This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.

May 04, 2005

California Continues to Lead the Way with Large Solar Projects

Photo of a large array of solar panels reflecting the setting sun.

Shell Solar's 980-kilowatt solar power installation at the Semitropic Water Storage District in Wasco, California.
Credit: Shell Solar

An increasing number of solar energy projects are now being installed across the United States, but California is still king when it comes to really large solar power installations. Shell Solar provides the best proof: in late April, the company powered up a 350-kilowatt solar power system at the Desert Water Agency in Palm Springs, then dedicated a 980-kilowatt system at the Semitropic Water Storage District in Wasco, about 25 miles northwest of Bakersfield. The Palm Springs system was assembled into large panels at the Shell Solar plant, allowing for easier installation at the site. The Semitropic system, which covers an area equal to about four football fields, employs a unique single-axis tracking system to maximize its power production. See the Shell Solar press releases from April 26th and April 29th.

California universities and local governments are also leaders in solar power. Cal State Northridge recently dedicated a 467-kilowatt system that also provides shade in one of its parking lots. The campus already has a 225-kilowatt solar power system, making it a leader among California universities. And Alameda County marked Earth Day by dedicating 1.1 megawatts of new solar arrays, located at seven sites across the county. The county now has a total of 2.3 megawatts of solar power projects, all of which were installed by PowerLight Corporation. See the press releases from Cal State Northridge and PowerLight.

All of the new solar power systems earned hefty checks from local utilities, thanks to the state's Self-Generation Incentive Program, which continues to drive new solar power investments in the state. But while those utilities encourage their customers to invest in solar power, they are also investing directly in solar power. For instance, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) approved on April 27th the installation of a 300-kilowatt solar power system on the roof of the city's Northpoint Wastewater Treatment Plant, noting that the system would pay for itself over the life of the project. In addition, San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) announced plans to install as much as 3 megawatts of solar power in its service area. See the press releases from SFPUC and SDG&E.