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Deal Signed on World's Largest Solar Power Plant

Southern California Edison (SCE) and BrightSource Energy have reached agreement on a series of contracts for 1,300 megawatts of clean solar thermal power, enough to serve nearly 845,000 homes.

“These contracts represent a significant addition to our renewable portfolio, which is already the nation’s largest,” said Stuart Hemphill, SCE vice president, Renewable and Alternative Power. “This innovative solar technology helps to further our position as the nation’s largest purchaser of solar energy, as well.”

“This landmark agreement illustrates the increasing demand for solar thermal energy as a reliable source of utility-scale renewable power,” said John Woolard, CEO of BrightSource Energy. “We look forward to working with Southern California Edison to provide clean, reliable and cost-competitive solar energy.”

The agreement, which now requires approval from the California Public Utilities Commission, calls for a series of seven projects totaling 1,300 megawatts. The first of these solar power plants, sized at 100 megawatts and located in Ivanpah, Calif., could be operating in early 2013 and is expected to produce 286,000 megawatt-hours of renewable electricity per year. BrightSource will build and place in commercial operation each of its plants as quickly as permitting and infrastructure allow. 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.

BrightSource Energy’s technology
BrightSource Energy’s proprietary Luz Power Tower 550 (LPT 550) energy system is built on proven “power tower” technology. The system uses thousands of small mirrors called heliostats to reflect sunlight onto a boiler atop a tower to produce high temperature steam. The steam is then piped to a conventional turbine which generates electricity. In order to conserve precious desert water, the LPT 550 system uses air-cooling to convert the steam back into water. The water is then returned to the boiler in an environmentally-friendly closed cycle. This fully integrated energy system is designed to offer the highest operating efficiencies and lowest capital costs in the industry.

For its technological leadership, BrightSource Energy was recently selected as a 2009 Technology Pioneer by the World Economic Forum. The only solar company to win this year’s prestigious award, BrightSource Energy was recognized for helping global utility and industrial customers reduce their dependence on fossil fuels by providing clean, low-cost and reliable solar energy.

“The efficiency advancements found in the LPT 550 system reflect our technical team’s nearly three decades of experience pioneering solar thermal technology,” said Tom Doyle, senior vice president of project development for BrightSource Energy. “We have combined this engineering experience with world-class development capabilities to help our customers reduce their dependence on fossil fuels.”

SCE leads the nation in renewables
SCE is currently the nation’s leading purchaser of renewable energy and, in 2007, bought more than 80 percent of the solar energy produced in the United States for its customers. Also in 2007, the utility purchased about 12.5 billion kilowatt-hours of renewable energy, which comprises about 16 percent of SCE’s total energy portfolio. SCE currently has sufficient contracts in place that, when delivering, will meet 20 percent or more of its customers’ energy needs with renewable energy.

SCE also recently signed two wind-energy contracts. One agreement, with Puget Sound Energy signed in January, calls for 2 billion kilowatt-hours over the next two years. The projects are located in Columbia and Kittitas counties in Washington state. The other, with AES Mountainview, calls for 66.6 megawatts from a wind farm in the San Gorgonio Pass near Palm Springs. This 10-year contract was signed in November 2008.

In addition, SCE launched an expanded standard contract program, which is available for all renewable technologies of 20 megawatts or less. This program is designed to help smaller renewable generators contribute to reaching California’s aggressive renewable energy and environmental goals. It also provides a faster, simpler way for renewable projects under 20 megawatts to sell their power to utility customers.

The current renewables portfolio includes:

  • 1,137 megawatts from wind.
  • 906 megawatts from geothermal.
  • 356 megawatts from solar.
  • 185 megawatts from biomass.
  • 332 megawatts from small hydro.

For more about SCE’s renewable energy program, visit

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