California Becoming Big Clean Energy Powerhouse

California regulators have approved five power purchase agreements that could boost the state’s renewable energy capacity by 1,088 megawatts (MW) and produce 2,927 gigawatt-hours (GWh) of energy. The projects, two for wind and three for solar, are divided among the state’s biggest utilities – Southern California Edison, Pacific Gas and Electric and San Diego Gas & Electric – all of which are required to source 33 percent of their energy from renewables by 2020. The state recently reported that in 2010 the utilities passed the 16 percent mark.

Southern California Edison led the way in this new round of approvals, getting the state Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to sign off on 20-year power purchase agreements the utility reached last January for power produced at three solar photovoltaics (PV) projects backed by San Jose-based SunPower. Those projects include a 110-MW plant in Las Banos that is scheduled to be in operation by the end of 2014, and dual 325-MW and 276-MW plants set for Rosamond that are expected to be generating power in October 2016.

CPUC renewable power agreements california

image via SunPower

While the commission didn’t release the pricing details, CPUC President Michael R. Peevey said he was “ glad to see that these contracts represent more than 700 megawatts that are below the market price referent.” The market price referent is a tool the state uses to compare the long-term cost of new energy sources to the long-term cost of getting power from a new 500-MW natural gas-fired combined cycle gas turbine (CCGT).

The other solar contract approved was San Diego Gas & Electric’s amended 20-year deal with a Pattern Energy-owned project in Imperial County that is expected to provide 299 MW of capacity. This project is further along, with energy deliveries expected to begin in December.

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.

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