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One of SunPower's current installations is shown here. SunPower signed a contract to provide California with 250 MW of flat panel solar photovoltaic power by 2012, helping to reestablish the U.S. as the global leader in solar.  (Source: MMA Renewable Ventures/SunPower)
California is thinking green with solar, nuclear, and wind

California is thinking green.  Hot on the heels of San Francisco's announcement of its big green tax cut -- subsidies for solar panel installation that will provide citizens with energy savings -- California has more big solar news.

The state's largest utility Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) has signed deals with OptiSolar and SunPower to provide 800 MW of new solar power to the state in the form of massive solar photovoltaic plants.  The move will reestablish the U.S. as the global leader in solar power by being the world's largest set of grid-tied photovoltaic installations, surpassing solar-hungry Spain and Portugal.

The arrays will provide residents with 1.65 billion kilowatt hours each year and will power up to 250,000 homes.  Jack Keenan, CEO and senior vice president of PG&E states, "This commitment not only moves us forward in meeting our renewable goal, it's also a significant step forward in the renewable energy sector.  Utility-scale deployment of PV (photovoltaic) technology may well become cost competitive with other forms of renewable energy generation, such as solar thermal and wind."

With the upcoming capacity, 24 percent of PG&E's power will come from renewable resources. This exceeds the 20 percent that the state demands of the company by 2010.  Keenan says the new installation will help to ease California's massive power demands during peak afternoon hours.

The estimated completion date for Optisolar's 550 MW is 2013, while SunPower should finish up its 250 MW in 2012.  Both plants will be built in the sunny central San Luis Obispo County, north of Los Angeles.  The new farms are somewhat unique in that typically farms of this size have used solar thermal technologies instead of photovoltaics.  One cost efficient thing about the new plants is they'll be able to use almost entirely preexisting lines.  This will reduce the construction costs and thus reduce the cost per kilowatt hour as well.

OptiSolar's plant, the larger of the pair, will cut as much carbon emissions as removing 90,000 cars from the road.  It will use the company's cutting edge thin-film photovoltaic equipment.  It has already filed for permits and hopes to begin construction by 2010.  Randy Goldstein, CEO of OptiSolar states, "The Topaz solar farm will grow clean electricity on previously disturbed, unused farmland with low-profile panels minimizing visual impact.  It's designed to be compatible with key wildlife species and avoid environmentally sensitive areas."

OptiSolar currently employs 400 people in Hayward, California at a solar panel manufacturing plant.  In order to aid the construction it plans on creating another in Sacramento.  This new plant will create 1,000 "green-collar" jobs.

Meanwhile SunPower brings considerable experience to the table, having installed 350 MW in capacity in 450 sites on three continents.  Among its achievements are the installation of the largest U.S. photovoltaic facility, 14 MW at Nellis National Air Force Base in Arizona, and the installation of the world's first utility-scale photovoltaic plant in Bavaria, Germany.  The company has plans to sell solar panels at Wal-Mart, JC Penney, and Macy's to compete with IKEA's new solar offerings.  Sam's Club is also offering competitive products.

Adam Browning, executive of the Vote Solar Initiative praises the initiatives stating, "What you are seeing here is the foundation of an industry that can deliver electricity cleanly, cheaply, and reliably than the fossil fuel alternatives.  That's really good news because the Department of Energy predicts we will need 386 gigawatts by 2015 just to keep up with load growth...This is a very large, great leap forward in economies of scale. This is the wave of the future."

California also is considering new nuclear expansion with California firm Fresno Nuclear Energy Group LLC.  The company plans to build a new plant in San Joaquin Valley, in addition to California's four operational nuclear plants, which provide the state with a great deal of electricity.  The firm has contracted Constellation Energy in Baltimore to design build and operate the plant. 

