PG&E Launches 500MW Solar Power Initiative

February 26, 2009 by Jeff Shepard

Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E) announced plans for a five-year program to develop up to 500MW of clean solar photovoltaic (PV) power in its northern and central California service area, said to bee one of the largest undertakings of its kind in the country.

The proposed program consists of up to 250MW of utility-owned PV generation – PG&E’s first direct investment in renewable generation in over a decade – and an additional 250MW to be built and owned by independent developers under a streamlined regulatory process. PG&E is submitting its plan to the California Public Utilities Commission for approval, which could come later this year.

If all projects are up and running by 2015, they are expected to deliver more than 1,000 gigawatt hours of power each year, equal to the annual consumption of about 150,000 average homes. In all, this program would meet over 1.3% of PG&E’s electric demand.

"This program represents an unprecedented commitment of our capital and expertise to speed the delivery of clean, renewable energy to our customers," said PG&E CEO and President Peter Darbee. "With many renewable-energy projects delayed, we can’t afford business as usual when it comes to protecting the environment and meeting our customers’ expectations."

PG&E’s solar program targets mid-sized projects, typically 1 to 20MW, mounted on the ground or rooftops, within its service area. Where feasible, projects developed and owned by PG&E would be built on land already owned by the utility or near its substations to minimize 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.