photo: green wombat
California is looking to tap green energy projects in bordering states to meet its ambitious renewable energy targets. The California Public Utilities Commission last week approved a $6 million study to consider the feasibility of building new transmission lines to transmit green electricity from solar power stations and wind farms that could be built in isolated areas of the state as well as in Nevada and Arizona. The move is good news for solar entrepreneurs hoping to develop power plants in the sunny triangle of Arizona, California and Nevada.
The region boosts some of the best solar resource in the country but faces the conundrum that renewable energy-rich areas often are far off the grid. By locating such projects across the California border, developers can avoid the state’s intensive regulatory process while reaping the benefits of selling it green power. California utilities are under the gun to obtain 20 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2010 and 33 percent by 2030. Adding to the pressure, regulators earlier this year barred utilities from signing long-term contracts with out-of-state coal-fired power plants, which provide about 20 percent of California’s electricity.
"Many renewable resource areas are located far from the grid and load centers and often require extensive and expensive transmission upgrades," the commission stated.
The CPUC is a member of California Renewable Energy Transmission Initiative, a consortium of state energy agencies. "Meeting Californiaís renewable policy goals will require rapid development of renewable resource areas throughout the state and possibly in adjoining states," states the group. "It will also require the construction of new transmission infrastructure to deliver energy from those renewable resource areas to the electric grid."
Southern California Edison (EIX) lead the study, which is backed by the state’s other big utilities, PG&E (PCG) and San Diego Gas & Electric (SRE). Also on board are renewable energy companies like BrightSource Energy and Solel, both of which are set to build large-scale solar power plants for PG&E.