California Renewable Energy Off to a Good Start in 2012 with Five Big Projects

Renewable energy is getting off to a good start in California this new year despite being buffeted by supply-demand imbalances, rising trade friction and uncertainty over federal support for clean energy and technology. As NPD-Solarbuzz reports, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has approved five renewable energy contracts so far this month, which will result in the production of some 1,088-megawatts (MW) of clean, renewable power and forecasts 2,927 gigawatt-hours (GWh) of electrical energy.

The contracts move California’s utilities that much closer to meeting the state’s Renewable Power Standard (RPS) – to rely on renewable resources to provide 33 percent of the Golden State’s electricity by 2020. Investor Owned Utilities (IOUs) Pacific Gas & Electric, San Diego Gas & Electric and Southern California Edison provide some 68 percent of the state’s retail electricity sales. RPS-approved renewable energy sources met 17 percent of their electricity demand as of year-end 2010, according to their August 2011 RPS Compliance Filings.

State RPS Key to Sustaining Renewable Energy Growth

SunPower is one big beneficiary of CPUC’s most recently approved PPAs. The CPUC approved three, 20-year power purchase agreements (PPAs) for Southern California Edison (SCE) projects with SunPower’s Solar Star California. The Quinto, AVSP I and AVSP II projects will bring 711-MW of new solar power and an estimated 1,835-GWh annually of new solar energy capacity online when completed. RPS resources met 19.3 percent of SCE’s electricity demand as of Q2 2011.

The CPUC has also approved a 25-year Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) PPA for NextEra Energy’s 78.2-MW/annual 201-GWh Montezuma Winds II project. Nearly 16 percent of PG&E’s electricity demand were met by RPS resources, according to its August 2011 RPS compliance report.

San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) received approval of a 20-year PPA with Pattern Energy’s Ocotillo Express LLC project, a wind energy farm that is expected to produce 299-MW of electrical power and 891-GWh of electrical energy per year. RPS resources met 11.9 percent of SDG&E’s electrical load in 2010.

SunPower/Solar Star California’s three utility-scale solar energy projects – Quinto, AVSP I and AVSP II – will be located near Los Banos and Rosamond, California, respectively. Quinto is expected to come online in December 2014, with electricity to start flowing from the AVSP I and AVSP II projects in October 2016.

NextEra’s 78.2-MW Montezuma Winds II project will be located in Solano County’s Montezuma Hills, an area well-known as a wind energy resource. Electricity generation is anticipated to begin in November 2012.

Pattern’s 299-MW Ocotillo Express wind energy project is located 25 miles west of Imperial County’s El Centro. Electricity is expected to begin flowing from the wind farm in December.

*Photo courtesy SunPower

An independent journalist, researcher and writer, my work roams across the nexus where ecology, technology, political economy and sociology intersect and overlap. The lifelong quest for knowledge of the world and self -- not to mention gainful employment -- has led me near and far afield, from Europe, across the Asia-Pacific, Middle East and Africa and back home to the Americas. LinkedIn: andrew burger Google+: Andrew B Email:

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