Utility Companies Go for Solar Power

Utilities in several states have announced plans for solar power projects, with the world’s largest solar power deal to date recently taking place in California.

| March 9, 2009

Utilities in or near the southwestern United States are planning to build or buy power from massive concentrating solar power (CSP) plants, while utilities throughout the nation are investing in solar photovoltaic (PV) power plants. Both initiatives are creating growing momentum for the utility deployment of solar power throughout the country.

In terms of CSP plants, Southern California Edison recently reached an agreement with BrightSource Energy for 1,300 megawatts (MW) of solar power, which qualifies as the world's largest solar power deal to date. The agreement calls for a series of seven projects, starting with a 100-MW CSP plant that could start operating near Ivanpah, Calif., in early 2013.

BrightSource Energy employs “power tower” technology, in which a field of thousands of flat mirrors, called heliostats, focuses sunlight onto a boiler mounted at the top of a tower. Steam produced in the boiler is piped to a turbine, which drives a generator to produce electricity. A commercial power tower was recently built in Spain, but only demonstration plants have been built in the United States. In addition, NRG Energy Inc. signed an agreement with eSolar last week to develop three solar projects totaling as much as 500 MW, also using solar power towers.

For PV power plants, California's Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) appears to be taking a leadership position, as the utility announced in late February that it plans to develop and own up to 250 MW of solar power facilities, while buying power from another 250 MW of solar power owned by independent developers. The California Public Utilities Commission has also approved two previous large contracts PG&E has signed with solar power developers, including a contract for 550 MW of thin-film solar PV from Topaz Solar Farms on the Carrizo Plain in San Luis Obispo County, as well as another contract with High Plains Solar Farms for 210 MW of silicon solar panels.

SunPower Inc. owns the latter project, and the former project was owned by OptiSolar Inc., but First Solar Inc. just bought out all of OptiSolar's projects, including the PG&E project. In the fourth quarter of 2008, First Solar managed to cut the manufacturing cost for its thin-film solar modules to 98 cents per watt, breaking the $1-per-watt cost barrier. The company's annual production capacity is expected to exceed 1,000 megawatts per year by the end of this year.

While California has a definite lead in solar power development, utilities in other states are now pursuing megawatt-scale solar PV projects. In New Jersey, the Public Service Electric and Gas Company has proposed to spend $773 million to support the development of 120 MW of solar PV power through many projects located throughout its service territory.

Mark James_2
4/12/2009 11:21:05 AM

I think solar power by electric companies is a good idea but, what I object to the example our provider is trying to do here in Florida. Florida Power and Light (FPL) wants the State government to give them around $9 Billion dollars from taxes to develope their system. The rub with this for me comes from believing that a company should use their capital to build their business and make their profits from selling their products. Why should the people be expected to build the business for them and then not share in the profits? Somewhere along the way big business found a way to get a free ride on the taxpayers dime and then charge them a fortune for the opportunity.


Fermentation Frenzy!

September 12-13, 2019
Seven Springs, Pa

Fermentation Frenzy! is produced by Fermentation magazine in conjunction with the MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR. This one-and-a-half day event is jam-packed with fun and informative hands-on sessions.


Subscribe Today - Pay Now & Save 64% Off the Cover Price

Money-Saving Tips in Every Issue!

Mother Earth NewsAt MOTHER EARTH NEWS, we are dedicated to conserving our planet's natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. You'll find tips for slashing heating bills, growing fresh, natural produce at home, and more. That's why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.95 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.95 for 6 issues.

Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
International Subscribers - Click Here
Canadian subscriptions: 1 year (includes postage & GST).

Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube Twitter flipboard

Free Product Information Classifieds Newsletters

click me