Southern California Edison Completes First of 150 Solar Rooftops

FONTANA, California, December 1, 2008 (ENS) - The roof of a distribution warehouse in Fontana is now covered with 33,700 advanced thin-film solar panels, making it the largest single rooftop solar photovoltaic array in California and the nation's largest solar installation program by a utility.

Southern California Edison unveiled the completed solar roof today as the first of its proposed 150 solar photovoltaic installations on Southern California commercial rooftops.

The $875 million project could eventually cover two square miles of existing commercial roofs with 250 million watts of peak generating capacity - equivalent to building several utility-scale solar power plants, the company said.

Ted Craver, Edison International chairman and CEO, said, "We are driving solar technology forward and identifying creative new ways to integrate solar power into the electricity grid. A program of this scale could transform solar generation, helping bring costs down and providing us with another important way to meet the environmental challenges of the future."

The 600,000 square foot Fontana distribution warehouse roof facility now generates enough power during peak output conditions to power 1,300 Inland Empire homes.

"Here in California, we are taking action to protect the environment by passing laws and setting standards and our companies and entrepreneurs are rising to the challenge," said Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who attended the unveiling of the solar rooftop facility in Fontana. "Projects like this one show the world you can protect the environment and also pump up the economy, and I am proud to say it is happening right here in California."

Southern California Edison officials today announced the location of their next solar installation site. The utility will begin construction soon atop a 458,000 square-foot industrial building in Chino, owned by the Multi-Employer Property Trust.

The solar panel supplier for the Fontana installation, First Solar of Tempe, Arizona, is also the winning bidder for the utility's second installation.

"This pilot program is sited in the high peak load areas and will provide efficiencies to the grid while creating hundreds of jobs in California," said John Carrington, First Solar executive vice president of global marketing and business development.

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers is supporting the project through the expansion of its solar installation apprentice training program.

The program will provide a new generation source to areas where customer demand is rising. The solar modules will feed electricity back into the grid. They can be connected directly and quickly to the nearest neighborhood circuit while major new renewable energy transmission lines are being built.

And the output of solar panels generally matches peak customer demand - lower in the morning and evening, higher in the afternoon.

SCE's commercial rooftop project was prompted by advances in solar technology that reduce the cost of installed photovoltaic generation to half that of current similar installations.

The solar panels are made of materials that convert sunlight directly into electricity through a chemical process.

Thin semiconductor layers form an electric field, positive on one side and negative on the other side. When sunlight strikes the semiconductor, electrons are knocked loose from the atoms of the material, creating the current. Wires are attached to the positive and negative sides to carry the electricity from the solar cell to the device to be powered.

With its solar rooftop program, the utility hopes to fill a gap it has observed in current rooftop solar projects in the state - mid-range installations of one to two megawatts.

SCE's solar project also is designed to supplement the Go Solar California campaign, which provides incentives to encourage Californians to install solar projects by 2017.

The SCE program supports the state's Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, which requires the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, as well as complementing California's renewable portfolio standard, the goal that 20 percent of state's electricity be generated with renewable energy.

Last month Governor Schwarzenegger signed an executive order to streamline California's renewable energy project approval process and announced his plans to propose expansion of the state's renewable portfolio standard to 33 percent renewable power by 2020.

The utility received its first regulatory response to the commercial rooftop solar project on September 18, 2008, when the California Public Utilities Commission authorized the recording of costs for the first three installations while SCE awaits regulatory review and response to the entire project due in March 2009.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2008. All rights reserved.

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