Photo via All American Patriots
As you're likely aware, many of the biggest solar farms planned for the US keep hitting snags--many are facing environmental disputes, such as the solar plant planned in the Mojave Desert. So instead of waiting around for the major wattage from such plants to become available, the NY Times reports that utilities are turning to smaller, more versatile 'distributed' solar farms that can be plopped down close to transmission lines or on rooftops. Green Inc reports:
Over the past few weeks, some 1,300 megawatts' worth of distributed solar deals and initiatives have been announced or approved. At peak output that's the equivalent of a big nuclear power plant.And there's more: Sacramento sold out a 100-megawatt solar program in a week. And San Francisco inked deals to launch a solar initiative of their own. This is all great news--thanks to the falling prices of solar cells, such projects have become attractive, and financially viable.
Two weeks ago in California, regulators authorized utility Southern California Edison's program to install 500 megawatts of solar on commercial rooftops. Then a few days later, they recommended that Pacific Gas and Electric ... be given the green light for its own 500-megawatt initiative that aims to install ground-mounted photovoltaic arrays near electrical substations and urban areas.
It's an encouraging sign that even without sweeping federal legislation, significant strides can yet be made. This will prove even more important should clean energy and jobs legislation fail in the Senate, as conventional wisdom seems to hold it will. Seeing that the solar industry is increasingly making good without overwhelming government support (there are still major tax breaks, thanks in part to Obama's stimulus bill, and California has its own incentives as well) is one positive note.
We're going to have to do more if we hope to keep pace with China and Europe, however--a handful of distributed solar deals, while fantastic, are nothing compared to the major power some of the solar plants overseas will be generating.