The new nuclear plant would provide 1,600 MW of power, and would cost approximately $4B USD.  Californian citizens will vote this fall on whether to allow the construction of the plant.  Costs for nuclear range between $0.05 and $0.11 by current estimates, while costs for solar range between $0.15 to $0.20.  Both can be significantly cheaper than this thanks to federal subsidies.

Officials behind both the solar and nuclear projects warn that if Congress does not renew tax credits for alternative energy, efforts will likely slow and whither.  It currently looks likely that Congress will indeed renew these measures as they enjoy strong national support.

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RE: Clarify, please
By HsiKai on 8/18/2008 1:55:41 PM , Rating: 2
Again, you're using a number (# of countries) that is meaningless for the purposes of comparing economic data. Whether you look at the U.S. as one nation-state or 50 small states doesn't change the underlying economic data in any way.

My point is that Europe is composed of 47 different economies, although somewhat related. The EU is even more related with a similar currency and trade agreements. However, the U.S. != Europe and so I think it is a poor comparison. Our 50 states combine our economic input and outputs while the countries of EU or Europe can decide on their own how much they will participate in a regional versus global economy.

Globally, of the G8 nations, Japan and Italy have substantially more public debt than the U.S. Canada has more slightly more. Germany, France, are about the same as the U.S. Only the U.K. and Russia have less than the U.S. Combined, these countries represent nearly 60% of the world's GDP.

That's great, and what conclusions do you draw from them simply having "more" public debt? Nothing. Now, if that public debt had increased substantially with, as you say, no account of increased expenditures, then one might assume that the profit margin decreased dramatically. That is, if you're spending the same amount as last year, but your profit is lower - or you're spending more on credit - then whatever relevant costs must have increased.

Please re-read my first post. I quite clearly stated that Germany had avoided the housing bubble. I should reiterate that I'm not saying that things won't get bad in the U.S., or even that things will be worse in Europe than in the U.S. All I'm saying is that overall, Western nations are just as badly screwed as the U.S. is.

I'm happy we can both agree on that, now if only we could convince Rin of that. I think, however, you might have thought that the above quote was in direct response to you, but it wasn't. I understand that it is difficult, once a certain number of replies have been made, to determine who should have been the recipient, but it was pretty clear I was quoting and replying to Rin.

It's like getting all worried that my family of 4 spends more money per year than I did when I was a bachelor.

No, that's another external comparison. It would be like saying that a family of four used to spend $5,000 a year in the 1950s but now spends $50,000 fifty years later, given a similar situation. That only accounts for inflation. However, a year after that, if that family is now spending $65,000, there is an obvious disproportionate increase in ... something. That's reflected directly in terms of spending, but you have to look at income and relate it to the federal expenditures, appropriations, as well as how it increases the debt.

But let's try to agree on a basis for analogy. Using your family of four, let's say the average cost of living is $20K per person, regardless of age. Now, one person, living on their own, should have a similar cost of living, so only $20K for himself. However, ten years later, that family of four has four more kids! Wow, a family of eight. One would expect that with all dollar amounts adjusted for inflation that it would still only cost $20K per person. Their expenditures have not changed, so it follows that their total cost would increase by 4x$20K for the additional kids. Except that tens years later for some reason the cost of living has increased to $25K, still adjusted for inflation. Now that family of eight is spending $5Kx8people = $40K more than what historical numbers show. That's with inflation taken into account!

And the chart clearly says 2008 on it even though you claimed it only went to 2004.

The site that you ultimately link from quite clearly indicates that anything after 2004, specifically from 2004-9, is a projection of data. I already linked you to the correct numbers for that, which Rin jump on about being misleading while it was you who had the wrong dates.

Any numbers beyond 2003 are projections by the US Government.

It also specifically states on several of the graphs that the data from 2004-9 is projected. In addition, the bottom of the page indicates:
Page Created on Nov 04, 2004 last updated Jul 11, 2006

These are the percent changes from the previous period in real GDP: That's what you meant to link to; it also breaks down those expenditures.

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