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San Diego-based Sempra Generation announced a 25 year deal yesterday to sell 150 megawatts of solar-generated electricity to northern California utility Pacific Gas & Electric. The power will come from an expansion of Sempra Generation’s Copper Mountain Solar complex in Boulder City, Nevada.

92 megawatts, generated by ground mounted thin film panels, is slated to be online by January 2013, with the remaining 58 megawatts available sometime in 2015. First Solar, a large producer of panels, will provide their product and serve as engineering, procurement, and construction contractor for the project.

"Copper Mountain Solar 2 is another exciting step forward on our plan to construct 1,000 megawatts of additional renewable capacity by 2015," said Jeffrey W. Martin, Sempra Generation’s president and CEO.

The 1,100 acre site should provide enough power to supply 45,000 homes when completed. Construction will begin in early 2012. Copper Mountain Solar 1, completed in 2010, provides 48 megawatts of power and is currently the largest photovoltaic solar plant in the country. PG&E already contracts for delivery of this power, as part of a push by state government to generate more power from renewable sources.

California’s Renewables Portfolio Standard Program, established in 2002, set a goal for utilities in the state to source 20 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2017. In 2003 the target date was moved up to the year 2010. That goal was met in 2009, by which time 11.6 percent of energy was produced by wind, solar, geothermal, biomass, or small hydroelectric facilities, with larger hydro projects providing another 9.2 percent. In 2008, Governor Schwarzenegger signed Executive Order S-14-08, requiring that ". . . [a]ll retail sellers of electricity shall serve 33 percent of their load with renewable energy by 2020."

While Sempra Generation is a subsidiary of Sempra Energy, also the parent of local utility San Diego Gas & Electric, the two are not part of the same company. As such, Sempra Generation, operator of natural gas, wind, and solar power plants is not regulated by the California Public Utilities Commission.

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