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California utility adds to its renewable portfolio

January 10, 2011 |  2:57 pm



Southern California Edison continues to add to its renewable-energy portfolio, announcing Monday that it signed contracts for more than 800 megawatts of electricity generated from solar photovoltaic plants being built in three California counties.

The utility is now the nation’s largest provider of renewable power, deriving about 19% of its  supply from renewable sources, according to Mike Marelli, the company's director of renewable energy contracts.

Marelli said the utility secured contracts for 711 megawatts from SunPower and 120 megawatts from Fotowatio Renewable Ventures, from generating projects in Los Angeles, Kern and Merced counties.  Generally, a megawatt of electricity is enough to power 650 homes.

Late last year, Edison dropped its contract with the 850-megawatt Calico Solar project, then owned by Tessera Solar. That company then sold the project. An Edison spokeswoman said she was bound by a confidentiality agreement not to discuss the matter.

Despite the loss of that potential solar power, Marelli said Edison is moving toward its mandated goal of  obtaining 33% of its power from renewable sources. With different technologies for utility-scale solar generation still fighting it out in the marketplace, Marelli said the company isn’t choosing sides.

“We like to say that we are technology-agnostic,” he said. “We have renewable goals. We cast a wide net to the industry. We’ve executed contracts around all the technologies. We have seen over the years that some technologies tend to be more competitive than others.”

Edison has contracted to receive power from a variety of technologies, including solar thermal and photovoltaic. The latest contracts must be approved by the California Public Utilities Commission.

-- Julie Cart

 Photo: A solar project near Barstow. Credit: U.S. Department of Energy