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More sun power for Southern California Edison

January 10, 2011 |  3:40 pm

Southern California Edison has signed contracts with two firms for the construction and operation of seven solar power plants in the state, including one that the utility said would be among the largest single solar photovoltaic installations in the U.S.

The facilities, scheduled to be completed by 2016, would add a total of 831 megawatts of capacity, enough to power 540,000 homes, the Rosemead-based utility. That represents a significant increase in Edison’s ability to deliver power from the sun and other renewable sources.

“This is an unprecedented time for solar photovoltaic,” said Marc Ulrich, vice president for renewable and alternative power for Southern California Edison, a unit of Rosemead-based Edison International. “We’re seeing growth in technological advances and manufacturing efficiencies that result in competitive prices for green, emission-free energy for our customers.”

Sun In 2009, Edison sent its customers 13.6 billion kilowatt-hours of power from renewable sources, about 17% of its overall power generation. That renewable electricity was generated by 3,296 megawatts of wind, geothermal, solar, biomass and small hydropower facilities, with solar representing only 382 megawatts of capacity, according to the utility’s website. Edison spokeswoman Vanessa McGrady said the megawatt total for solar and overall renewable power had increased since then, but was unable to be more specific.

The bigger of the two deals involves San Jose-based SunPower Corp., which will build and operate three
installations totaling about 711 megawatts, including a 325-megawatt facility in Rosamond, Calif., north of Lancaster. That installation, to be completed in 2016, will be one of the nation’s largest.

SunPower also will build a 276-megawatt photovoltaic operation in Rosamond, scheduled to open in 2016, and a 110-megawatt facility in Los Banos, south of Modesto, which is set to open in 2014.

Howard Wenger, president of SunPower's utility and power plants business group, said the contracts reflect “the growing value of solar photovoltaic technology as a reliable, cost-effective energy resource delivered across rooftops or as a central-station power plant.”

The second Edison deal involves Fotowatio Renewable Ventures Inc., which has headquarters in Madrid, but also has an office in San Francisco.

The utility’s contract with Fotowatio Renewable calls for four smaller installations in Lamont, Arvin, Mojave and Lancaster, that will range from 20 megawatts to 60 megawatts in capacity and are supposed to be operational by the end of 2013.

Find out more about SunPower here, and Fotowatio Renewable here.

--Ronald D. White

Photo: Solar image from the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory. Credit: HO/AFP/Getty Images