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California Marches Toward 33 Percent Renewable Goal
For example, more than 4,000 megawatts of solar facilities broke ground in the final months of 2010. In the last four months of the year, the California Energy Commission approved nine massive utility-scale solar projects across the state; the commission estimated in December that the projects will lead to the creation of 8,000 construction jobs and at least 1,000 permanent jobs.
Two more large projects are in the planning stages in an area roughly 100 miles northwest of Los Angeles called the Carrizo Plain. One solar plant - proposed by solar-module manufacturer SunPower - would have 250 megawatts of capacity, while the other - put forward by Arizona-based solar-panel maker First Solar - would produce 550 megawatts of peak power.
Because the Carrizo Plain is home to a number of threatened or endangered species, the two proposed projects are facing some opposition, the San Luis Obispo Tribune reported January 28. Still, the SunPower plant alone would add an estimated $300 million to the local economy - and it's possible the facilities' impact could be mitigated if they are sited on unused farmland.
Large-scale plants aren't the only part of California's solar story, though. Across the state, utilities, homeowners and businesses are installing smaller solar arrays, as well.
Southern California Edison, for example, plans to attach 12.5 megawatts of new solar projects to its grid on February 1. The San Bernardino Sun reported January 27 that the utility recently installed seven solar arrays on warehouses in the cities of Redlands and Ontario.
And individuals looking to go solar have more and more options available. Already, homeowners can sign up for solar leases with companies like Suntricity and SolarCity - and a new solar-leasing firm entered the market just this month.
The company, called Solar Universe, is partnering with solar-module giant Suntech to offer low-cost leases to California residents. Homeowners need only make a $500 down payment to go solar, the Westlake Village, California-based firm said.
As with other leasing programs, most people save more on energy than the lease costs - so net savings are the result.
Across the Golden State, solar is looking smarter and smarter - whether the projects are utility-scale or just a few kilowatts.
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