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PG&E develops 500 MW of solar PV

Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) plans a five-year programme to develop up to 500 MW of solar photovoltaic (PV) power in its northern and central California service area.

The proposed programme consists of up to 250 MW of utility-owned PV generation and an additional 250 MW to be built and owned by independent developers under a “streamlined regulatory process.” PG&E hopes for approval from the California Public Utilities Commission later this year.

Expected to be up and running by 2015, the PV solar projects are projected to deliver more than 1,000 GWh of solar power annually. In all, the programme could meet over 1.3% of PG&E’s electricity demand.

PG&E’s solar PV programme targets mid-sized projects, typically 1-20 MW mounted on the ground or rooftops, within its service area. Where feasible, projects developed and owned by PG&E could be built on land already owned by the utility or near its substations to minimise the cost and delays of interconnecting them to the power grid.

Projects developed by independent parties would be offered a standard contract and pricing derived from the utility’s own costs to streamline review of their applications.

Julia Hamm, Executive Director at the Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA), greets the announcement, saying: “According to nationwide data collected by the Solar Electric Power Association, as of the end of 2007 more than 50% of all photovoltaic systems in the country were located in PG&E's service territory.

“PG&E continues to demonstrate its leadership role with the announcement of this new 500 MW programme, as well as last year's announcement of plans to purchase the output of two PV plants totalling 800 MW,” she says.

PG&E was the number one ranked utility in SEPA's 2007 Top Ten Utility Solar Integration Rankings for the most solar electric capacity on the customer side of the meter. In addition, the utility received the SEPA Award for Solar Portfolio Leadership in both 2007 and 2008 for its on-going efforts to diversify its electricity portfolio with a suite of solar programmes.

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Photovoltaics (PV)  •  Solar electricity