SCE and First Solar Team Up for Sunny Partnership

SCE and First Solar Team Up for Sunny Partnership

Southern California Edison (SCE) will partner with First Solar to build two thin-film solar photovoltaic arrays in the Mojave Desert capable of generating 550 megawatts (MW) of electricity, or enough to power 170,000 homes.

One of the installations, dubbed the Desert Sunlight project, will be built near Desert Center, Calif. on 1,800 acres and will have the capacity to generate 250 MW of electricity. The other installation, the Stateline project, will be located in northeastern San Bernardino County, with the capacity to supply 300 MW to the grid. Both of the large-scale thin film solar projects will be built on land managed by the federal government.

While the Desert Sunlight project can begin supplying power to the grid about 10 megawatts at a time without waiting for the project to be completed, more transmission infrastructure is needed to sell power to the utility from the Stateline project, according to First Solar spokesman Alan Bernheimer. Both projects are scheduled to be completed by 2015, Bernheimer said.

The Golden State’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) requires electric utilities to increase renewable power generation by 1 percent each year until each has reached 20 percent by 2010. Executive order S-14-08, signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in November 2008, increases the RPS requirement to 33 percent of electricity to be generated by renewable sources.

"Southern California Edison is always looking for innovative ways to deliver clean power from renewable sources," Stuart Hemphill, the utility company's senior vice president of power procurement, said in a prepared statement. "First Solar is an excellent partner in helping us achieve our goals." Nearly 16 percent of its electricity is generated from renewable sources, SCE said.

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First Solar's Bernheimer said the company is able to deliver solar panels at a lower cost than others because of their efficient manufacturing process -- the panels cost about 83 cents per watt of power to produce. This includes the cost to recycle the panels after they have reached the end of their lifespan, approximately 25 years.

Compared to other existing projects nationwide, these two projects are an order of magnitude larger, said Bernheimer. "Thanks to California’s renewable portfolio standard, generating solar power affordably is becoming a reality in the U.S." The largest operational solar PV array so far has the capacity to generate 14 MW, located on the Nellis Air Force Base in Clark County, Nevada, reports the Solar Energy Industries Association.

On the other side of the country, there is also a ray of hope for future renewable energy projects in an otherwise economically depressed Detroit. Local utility Detroit Edison announced two requests for proposals to add more than 180 MW of renewable energy generation in Michigan. One proposal calls for adding 75 MW of wind power, while the other is seeking to purchase "capacity, energy and renewable energy credits from approximately 106 MW" of electricity generated by renewable sources, the company said in a statement.

The Automobile State's Clean, Renewable and Efficient Energy Act passed last year requires that 10 percent of retail electricity sold must come from renewable sources. Detroit Edison currently generates about 1 percent of its electricity through renewables, such as solid waste incineration, biomass and wood, according to the company’s website.

Image provided courtesy First Solar