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Published on September 8th, 2009 | by Susan Kraemer

15

California Adds 8,600 MW New Renewable Power: Meets RPS Goals

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September 8th, 2009 by  

Since the Renewable Portfolio Standard began in 2002, the California Public Utilities Commission has now approved contracts for more than 8,600 megawatts of new renewable energy, nearly all of it solar, signed with the state’s largest utilities. Most of the state’s renewable energy already on the grid till now has been wind power.

As of June, the CPUC total was 8,334 megawatts, but in August CPUC approved PG&E contracts with BrightSource totalling an additional 1,310 megawatts.

It’s an unusual contract. PG&E agreed to pay a higher electricity rate if Brightsource fails to secure a Department of Energy loan guarantee to help finance the construction of the two solar plants in the Mojave desert, per Todd Woody at the NYT. And in return, Brightsource will pay PG&E royalties based on the worldwide sales and licensing of BrightSource’s solar Power Tower technology.

The Federal loan guarantee program is designed to promote development of renewable energy by allowing companies like BrightSource to obtain lower-cost financing to build large-scale solar farms.

“Given the current credit crisis, new renewable energy projects face financing risk,” wrote the utility commissioners in approving the deal. “We believe that the milestones achieved to date on its D.O.E. Loan Guarantee application and BrightSource’s project development experience will put it at an advantage when seeking financing.”

California’s RPS (Renewable Portfolio Standards) legislation signed in 2002 requires the state’s utilities to get 20% of their energy from renewable sources by 2010 and have it up and running on our grid by 2013.

At last count, we were a bit short of installed capacity, with 13% on the grid by 2008. But in a burst of activity last year more new capacity was installed just in 2008 than in the first four years of the RPS. So far 2009 looks like it could be more than 2008.

At just the half year mark, another 1,574 megawatts were approved, and with the additional contracts from BrightSource, the total is now 8,600 Megawatts approved.  The CPUC is still reviewing 13 more signed contracts which would add another 5,941 MW.

See the overall progress graph next page:

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About the Author

writes at CleanTechnica, CSP-Today, PV-Insider , SmartGridUpdate, and GreenProphet. She has also been published at Ecoseed, NRDC OnEarth, MatterNetwork, Celsius, EnergyNow, and Scientific American. As a former serial entrepreneur in product design, Susan brings an innovator's perspective on inventing a carbon-constrained civilization: If necessity is the mother of invention, solving climate change is the mother of all necessities! As a lover of history and sci-fi, she enjoys chronicling the strange future we are creating in these interesting times.    Follow Susan on Twitter @dotcommodity.



  • Thos Weatherby

    If all that money was spent on natural gas or clean coal, they would produce 350% – 400% more, for the same money. Solar is not cost effective. It’s funny that these articles generally don’t mention all of the cost of the projects. A better system would be to require all new residential construction to include solar panels in “clear sky” areas. This would have the most dramatic affect on the cost of these type of systems. If every new home would have ICF construction (look it up) and solar panels on the roofs, we could make a huge dent into our energy problem. But these high cost mega projects aren’t the answer.

    [SK: CA does have a zero-carbon energy (= solar roof) rule for all new building by 2020 - but solar thermal "mega projects" are cheaper than PV one-offs, and cheaper than (so far non-existent) clean coal. Nat gas plants of the same size here do get approved here at a good clip, unfortunately, as solar thermal is cheaper counting fuel costs and ghg health costs over 25 years, and use one tenth as much water as gas]

  • Thos Weatherby

    If all that money was spent on natural gas or clean coal, they would produce 350% – 400% more, for the same money. Solar is not cost effective. It’s funny that these articles generally don’t mention all of the cost of the projects. A better system would be to require all new residential construction to include solar panels in “clear sky” areas. This would have the most dramatic affect on the cost of these type of systems. If every new home would have ICF construction (look it up) and solar panels on the roofs, we could make a huge dent into our energy problem. But these high cost mega projects aren’t the answer.

    [SK: CA does have a zero-carbon energy (= solar roof) rule for all new building by 2020 - but solar thermal "mega projects" are cheaper than PV one-offs, and cheaper than (so far non-existent) clean coal. Nat gas plants of the same size here do get approved here at a good clip, unfortunately, as solar thermal is cheaper counting fuel costs and ghg health costs over 25 years, and use one tenth as much water as gas]

  • john galt

    My hope is that consumers will realize that the least number of people in between their source of energy and their house is important. It’s human nature to extract as much wealth out of a product or service, and sometimes there just isn’t enough competition to keep the final cost down enough for the consumer to get a fair price. So a million of small solar installations would be preferable than a hundred or a thousand huge solar energy installations. It’s probably more doable in the time frame desired as well.

