Two California Energy Providers Adding Solar Power

By Loren Faulkner | September 28, 2010

PG&E ( announced this week that it will construct five solar-thermal plants in Southern California’s Mojave Desert, eventually producing enough electricity – 900 megawatts – to power some 540,000 homes each year. The first plant is expected to be up and running by 2011. Total cost for the system is estimated to be between $2 billion and $3 billion.

Southern California Edison ( last week announced its plan to install "the world’s largest" photovoltaic solar-cell project, producing 250 megawatts of electricity.

The photovoltaic cell process uses the sun’s energy directly to produce electricity through a system of silicon-layered panels.

In the first phase of this installation, 607,000 square feet of warehouse rooftops will be fitted with the solar panels, producing enough electricity to meet the annual power of over 1,400 homes. The warehouse is a ProLogis Kaiser Distribution facility in the city of Fontana, part of the Inland Empire of Southern California. Operation is slated for August, 2008.

BrightSource Energy (, an Oakland, Calif.-based firm, is the designer of the PG&E solar-thermal operations. Solar-thermal power uses a series of mirrors to focus the sun’s energy onto tower-mounted boilers. Water is then heated to steam that powers a generator, producing electricity.

More in Future

SCE plans to keep expanding its solar-cell installations within the Inland Empire in the next five years by using the rooftop panels on up to 200 more warehouses in Riverside and San Bernardino counties. It is estimated that is enough to cover 2 square miles of surface, providing power needs to 162,000 homes. The project cost is estimated at $875 million. PG&E will continue its quest to build alternative energy sources in the Mojave Desert area as well.