Bringing Sun Power To The Golden State

Solar is coming to California in a big way. Recent weeks brought announcements of a huge solar plant breaking ground in Southern California, another biggie that could get under construction next year on 2,000 acres in San Luis Obispo County, the biggest school solar project in the nation, and more rooftop systems.

None of these are puny. The two utility-scale developments in Southern California and San Luis Obispo County could potentially supply renewable power to a combined 240,000 houses, and the deal with Mount Diablo Unified School District in San Jose covers 51 schools, 11.2 megawatts of solar capacity and is expected to save $192 million in power costs over 30 years.

That comes on the heels of a 9.6 megawatt $52 million solar schools project in Lancaster, which is in the high desert of Southern California. That development is expected to save $40 million in energy costs over 20 years, according to this report.
In the Inland Empire portion of Southern California - where warehouses stretch for miles - solar power is becoming more prevalent on rooftops. Last week, Southern California Edison announced 16,300 solar panels on a 436,000-square-foot warehouse in Rialto are producing power.

Similar installations are in place in Fontana and Chino. Over the next four years, about 100 buildings in the region could become power producers, according to The Solar Home & Business Journal.

The deals are good for the property owner because it gets lease income, and for the utility, which must meet renewable-energy requirements.

A new rooftop system in Fresno isn't as spectacular, but the solar displays at its convention center buildings will cut costs 15%, or $42,600 per year. Last year, the power bill at the center was $942,822. About 1.7 megawatts of added solar-generated power will come from the devices on the roof of Selland Arena, Valdez Hall and carport structures, city officials said in a staff report.

In Fresno, the city does not own or buy the solar systems, but agrees to purchase the power from a private developer over 20 years. The price is less than what the city pays currently to Pacific Gas & Electric.

This is the city's third solar project. The others at Fresno Yosemite International Airport and Municipal Service Center total about 3 megawatts. Both are cash-flow positive.

Solar developers are eyeing other city-owned buildings too, as well as dozens of other areas in Central and Southern California. Gov-elect Jerry Brown has an ambitious solar and green-jobs program, but whether it all comes to pass remains to be seen.

There's a little matter of a $25 billion budget deficit. This Arizona State study suggests California is way down the list as top spots for solar, and the Los Angeles Times reports that Brown's plan might have some costly upsides.

Nonetheless, California, as Hollywood and Silicon Valley prove, has a history of innovation.
(Photo of Rialto warehouse solar project courtesy of