First Solar, SoCal Sign 550MW Deals
SouthernCalifornia Edison said Tuesday it has signed deals to buy power fromFirst Solar, which plans to build two solar power farms totaling 550megawatts under the proposed contracts.
Tempe, Ariz.-based First Solar would erect a 250-megawatt powerplant called Desert Sunlight in Riverside County, near the city ofDesert Center. The second, 300-megawatt power plant called Statelinewould rise out of northeastern San Bernardino County.
Edison plans to buy power provided by the two solar farms ratherthan owning and operating them on its own, said Vanessa McGrady, aspokeswoman for Edison. The power purchase agreements will need theapproval of the California Public Utilities Commission.
The projects are the latest in a series of deals signed by Edisonthis year alone to buy solar electricity from large, centralized powerplants.
Edison has to follow a state mandate that requires allinvestor-owned utilities to get 20 percent of their electricity fromrenewable sources by 2010. The utility said 16 percent of the power itdelivered in 2008 came from renewable sources, and most of that came from geothermal and wind.
The state Legislature is considering expanding that requirement to 33 percent by 2020.
In June, the utility said it would buy power from two projects totaling 484 megawatts from Solar Millennium. Edison has the option to buy power from a third, 242-megawatt project to be built by Solar Millennium.
Both Oakland, Calif.-based BrightSource and Germany-based SolarMillennium use solar thermal technologies, which make use of mirrors toconcentrate sunlight for generating heat and producing steam. The steamthen drives generators for electricity production.
First Solar’s projects will use the company’s own cadmium-telluridepanels. The company began to pursue project development activities inearnest earlier this year when it purchased the unfinished projects from OptiSolar.
OptiSolar, based in Hayward, Calif., had trouble raising enoughmoney to continue developing the projects while also manufacturing itsown solar panels.
First Solar, whose largest market is Germany, is using theseprojects to drive demand for its solar panels in North America. It hasbuilt a 10-megawatt project in Nevada for Sempra Generation, which isselling the electricity from that project to the Pacific Electric andGas in Northern California.
Sempra also has hired First Solar to build another, 48-megawatt power plant next to the 10-megawatt project.
For its deals with Edison, First Solar would build the solar powerplants and then sell most or all of its equity stakes in them toinvestors or power producers by the time it completes the projects,said Alan Bernheimer, a spokesman for First Solar.
Edison and First Solar declined to disclose the costs of construction or values of the power purchase agreements.
Construction for the Desert Light project is scheduled o begin in2012 while the Stateline project would start in 2013. First Solarexpects to complete both in 2015. The two solar farms would produce atotal of 1.2 billion kilowatt hour of electricity per year.
Image courtesy First Solar.
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