Posted on February 24, 2011

Fresno: PG&E Launches New Solar PV Projects

Photo Credit: Solon; Artist's rendering of a typical solar PV power plant

Posted by: NEXT100

When it comes to acquiring more renewable energy for PG&E customers, it’s all hands on deck. In addition to soliciting cost-effective projects from green power developers, PG&E has started building its own clean generation facilities in the Central Valley.

The utility has purchased sites and selected developers for three solar photovoltaic (PV) plants near Fresno, totaling 50 megawatts of capacity. Construction should begin this month and be substantially complete in Q3.

The projects represent the first phase of a five-year, 250-MW project aimed at leveraging PG&E’s expertise in power generation development and project finance to grow the state’s clean energy market. In approving PG&E’s proposal to build a series of medium-sized solar plants, the California Public Utilities Commission last year called it “another significant step in advancing the development of renewable generation in California.”

The project also promises to benefit California’s beleaguered labor force. PG&E estimates that the first year alone should create 500,000 hours of paid work.

“The Central Valley holds tremendous potential as a source of clean energy for California,” said Mike Jones, PG&E’s Power Generation Lead. “Our solar projects in the region are a win for the local economy and for the state’s environment.”

When fully implemented over five years, PG&E’s project will supplement another 250 MW of solar photovoltaic power that the utility hopes to purchase through competitive long-term contracts from independent developers. NEXT100 recently announced the start of that program.

Both programs focus on projects of 1-20 MW in size. This intermediate range—larger than rooftop solar, but smaller than the giant installations planned for remote areas of the desert—will help achieve a balance of reasonable cost and quicker time-to-market.

The contractors selected competitively for the three new Central Valley plants are Cupertino Electric, an engineering and construction services provider, and SOLON Corporation, which manufactures solar modules as well as building turnkey solar plants. SOLON built PG&E’s 2 MW pilot Vaca-Dixon Solar Plant near Vacaville, which began operation last year.

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