  • john galt

    My hope is that consumers will realize that the least number of people in between their source of energy and their house is important. It’s human nature to extract as much wealth out of a product or service, and sometimes there just isn’t enough competition to keep the final cost down enough for the consumer to get a fair price. So a million of small solar installations would be preferable than a hundred or a thousand huge solar energy installations. It’s probably more doable in the time frame desired as well.

  • Uncle B

    Beats Hell out of Oil well investments! They go Dry! Now, fore somw Wind Crrodor development, and some really ggod EV-i styles cars – even the Aptera from California is better than the gas jobs on the market today! Three moving part motors! Yes! Solar is the way to go in the South Western U.S.A. Build the power source, the people will come to it! never mind the “Transmission Line” bogey man! That’s Oil Baron Bull Shiite talking! Americans go where the power is – every time! Watch for huge underground settlements of Mirror Maintenance Folk” Buried away from desert heat, and working night shifts in the cool to care for our new national treasures! Mirrors of hope! Energy from home!

  • Uncle B

    Beats Hell out of Oil well investments! They go Dry! Now, fore somw Wind Crrodor development, and some really ggod EV-i styles cars – even the Aptera from California is better than the gas jobs on the market today! Three moving part motors! Yes! Solar is the way to go in the South Western U.S.A. Build the power source, the people will come to it! never mind the “Transmission Line” bogey man! That’s Oil Baron Bull Shiite talking! Americans go where the power is – every time! Watch for huge underground settlements of Mirror Maintenance Folk” Buried away from desert heat, and working night shifts in the cool to care for our new national treasures! Mirrors of hope! Energy from home!

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  • Ted Ko

    Susan,

    To follow on to Charles’ comment, the difference between contracted capacity and actual delivered electricity is an important distinction that people often don’t want to acknowledge.

    None of the policymakers or regulators I’ve talked to believe that the 2013 goal will be met because the necessary transmission lines won’t be ready.

    The CPUC acknowledges that new transmission takes a minimum of about 10 years to get online (in the *best* case). And their recent report on the 33% RPS by 2020 goal states that we are unlikely to reach that also because California ratepayers would need to make a highly risky $11 Billion bet on new transmission.

    All these reasons are why we need to look at wholesale distributed generation (WDG) to have any real hope of meeting the RPS goals. With a well-designed feed-in-tariff policy, California can achieve 33% by 2020 while *saving* ratepayers money.

    For more info: http://www.fitcoalition.com

  • Ted Ko

    Susan,

    To follow on to Charles’ comment, the difference between contracted capacity and actual delivered electricity is an important distinction that people often don’t want to acknowledge.

    None of the policymakers or regulators I’ve talked to believe that the 2013 goal will be met because the necessary transmission lines won’t be ready.

    The CPUC acknowledges that new transmission takes a minimum of about 10 years to get online (in the *best* case). And their recent report on the 33% RPS by 2020 goal states that we are unlikely to reach that also because California ratepayers would need to make a highly risky $11 Billion bet on new transmission.

    All these reasons are why we need to look at wholesale distributed generation (WDG) to have any real hope of meeting the RPS goals. With a well-designed feed-in-tariff policy, California can achieve 33% by 2020 while *saving* ratepayers money.

    For more info: http://www.fitcoalition.com

  • http://www.Utility-Savings.com Charles R. Toca

    Susan, great article drawing attention to the efforts on behalf of the CPUC and the utilities to meet the RPS standards. However, you probably should have pointed out that, “Though procurement has been quite successful in the RPS program, more than 75% of new RPS capacity is under development.” Pg 4 of the report. It’s been fairly easy to get a contract signed with the utilities, but getting the projects actually built has been another issue. For example, much of the solar and wind projects will require new transmission, which has been a real barrier.

    Also, the addition of all that intermittent renewable power from wind and solar PV will cause some significant strains on the grid that could also delay implementation. Storage will be needed, discussed at page 10, and we are only now starting to get serious about that – more information at my website, http://www.Utility-Savings.com.

  • http://www.Utility-Savings.com Charles R. Toca

    Susan, great article drawing attention to the efforts on behalf of the CPUC and the utilities to meet the RPS standards. However, you probably should have pointed out that, “Though procurement has been quite successful in the RPS program, more than 75% of new RPS capacity is under development.” Pg 4 of the report. It’s been fairly easy to get a contract signed with the utilities, but getting the projects actually built has been another issue. For example, much of the solar and wind projects will require new transmission, which has been a real barrier.

    Also, the addition of all that intermittent renewable power from wind and solar PV will cause some significant strains on the grid that could also delay implementation. Storage will be needed, discussed at page 10, and we are only now starting to get serious about that – more information at my website, http://www.Utility-Savings.com.

  • Bjorn

    If California gets more renewable energy I might not have to move my webhosting to Norway (with 99% renewable energy), and it can stay with Dreamhost in America. Exiting times.

  • Bjorn

    If California gets more renewable energy I might not have to move my webhosting to Norway (with 99% renewable energy), and it can stay with Dreamhost in America. Exiting times.

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