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California utilities continue to snap up large clean energy contracts in preparation for the state’s aggressive renewable portfolio standard. Today, Southern California Edison announced it has signed a 20-year contract for 909 megawatts of wind power from DCE, an affiliate of Caithness Energy. The electricity will […]

California utilities continue to snap up large clean energy contracts in preparation for the state’s aggressive renewable portfolio standard. Today, Southern California Edison announced it has signed a 20-year contract for 909 megawatts of wind power from DCE, an affiliate of Caithness Energy. The electricity will come from Caithness Shepherd’s Flat, where some 303 wind turbines are going up across 30 square miles in Gilliam and Morrow Counties in North Central Oregon. The farm is scheduled to come on-line between 2011 and 2012, and the contract will provide SCE with more than 10 percent of its total renewable power, the companies say.

Last year, renewables made up 16 percent of SCE’s total portfolio, and the utility has other massive wind-power contracts lined up that could boost that percentage even further. Back in 2006, the utility signed a contract with Alta Windpower Development for 1,500 megawatts of wind energy — at the time, the largest wind energy contract in the U.S. The farm is slated to cover 50 square miles in the Tehachapi area of California. However, progress on the project has been slow. SCE tells us it has only recently broken ground on the Tehachapi Renewable Transmission project, which will eventually bring power from the Alta wind farm to market. SCE says the first three (of 11) segments of the transmission project are scheduled to start delivering power from a number of wind projects in the area during 2009.

California’s renewable portfolio standard requires that 20 percent of a utility’s electricity come from renewable sources by 2010. This has led California utilities Pacific Gas & Electric and San Diego Gas & Electric, in addition to SCE, to line up all the long-term renewable energy contracts they can. PG&E just locked in 800 megawatts of solar power on Friday in two huge agreements with Optisolar and SunPower. Demand from the utilities is outstripping the supply of utility-scale green power generation, leading PG&E to look into owning and operating its own solar power plants.

Photo courtesy NREL PIX

By Craig Rubens

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