The large California utility company, Pacific, Gas & Electric (better known as PG&E) added over 220 megawatts (MW) of wind and solar power last year. One of the largest combined natural gas and electricity utilities in the US, PG&E also signed contracts for 463 MW of new renewable energy, including 263 MW of wind. About 19 percent of PG&E’s electricity sales last year came from renewable sources, and PG&E predicts it will reach 20 percent this year. California requires utilities to generate 33 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2020.
Expect PG&E to continue to add much more solar photovoltaic (PV) projects. Seven PV projects, totaling over 1,900 MW, are under construction and expected to come online by 2015, according to PG&E’s blog, PG&E Currents.
“Our long-term commitment to renewable energy continued to pay off last year as more projects came online, providing our customers with some of the cleanest generation found in the United States,” said Fong Wan, senior vice president for energy procurement at PG&E. “We continue to encourage project developers to help us meet California’s aggressive clean-energy goals as cost-effectively as possible for our customers.”
The perfect place to development solar in California
In October, three PV projects in Fresno County came online, with a combined 50 MW output. The three projects built Fresno County’s west side are the 15 MW Westside Solar Station, the 15 MW Five Points Solar Station and the 20 MW Stroud Solar Station. The three projects consist of 200,000 PV panels on 328 acres, enough to meet the power needs of about 15,000 homes. PG&E is building three more PV plants in Fresno County, with a 50 MW output. The plants are expected to come online by October 2012.
All three of the projects in Fresno County’s west side are part of the Westlands Water District, which supplies agricultural water to the west side of Fresno County and Kings County. The area which the District serves has serious water problems. The Bureau of Reclamation reduced the amount of water delivered to the District because of drought conditions and environmental regulations. According to the District’s website, the “District can expect to receive about 50 percent of its contractual water supply in an average water year.”
In addition to reduced water deliveries, about one-third of the district does not drain properly which results in salt accumulated in the soil. As a result, thousands of acres have been retired from agricultural production. Add in the fact that the area has plenty of sunshine, it’s a perfect place to build solar PV plants. As Mike Jones, PG&E’s Power Generation Lead, said last year, “The Central Valley holds tremendous potential as a source of clean energy for California…Our solar projects in the region are a win for the local economy and for the state’s environment.”
Photo credit: Flickr user, pure3d