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Power Deals Give SDG&E a Greener Grid

San Diego Gas & Electric Co.’s plans to purchase power from wind and solar farms brings the company a step closer to meeting the state’s goal of attaining 33 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2020.

The Sempra Energy subsidiary recently announced two agreements, whose values are undisclosed, that would expand its portfolio of emissions-free power by 300 megawatts.

James P. Avery, senior vice president of power supply for SDG&E, said these contracts are a “terrific accomplishment” given that the company had just 1 percent of renewable power in its portfolio a decade ago and about 12 percent renewables in the power portfolio in 2010.

“These contracts continue the significant momentum SDG&E has built over the past decade in acquiring valuable green energy resources,” Avery said in a statement. “In 2011, renewable energy sources such as wind, solar, geothermal, biomass and hydroelectric represented more than 20 percent of the power provided to our 1.4 million electric customers.”

The first power purchase agreement is a 20-year contract to buy 100 megawatts of energy from Manzana Wind LLC, a subsidiary of Portland, Ore.-based Iberdrola Renewables Inc. Its 189-megawatt wind power facility under construction in the Tehachapi region near Rosamond in Kern County is expected to be completed by this fall. The project will be comprised of 126, 1.5-megawatt wind turbines spread across 4,600 acres.

Additional Power Customers

The City of Santa Clara’s electric utility, Silicon Valley Power, has also agreed to purchase 50 megawatts of power from Manzana Wind, according to Iberdrola Renewables Communications Director Jan Johnson. The remaining power the wind farm produces will be sold on the market.

“So 150 megawatts is spoken for in these long-term power purchase agreements,” said Johnson.

Each megawatt of energy produced is enough to power 300 to 350 homes, according to the American Wind Energy Association, so 100 megawatts would be sufficient to power 30,000 to 35,000 homes.

SDG&E has also signed a 25-year agreement to purchase 200 megawatts of energy from the Mount Signal Solar project in Imperial Valley. The transaction was conducted with 82LV 8ME LLC, a subsidiary of Folsom, Calif.-based solar photovoltaic developer 8minutenergy Renewables. Mount Signal Solar will be developed on 1,940 acres of farmland by AES Solar of Arlington, Va.

According to 8minutenergy CEO Martin Hermann, half a billion dollars is being invested in the solar generation facility, which will be under construction by next quarter. The first 100 megawatts of energy is expected to be online by mid-2013 with project completion scheduled for late 2013. Its production capacity of 200 megawatts equates to 500 million kilowatt hours of energy, or enough power to deliver clean energy to 72,000 households, Hermann said.

Maximum Energy

When completed, the project will be comprised of photovoltaic modules supported by single-axis tracking structures that follow the sun’s movement to capture a greater amount of solar energy.

“We track the sun and thereby increase the energy output and make it more energy efficient,” Hermann said. “Since we have an off-taker for our energy we’ll benefit from the fact that it’s a long-term purchase agreement.”

The electric output from the solar panels will be transported along SDG&E’s 117-mile Sunrise Powerlink transmission line that is routed from a substation in Imperial Valley and traverses west near the international border, passing Lakeside to reach the Sycamore Canyon substation near Scripps Ranch. Although Sunrise Powerlink is still under construction, it’s scheduled to be completed later this year.

Both the Manzana Wind and Mount Signal Solar contracts require approval from the California Public Utilities Commission, though a date has not been set yet for their review.

Iberdrola Renewables currently operates about 5,000 megawatts of wind energy and 8minutenergy’s portfolio totals more than 2,000 megawatts of photovoltaic power.

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