Southern California Edison has signed contracts with two companies 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, when completed by 2016, would add a total of 831 megawatts of electricity-generating capacity, enough to power 540,000 homes, the Rosemead utility said Monday. 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 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."
In 2009, Edison obtained 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 she was unable to be more specific.
The bigger of the two deals involves SunPower Corp., a San Jose company that will build and operate three installations totaling about 711 megawatts, including a 325-megawatt facility in Rosamond, Calif. 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, Calif., 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."
Edison's second deal is with Fotowatio Renewable Ventures Inc., which is headquartered in Madrid but has an office in San Francisco.
The utility's contract with Fotowatio Renewable calls for four smaller installations in Lancaster and the Kern County towns of Lamont, Arvin and Mojave. They will range from 20 megawatts to 60 megawatts in capacity and are supposed to be operational by the end of 2013.