Southern California Edison (SCE), one of the country’s largest electric utilities headquartered in Rosemead, Calif., is on a mission to help drive down installation costs of photovoltaic (PV) generation for consumers and create jobs in the process. Taking a step toward achieving that goal, SCE recently awarded 36 contracts to independent power producers for a total of nearly 60MW from PV solar panels that will produce emission-free energy for SCE customers. An Edison International company, SCE serves a population of nearly 14 million via 4.9 million customer accounts in a 50,000-sq-mi service area within central, coastal, and Southern California.

The solar rooftop project, approved by the California Public Utilities Commission in June 2009, calls for a total of 500MW of solar generating capacity, most of which will be generated on unused large warehouse rooftops. The panels will be installed on 31 unused rooftops and five ground-mount sites in SCE’s service territory. According to SCE, this project will create approximately 1,200 jobs for Southern Californians. Half of the 500MW will be from independent power producers who respond to SCE’s request for offers under competitive solicitations; the remaining 250MW will be owned and operated by SCE.

“These contracts make significant strides toward distributed renewable generation for one of the most innovative solar programs in the country,” says Marc Ulrich, SCE vice president, Renewable and Alternative Power. “We’re working to help California meet its ‘Million Solar Roofs’ goal and supply even more renewable energy to our customers where and when it’s most needed, without the added time and expense to construct major new transmission facilities.”

The contracts awarded are the first executed under the competitive solicitations for independent power producers. SCE believes that its solar rooftop project will be a boon for the solar industry and consumers alike, with the resulting cost per unit significantly more cost effective than more common residential PV installations in California. When complete, the solar panels will cover an area totaling 4 sq mi on unused warehouse roofs with total power production rivaling a utility-scale power plant — enough electricity to serve 325,000 average homes at a point in time. SCE has already installed panels on three rooftop warehouses in California’s Inland Empire that are delivering — or are in line to deliver — electricity to the grid.

SCE continues to pursue renewable energy growth opportunities. For example, in 2009, the utility delivered 13.6 billion kWh hours of renewable power to its customers, making up about 17% of its total power portfolio.

Shocking Stat of the Month

700MW

Number of megawatts of wind power added in the second quarter. Wind installation projects have dropped by 57% and 71% from 2008 and 2009 levels, respectively. Manufacturing investment also continues to lag below 2008 and 2009 levels.

Source: American Wind Energy Association