Southern California Edison (SCE) plans to install 250 megawatts (MW) worth of solar cells, capable of powering some 162,000 homes, on the roofs of commercial buildings.
It is the first time a major utility company has heavily invested in distributed power. In addition, the number of solar cells required will be greater than the total U.S. solar output in 2006, which could help to drive down the price of solar panels, as economy of scale kicks in.
The $875 million dollar initiative will connect clusters of solar arrays, covering a total two square miles of rooftop, to existing grid circuits in neighborhoods with growing demand.
This decentralized approach avoids the costs and difficulties of building extensive transmission lines to move power from a centrally located power plant--be it solar, gas-fired, geothermal or other.
"These are the kinds of big ideas we need to meet California's long-term energy and climate change goals," said California Governor Schwarzenegger. "I urge others to follow in their footsteps. If commercial buildings statewide partnered with utilities to put this solar technology on their rooftops, it would set off a huge wave of renewable energy growth."
The utility plans to begin installation work immediately on commercial roofs and hopes to work at a pace of about 1 MW per week.
"We hope to have the first solar rooftops in service by August. The sunlight power will be available to meet our largest challenge - peak load demands on the hottest days," John E. Bryson, Edison International chairman and CEO, said.
In a separate announcement, ProLogis (NYSE: PLD), the world's largest owner, manager and developer of distribution facilities, said it will lease 607,000 square feet of roof space to SCE for an undisclosed amount.