being ground-mounted by San Jose-based Cupertino Electric Inc. The 29,000-panel solar farm, which is being built on 35 acres in the San Joaquin Valley, is considered the largest utility-owned photovoltaic solar facility in the state. Its central location allows SCE to patch the supply directly into the nearby distribution system instead of routing it through a substation, said Alexander.
The Porterville project broke ground on Sept. 20 and will be completed in mid-December. Cupertino Electric spokeswoman Autumn Casadonte said the project normally would have taken nine months for a crew of 30 to complete; instead, Cupertino Electric is using a team of 120 to finish the work in three months.
Also under construction are 10 rooftop sites in San Bernardino County on buildings leased from Denver-based ProLogis. Collectively, the sites will cover 5.3 million sq ft of rooftop and generate 25.32 MW of power. Alexander said his company intends to lease rooftop space from warehouse building owners with little power demand and thus little incentive to install rooftop generation.
He added that SCE fast-tracked the first three installations “in order to begin gaining experience with the most efficient and cost-effective ways of developing the project.”
Because of economies of scale, SCE hopes to install the generating capacity at half the prevailing cost of $7 per watt, as estimated by the California Solar Initiative. “We predicted and are on schedule to deliver an installed cost of $3.50 per watt,” Alexander said.