Southern California Edison, a leader among utility companies in the use of renewable energy, has secured seven new long-term contracts with independent renewable energy producers.
The signed contracts will be submitted to the California Public Utilities Commission for approval. Collectively, they have the potential to provide another 324 megawatts of clean power – enough to serve 190,000 average homes.
“We’re working very hard to reach the target the state has set up,” explained Stuart Hemphill, SCE’s director of renewable and alternative power. “The state’s goal is for us to supply 20 percent of our customer’s needs using renewable energy by 2010.”
The utility, a division of Rosemead-based Edison International, currently serves 16percent to 17 percent of its customer needs with renewable energy.
Five of the seven contracts were submitted by Caithness 251 Wind in Tehachapi and its subsidiaries, Ridgetop Energy in Mojave and Coso Clean Power in Little Lake.
Those are all 20-year contracts. Coso would be the largest power producer, with an initial 68 megawatts of geoethermal power and the potential to produce 234.6 megawatts.
Geothermal power is produced by capturing steam that’s trapped underground. The steam, which is cooled and re-injected back into the ground, can then be stored and used to power turbines that produce electricity.
The other two contracts came from MM Tajiguas Energy in Goleta and Imperial Valley Resource Recovery Co. in Imperial Valley, both of which produce biomass energy.
Biomass energy is generated by burning agricultural or farm waste. The process yields heat which is used to generate electricity.
The MM Tajiguas contract is for 20 years and Imperial Valley’s would be 10 years.
Caithness and Ridgetop are generators of wind power. And in this case, size does matter.
“Bigger is better,” said Pedro Pizarro, SCE’s senior vice president of power procurement. “With a longer blade length, you can capture more wind. It’s a big deal.”
Pizarro said the new spate of contracts will involve the approval of new transmission lines to get the electricity to where it’s needed.
“A couple of these contracts are `re-powers,”‘ he said. “They are taking out old turbines that have been there for 20 years and replacing them with bigger and better, modern turbines.”
Caithness President Les Gelber said renewable energy developers face “extensive challenges” repowering and building new projects to help California reach its clean energy goals.
“Our constructive partnership with SCE is exactly the type of working relationship needed to meet such challenges,” Gelber said.
SCE said its new 2006 solicitation for additional renewal power contracts has already attracted promising prospects from wind, solar, biomass and geothermal power providers.
SCE procures more than 13 billion kilowatt hours of renewable energy a year, more than any U.S. utility or state except for California.
Pacific Gas & Electric Co. is another big user of alternative energy sources. The utility company currently supplies 30 percent of its customer load from renewable resources – 18 percent from large hydroelectric facilities and 12 percent from smaller renewable resources that qualify under the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard Program.
By Kevin Smith Staff Writer
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