Southern California Edison said Wednesday it signed contracts with Google-backed start-up BrightSource Energy for the supply of 1,300 megawatts of clean solar thermal power. The companies claim the agreement is the world's largest solar deal.
Southern California Edison, a unit of Rosemead-based Edison International, said the 20-year deal calls for Oakland-based BrightSource to build and place in commercial operation seven projects. The deal will require approval from the California Public Utilities Commission.
The agreements are part of Edison's effort to comply with a state mandate to fight global warming by requiring utilities to produce 20 percent of their power from renewable sources such as wind and solar by 2010. SoCal Edison said this agreement combined with earlier deals will more than meet the mandate.
"These contracts represent a significant addition to our renewable portfolio, which is already the nation's largest," Stuart Hemphill, SoCal Edison vice president for Renewable and Alternative Power, said in a statement. "This innovative solar technology helps to further our position as the nation's largest purchaser of solar energy, as well."
SoCal Edison claims the full 1,300 megawatts of projects will produce 3.7 billion kilowatt-hours of clean energy and avoid more than two million tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually the equivalent of removing more than 335,000 cars from the road.
The first Edison-BrightSource solar power plants, to located in the Mojave Natural Preserve community of Ivanpah, could be operating in early 2013 and are expected to produce 286,000 megawatt-hours of renewable electricity per year.
This is the second such major deal for SoCal Edison, which last year announced plans to install 250 megawatts of solar panels atop two square miles of commercial roofs in 150 separate projects in California over the next five years.
The So Cal Edison announcement is a major boost for the alternative energy industry, which has seen a significant drop in new contracts since the tight credit markets dried up financing. A long-term utility contract like the one signed with So Cal Edison will help BrightSource to obtain the billions in financing required to build its large solar power plants.
BrightSource's investors include Google, Morgan Stanley and VantagePoint Venture Partners, as well as energy companies Chevron and BP.
Edison International shares were up 48 cents, or 1.5 percent, to $32.03 in morning trading on the New York Stock Exchange.
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