PG&E to buy Solar Power from Solel

Last night we got an alert from PG&E telling us that they were going to make a “solar energy announcement of international significance,” Wednesday morning in downtown San Francisco. No explanation from them yet on the blackouts that plagued San Francisco yesterday, but they always seem to have time for press conferences. (We’ll update the story from the event.)

Well, the New York Times gives us a heads up on the news — PG&E will announce that it will buy 550 megawatts of solar power, from a solar plant to be built by Israeli company, Solel Solar Systems. Solel will build trough-style thermal solar arrays over 9 miles in the Mojave Desert that will begin producing energy in 2011 or 2012, says the article.

Solel’s solar thermal plants produce electricity by using parabolic trough-like mirrors to focus sun rays to heat fluid and produce steam that drives a turbine or motor engine. GreenWombat has a good writeup on the technology and the deal.

About 12% of PG&E’s electricity comes from renewable energy currently, and the utility has to meet a California mandate to boost that amount to 20% by 2010. Solar thermal is gaining popularity for large-scale electricity needs. Google’s Director of Energy Strategy, Bill Weihl, recently told us that “solar thermal is the best kept secret when it comes to renewable energy.”

PG&E adds this solar thermal plan to its numerous other renewable energy announcements recently. The utility said last month that it will work with utility-scale photovoltaic solar power companies Cleantech America and GreenVolts. Earlier this month it was news that the company had entered into an agreement with PPM Energy, to purchase utility-scale wind power.

OK, so now about those pesky blackouts.

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