California's Largest Solar Roof To Power Up

UPDATED: Southern California Edison is set to hit a milestone today in its plans to install two square miles of solar panels in California — the completion of the largest rooftop solar installation in the state. Details on the size of the installation have not yet been released, but Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is expected to hold a news conference this morning. Update: The warehouse roof is 600,000 square-feet and the solar project is using 33,700 thin-film solar panels from First Solar that can produce enough power for 1,300 Inland Empire homes.

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Southern California Edison, part of Edison International, originally announced its rooftop solar initiative in March, saying it would install 250 megawatts (MW) of photovoltaic power covering more than two square miles of Southern California’s commercial building rooftops. At the time, the project was expected to cost $875 million and produce enough power for 162,000 homes.

Today’s milestone follows some not-so-great news out of North Carolina in October, where a similar rooftop solar program was cut in half by Duke Energy after that company was criticized by the state’s utility commission over issues of cost recovery. Duke now plans to spend $50 million to install 10 MW of solar panels in North Carolina, down from its original $100 million initiative.

Southern California Edison said today’s announcement, at the ProLogis distribution warehouse in Fontana, is the first of its approximately 150 proposed rooftop solar installations. But Southern California Edison is a little behind schedule with this installation. Back in March, the company said it would install 1 MW a week, taking about five years to complete, with the first panels expected to be operational by August.

Update: First Solar will also provide the panels for Southern California Edison’s second rooftop installation, which will take place at a 458,000-square-foot industrial building owned by Multi-Employer Property Trust in Chino, Calif.

Last week, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced a target for the city to have 10 percent of its energy needs supplied with solar power by 2020. Working with private partners, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (Southern California Edison’s LA counterpart) plans to develop a 1.3 gigawatt network of public and private solar power systems.

An updated timeline for the program has not been disclosed, but the news conference is scheduled to take place at 9 a.m. PST, where Southern California Edison will likely update the status of its rooftop initiative.

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