Southern California Edison Plans Country's Largest Solar Project

Southern California Edison Plans Country's Largest Solar Project

Southern California Edison is planning an ambitious 250 megawatt solar project that would plant solar panels on 65 million square feet of commercial rooftops.

The utility is seeking approval from the California Public Utilities Commission to install the solar technology over the next five years and hopes to begin putting up solar panels this summer.

Southern California Edison (SCE) plans to initially work with real estate owners who have the largest amounts of roof space, said Dick Rosenblum, SCE's senior vice president for generation. The utility has begun preliminary work negotiating with solar cell manufactures and ProLogis, a distribution facility owner, manager and developer.

A 600,000 square foot facility is the first ProLogis site that would be topped with solar panels, Rosenblum said, and the company has more than 19 facilities in the project's area with more than 1 million square feet of roof space. SCE hopes to start the project off with several other partnerships, Rosenblum said. Working at such a large scale will help drive down the price of the solar panels as well as cover the largest swaths of space available quickly.

The $875 million project will start will rooftops in southern California's Inland Empire, San Bernardino and Riverside counties. The utility expects to begin installing one megawatt a week starting this August.

Power generated from the solar panels will go into local circuits and distribution lines. Customers that receive power through the lines will be getting both the solar power and energy generated by other means. SCE expects the addition input from the solar panels will be most useful during heavy use periods and in areas with growing demand for power.

Buildings that give up their roofs will also benefit from the project. "One benefit of course is they are contributing to the environment," Rosenblum said. "Secondly we believe the installation of the solar panels, which will shade their roofs, is likely to extend the life of the roofs." Buildings owners will also receive a small rental fee that it yet to be determined.

The project will also contribute to the California's Renewable Portfolio Standard program, which calls for 20 percent of the electricity generated in the state to come from renewable sources by 2010.