In another big boost for the economic viability of large-scale solar power plants, California utility PG&E said it will buy an additional 1,000 megawatts of solar thermal power over the next five years. Thats on top of the gigawatt the utility already has committed to purchase."PG&E (PCG) has identified solar thermal technology as a reliable energy source that can provide millions of American electric customers with some of the cleanest and most cost-effective renewable energy," said PG&E CEO Peter Darbee in a statement. A 1,000 megawatts of solar electricity would power about 750,000 homes, according to PG&E.
One likely beneficiary PG&E's pledge is Silicon Valley solar startup Ausra. The company, backed by green investor Vinod Khosla and venture capital firm Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers, has been negotiating with PG&E to build solar power plants for the utility. Ausra executive vice president John ODonnell declined to comment on the status of those negotiations.
So far PG&E has signed a deal for a 553-megawatt plant with Israeli solar company Solel and is continuing to negotiate a 500-megawatt deal with BrightSource Energy, the Oakland, California-based company founded by solar pioneer Arnold Goldman.
Todays commitment, made at the Clinton Global Initiative summit in New York City, would make PG&E the nations largest solar utility, putting it ahead of California utilities Southern California Edison (EIX) and San Diego Gas & Electric (SRE). The announcement comes as Florida utility FPL (FPL) said it would spend $1.5 billion over the next seven years to build solar thermal power plants, including a 300-megawatt power station using Ausras technology.