Southern California Edison Begins Construction of World’s Largest Solar Panel Installation Project
First Solar selected in competitive bidding process for initial panels
Southern California Edison (SCE) today began installing solar panels at the first of approximately 150 Southern California commercial rooftops that eventually will make up SCE’s two square mile solar generation project — the largest solar panel installation in the world.
During the next 45 days, SCE will attach 33,000 solar panels to a 600,000-square-foot commercial roof in Fontana, Calif., leased from ProLogis. When completed, this first installation will be capable of generating 2 million watts of power, enough electricity to supply approximately 1,300 average Southern California households at a point in time. This new, clean power supply will be fed directly into the nearest neighborhood distribution circuit, strengthening grid reliability in the nation’s fastest growing urban area, the Inland Empire region of Riverside and San Bernardino counties. SCE expects to connect the first panels to its grid in early September, which will help meet peak summer power needs.
First Solar, developer of an advanced thin-film photovoltaic technology, has been selected as the winning bidder in a competitive solicitation to supply the PV system for this first installation.
“First Solar’s successful bid validated our cost forecast to regulators — SCE’s solar energy project will significantly reduce the cost of installed photovoltaic generation in California,” said SCE President John R. Fielder.
“We are pleased to work with Edison on a project we believe will demonstrate the solar PV system business model needed to dramatically reduce distributive solar electricity costs,” said Michael J. Ahearn, CEO of First Solar. “Edison’s project confirms the important role of PV solar power plants in delivering clean, affordable electricity to the nation’s fastest growing urban areas.”
Subject to regulatory approval, during the next five years SCE plans to install 3.5 million of the most advanced photovoltaic panels or 250 megawatts of solar generating capacity— enough capacity to serve approximately 162,000 Southern California homes. Decisions have not yet been made on other building sites or panel suppliers.
SCE asked the California Public Utilities Commission on March 27 for approval to commit a total of $875 million to the utility’s solar project, informing regulators the expected capacity cost per installed watt would be approximately $3.50, half the average current capacity cost of other photovoltaic installations. Subsequently, on May 8, SCE provided additional cost projections to regulators, telling them the utility forecasts an energy cost of approximately 20 cents per kilowatt-hour after adjusting for time of delivery.
Numerous Potential Benefits Seen
SCE sees numerous benefits to customers, the region and the state from its solar project. The program will provide a new generation source to areas where customer demand is rising. The solar modules will be connected directly to the nearest neighborhood circuit, eliminating the costly, time-consuming step of building new transmission lines to bring power to customers. The output of solar panels closely matches peak customer demand — lower in the morning and evening, higher in the afternoon.
SCE anticipates the project will create new jobs in Southern California in the solar industry. The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, one of SCE’s project partners, is supporting the project though the expansion of its solar apprentice training program.
SCE’s massive solar project also is designed to supplement several California environmental programs, especially the Million Solar Roofs program that provides incentives to encourage Californians to install solar projects by 2017. The solar program supports the state’s Global Warming Solutions Act, 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.
How It Works
Solar cells are made of materials that convert sunlight directly into electricity through a chemical process.
* A thin semiconductor wafer is treated to form an electric field — positive on one side and negative on the other side.
* When light strikes the cell, 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 cell to the device to be powered.
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