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Applications to install rooftop solar PV systems continue to pour in to LA Water & Power. Some 22 megawatts worth and counting of rooftop solar power capacity have been added in the last fiscal year. The country's largest publicly owned utility has also been signing long-term power purchase agreements with utility-scale solar power project developers. [...]

Clean Power

On the Way to 1 Million Solar Roofs: Los Angelenos Can’t Get Enough Solar Power

Applications to install rooftop solar PV systems continue to pour in to LA Water & Power. Some 22 megawatts worth and counting of rooftop solar power capacity have been added in the last fiscal year. The country’s largest publicly owned utility has also been signing long-term power purchase agreements with utility-scale solar power project developers. […]

Los Angeles homeowners have been signing up for rooftop solar power installations in droves — so much so that the overwhelming volume of applications threatened to overrun the program’s budget and prompted the LA Dept. of Water and Power’s (LADWP) to actually shut the program down for five months last year.

Participants in the city’s Solar Incentive Program had 22 megawatts (MW) of rooftop solar power installed in the DWP’s 2011-2012 fiscal year, up from 9 MW the previous year and 5 MW in 2009-2010, Chris Clarke reports in a Rewire blog post.

“If the pace we are seeing today continues, by this fall, we will exceed 100 MW of net metered solar capacity that is either built or in the queue to be built,” Aram Benyamin, Senior Assistant General Manager of the LADWP Power System, was quoted as saying.



The Drive for 1 Million Solar Roofs

Serving some 4 million residents, LADWP is the largest publicly owned utility in the US. It’s able to draw on some 7,200 MW peak of power. Providing an idea of just how much solar energy potential there is in LA, sunlight could generate as much as 5,500 MW of electric power in the City of Angels, according to UCLA’s Luskin Center for Innovation, Clarke notes on Rewire.

Aiming to help meet the goals of California’s SB 1 “Million Solar Roofs” legislation, LADWP’s Solar Incentive Program was reopened and is open to residential applicants. The new budget limit for non-residential applications was reached in August, prompting LADWP to close the program down, at least until July 2013 when it is slated to reopen.

For those who qualify, the incentive program covers up to 75% of project costs for residential, government, and non-profit installations, and up to 50% of commercial installations. The maximum rated capacity for a rooftop solar PV system to be eligible for the program is 5 MW, with the minimum set at 1 kilowatt (kW).

In its search for the most effective means of boosting solar PV in LA, LADWP in July launched a pilot Feed-in Tariff (FiT) program, an alternative type of an incentive program. The FiT Demonstration Program allows third-party solar power producers to sell as much as 10 MW of solar power directly to LADWP and its electric grid.

The city utility received 26 applications for the FiT Demonstration Program during a 1.5-month bidding period, with short-listed projects expected to undergo interconnection studies in August and September. Final contracts are expected to be signed this month and next, with winners chosen based on proposed price per kilowatt-hour and project feasibility.

A Defining Moment…

LADWP is also signing long-term power purchase agreements (PPAs) with utility-scale solar PV project developers. LADWP signed agreements with two solar power project developers to bring as much as a whopping 460 MW of clean, green, renewable solar power into its grid in early October.

“In the next decade, LADWP will completely replace over 70% of its power supply to eliminate coal through a combination of increased energy efficiency, expanding renewable energy to 33% by 2020, completely eliminating the use of ocean water cooling at its three coastal power plants and balancing the new energy mix with cleaner and more efficient natural gas, all while maintaining system reliability,” LADWP states in its press release.

Its latest two solar power purchase agreements are with K Road Moapa Solar for up to 250 MW, and another 210 MW from Sempra Energy’s Copper Mountain Solar 3 project near Boulder, Nevada. The K Road solar PV facility is on land owned by Moapa Band of Paiute Indians north of Las Vegas.

“This is a defining moment for our City’s economic and environmental future. Not only will these commitments create hundreds of green jobs, they will further bolster Los Angeles as a national leader in making the successful, cost-efficient transition to renewable energy.

“If you want proof that environmental progress and economic growth go hand in hand, look no further than today’s decision, “ said Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa. “We are shaking our fossil fuel addiction.”

“Through projects like this, the Department of Water and Power is on track to reduce its reliance on coal power and increase its supply of solar and other renewable energy,” said Councilmember José Huizar, Chair of the City Council Energy and Environment Committee. “Altogether, these solar projects will prevent about 955,000 metric tons of carbon emissions from entering the atmosphere each year. That is equivalent to removing 184,000 cars from the road annually. All Angelenos should take pride in knowing we are rebuilding our power system into a cleaner, greener and environmentally sustainable mode.”

Combining the solar power from these two projects with a third, new, 250-MW facility owned by LADWP will bring enough solar power to LA to meet the needs of some 283,000 households, according to the public utility. Added to that, the publicly owned utility is installing and operating rooftop solar PV systems on municipal buildings and facilities.

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I've been reporting and writing on a wide range of topics at the nexus of economics, technology, ecology/environment and society for some five years now. Whether in Asia-Pacific, Europe, the Americas, Africa or the Middle East, issues related to these broad topical areas pose tremendous opportunities, as well as challenges, and define the quality of our lives, as well as our relationship to the natural environment.


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