Summary:

Holy solar. Southern California Edison announced this morning that it has signed contracts with solar developers SunPower and Fotowatio Renewable Ventures to buy solar electricity for a total of 831 MW of solar projects.

SunPower T20

Updated. Holy solar. Southern California Edison (SCE) announced Monday morning that it had signed contracts with solar developers SunPower and Fotowatio Renewable Ventures to buy solar electricity for a total of 831 MW of solar projects.

SunPower plans to build three solar photovoltaic projects in California for a total of 711 MW, while Fotowatio has a contract for four solar photovoltaic projects for a total of 120 megawatts. The projects will be built in Kern, Los Angeles and Merced counties, and Fotowatio’s smaller group of projects is supposed to come online by the end of 2013, while SunPower’s wont be producing solar power until 2014 and 2016.

California’s three big utilities were supposed to buy enough renewable energy to make up 20 percent of their supplies by 2010. The utilities weren’t likely able to make that deadline, but state regulation actually gives them until the end of 2013 to comply. Meanwhile, the utilities will have to make sure they line up enough contracts or install their own projects to meet the 33 percent goal by 2020. That’s where these new SCE contracts come in.

SunPower’s utility project capacity seems like it’s booked solid for several more years, hence probably why its projects for SCE aren’t due for years. SunPower is starting construction on another 250 MW utility solar PV project, called California Valley Solar Ranch in San Luis Obispo County, in the second half of 2011, and it has a contract to sell the solar power to utility Pacific Gas and Electric. NRG Solar is spending up to $450 million in equity over four years investing in and buying this PG&E project.

Seven year old Spanish solar power developer Fotowatio is backed by Qualitas Venture Capital, GE Energy Financial Services and the Landon Group, and as of mid 2008 had 960 megawatts of solar projects installed or in development in Spain, Italy and the U.S. Update: Fotowatio says it now has more than 2.2 GW under development. In the Spring of 2009, it bought most of the assets of San Francisco’s MMA Renewable Ventures in a $19.7 million deal.

Remember just because these contracts are announced, doesn’t make them a sure thing. The contracts need to be approved by California regulators and are also sometimes risky bets. Southern California Edison canceled its agreement to buy power from an 850-megawatt solar project in California that was originally being built by Tessera Solar, but is now owned by K Road Power.

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