California utility taps Arizona solar power

CALIFORNIA - That was quick: Just days after California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed legislation that would have limited utilities’ ability to buy out-of-state renewable energy, utility PG&E asked regulators to approve a deal with an Arizona solar farm to supply 290 megawatts of electricity.

According to the New York Times, Pacific Gas & Electric, the big California utility, asked regulators to approve the purchase of electricity from an Arizona solar power plant, only days after Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed legislation that would have limited utilities’ ability to tap out-of-state projects to meet renewable energy mandates.

NextLight Renewable Power will construct the 290-megawatt Aqua Caliente photovoltaic farm on private land in Yuma County, Ariz. The company, based in San Francisco, signed a deal with P.G.&E. in June to supply 230 megawatts from a solar power plant to be built outside of Los Angeles.

The legislation vetoed by Mr. Schwarzenegger would have required California utilities to obtain 33 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2020, mostly from in-state projects.

Environmental groups and unions supported that provision as a way to limit the need to build new transmission lines and to keep construction jobs in California. But the governor said it would hamstring utilities from complying with the 33 percent target, which he supports.

According to the filing the utility made recently, Arizona regulators have already approved the project and NextLight expects to obtain county building permits within a few months. In contrast, the licensing of a solar power plant in California can take years. The Agua Caliente project is also located near existing transmission lines that connect to California’s power grid.



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