SDG&E to build, buy 100 megawatts of solar powerUnited States
San Diego Union Tribune
Onell R. Soto, Union-Tribune
Local generation would greatly increase San Diego's current output
In a move that could dramatically increase the amount of green power generated locally, state regulators have approved a proposal allowing San Diego Gas & Electric to build its own solar farms here and buy power from others who build them.
This has the potential to change the landscape around San Diego as big rooftops, parking lots and large fields sprout solar panels to feed the grid.
SDG&E would spend up to $100 million putting 26 megawatts photovoltaic cells on land and buildings it owns in San Diego and purchase three times as much power from local solar farms under a proposal approved by state regulators Thursday.
"This will help get more solar built and directly connected to the grid and will help SDG&E achieve its goal to obtain 33 percent of its electricity from renewable sources in 2020," spokesman Art Larson said.
The total of 100 megawatts approved by the California Public Utilities Commission is significantly more power at much lower cost than SDG&E originally proposed two years ago. It's also different from a compromise the company reached with consumer groups.
"The good thing about this program is it is heavily biased toward locating commercial scale solar project within the utility grid," said Mike Hall, chief executive of Borrego Solar, a local solar installer. "These types of solar projects have a number of advantages over utility scale solar farms."
For one thing, he said, they won't displace nature or agricultural land.
"Mining the resources we have in our own backyard to meet our energy needs is exactly the direction we need to go," said Nicole Capretz, who follows energy issues for the Environmental Health Coalition in Chula Vista. "It offers great opportunities for the local economy, local business, local jobs and our environment."
To control costs to customers, the PUC is capping how much SDG&E can spend on the projects it builds, and it's requiring the company request bids for the power it buys and choose the cheapest ones.
Even so, the power will be more expensive than what the company can buy from fossil-fueled plants.
"This project will not be truly successful unless it leads to appreciably lower cost PV installations over the next four years," said Michael Shames, head of UCAN, the Utility Consumers' Action Network. "We'll be monitoring the outcomes of the competitive bids that will be spawned by this project."
The 100 megawatts would be on top of 79 megawatts of solar currently installed in SDG&E's territory, the PUC said.
The focus on this program is not on solar panels, which homeowners and businesses have been busy putting on roofs over the past few years. Nor is it on immense desert solar farms covering several square miles.
Rather, it's on facilities of 1 to 5 megawatts to be done in the county, and which won't require new power lines like the controversial Sunrise Powerlink.
Generally, it takes 5 or 6 acres to produce a megawatt of solar power, which is enough for about 650 homes.
The SDG&E proposal is similar to plans already approved for Southern California Edison and Pacific Gas & Electric, said PUC spokeswoman Terrie Prosper.
"There is already information on these programs that indicate they will achieve their goals," she said.
Edison's proposal, for instance, calls for installing solar panels on two square miles of warehouse roofs to produce 250 megawatts that will go straight onto the grid.
The difference between that and typical rooftop solar development is that the power doesn't have to be used where it's made, and that opens up more places to solar. For instance, warehouses don't typically use much power.
PUC President Michael Peevey noted that with programs like these, the state will add hundreds of megawatts in coming years.
"These are big, big numbers," he said.
Even with this proposal, the vast majority of power in the county will continue to come from traditional power plants.
On the hottest summer day, SDG&E distributes nearly 4,500 megawatts at its peak. However, the use of solar generated locally will decrease the need to import power or use power plants, Larson said.
The SDG&E application was a hotly contested issue stretching back two years.
In its order, the PUC rejected SDG&E's proposal as too expensive. A compromise SDG&E reached with UCAN and other groups was rejected after the an independent watchdog group within the PUC and a group of power plant owners opposed it, saying it, too, was too expensive and so ill-defined that costs could spiral out of control.
The impact of Thursday's decision could well go beyond the projects that actually get built, said Adam Browning, who heads The Vote Solar Initiative.
"There’s been a revolution in solar pricing over the past 18 months, and these types of PV projects are now coming in at lower cost than new natural gas generation," he said. "This program will give the utility — and utility regulators — the experience, confidence, and market templates that can lead to even larger scale in the future."
Reaching the state's targets for increasing the amount of power made without burning fossil fuels will not be easy, said Sam Kang, a lawyer for the Greenlining Institute, which supported the proposal.
"It will take time and a committed, long-term effort," he said. "This project is a substantive step towards achieving that."
This story was corrected to reflect that there are 79 megawatts of solar generation in SDG&E's territory, a different number than previously stated.
El contenido de las noticias que se presentan en esta sección es responsabilidad directa de las agencias emisoras de noticias y no necesariamente reflejan la posición del Gobierno de México en este u otros temas relacionados.
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