PG&E Chips Away At Solar By Going Smaller

Doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be pursued, but giant solar projects can be a pain in the neck. They tend to be challenging to finance, often run into environmental issues and can take seemingly forever to build.

All of which points to what’s so great about Pacific Gas & Electric’s plan to pick up 500 megawatts of installed capacity with a whole bunch of smaller-sized projects: The plants get built. Fast. One more of them will start pumping out energy this week.

huron solar power, pacific gas & electric, pg&e

image via Cupertino Electric

Cupertino Electric just announced completion of the 20-MW Huron plant in the San Joaquin Valley, a mere eight months after work began.

If you’ve ever done the SF-LA drive on Interstate 5, this plant isn’t far from the giant Harris Ranch feedlots that you get a big whiff of about midway between the Bay Area and SoCal.

The Huron plant joins a trio of San Joaquin Valley plants, totaling 50 MW, that were built under the same program last year for PG&E (two of them by Cupertino Electric).

huron solar power,pacific gas & electric, pg&e

image via Cupertino Electric

That’s the goal for the program: 50 MW a year through 2014, with half of the total new capacity owned by the utility and half coming independently through a streamlined regulatory process.

“This third successful PG&E project leveraged the knowledge Cupertino Electric gained on past utility-scale projects for PG&E and the skills of our outstanding in-house engineering and construction teams,” Paul Aggarwal, vice president of operations for Cupertino Electric’s Energy Alternatives Division, said in a statement. “We are fortunate to work with some of the best people in the industry at PG&E. Through this multi-year experience, we have developed methods that enable us to deliver projects faster, safer and more efficiently each time we step onto a solar jobsite.”

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.