PG&E and BrightSource Sign Contracts for Over 1,300 MW of Solar Thermal  

Posted by Big Gav in , , ,

Renewable Energy World reports that PG&E has increased the size of its contracts for solar thermal power from Brightsource Energy to 1300 MW - PG&E and BrightSource Sign Contracts for Over 1,300 MW of Solar Thermal.

Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) announced yesterday that it has entered into a series of contracts with BrightSource Energy, Inc. for a record total of 1,310 megawatts (MW) of solar thermal power. These power purchase agreements, covering seven projects, supersede the agreements PG&E executed with BrightSource in April 2008 for up to 900 MW of solar thermal power.

The first of these solar power plants, sized at 110 MW and located in Ivanpah, California, is contracted to begin operation in 2012. BrightSource says it will build andl operatate each of its plants as quickly as permitting and infrastructure allow.

More at Next 100 - The Solar Boom in Perspective.
Yesterday's announcement of the record solar deal between PG&E and BrightSource Energy was a major endorsement of the future of clean, renewable solar power in California. But it's important to remember that word "future." Solar is coming on so fast, we sometimes forget how small it still is.

The latest statistics from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) show solar contributing just 0.08 percent of all energy (electric, thermal and other) consumed in the United States in 2007.

For 2008, EIA estimates the total amount of solar electricity generation capacity at 1,200 megawatts (MW), compared to 25,000 MW for wind and just under 1,000,000 MW from all sources. In other words, solar represents just 0.12% of U.S. generation capacity.

Finally, the contribution of solar to actual power output--taking into account that solar facilities don't create power at night--was only 2 billion kilowatt hours (kWh), compared to 53 billion kWh for wind. Total retail electricity sales in the United States were about 3,800 billion kWh. By my calculation, solar represented only 0.05 percent of the total.
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So think of solar as a small acorn that's just sprouted. The Solar Electric Industries Association reports that the United States added 292 MW of solar photovoltaic capacity to the electric grid last year. That represents an 81 percent increase over the capacity added in 2007, an accelerating growth rate relative to previous years.

And there's lots more capacity in the pipeline. PG&E alone has contracts for more than 2,000 MW of solar power, nearly double the entire installed capacity of grid-connected solar in the United States today.

The trade journal PHOTON International reported in March that a staggering total of about 83,000 MW of new solar capacity is in "various stages of product development in North America . . . roughly equal to the current summer peak demand for electricity in California, Arizona and Nevada."

However, one of the unsettling facts the journal also noted was that the land requirements for all that capacity could be "nearly as large as the US state of Rhode Island."

You can bet that the future of the solar power industry will depend as much on its skill and wisdom in negotiating land-use agreements as it will on continuing to improve the price-performance of its technology.

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