Calif. sets ambitious renewable power standards

April 12, 2011 6:59:49 PM PDT
U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu and California Gov. Jerry Brown were on hand for the dedication of a new solar panel manufacturing plant in Milpitas Tuesday. The plant is owned by Flextronics in partnership with San Jose's SunPower and the facility has created jobs for 100 people. SunPower received a $24 million federal energy grant to support the design and installation of a new generation of highly automated manufacturing that will translate into lower cost.

Chu announced at the dedication that SunPower is getting a conditional commitment of almost $1.2 billion in loan guarantees for construction of SunPower's California Solar Ranch project, which will produce 25 percent more power from its photovoltaic system than traditional installations. It will generate 250 megawatts of power that can supply 60,000 homes. The facility will be built on a 2,000-acre site in San Luis Obispo County, and PG&E will be purchasing all of the electricity produced.

On top of that news, Brown signed a new law Tuesday that will require all private and public utilities in the state to obtain 33 percent of their electricity from renewable energy by 2020. The previous requirement was set at 20 percent. Senate Bill 2X was authored by Democratic State Sen. Joe Simitian of Palo Alto.

The governor joked that he's made a habit of going after seemingly impossible or offbeat dreams.

"I didn't get my name, Gov. Moonbeam, for nothing," said Brown. "I earned it by advocating ideas that were not popular."

Executives from SunPower and Flextronics praised the new 33 percent renewable energy goal as an example why the state leads in fostering the growth of solar energy and giving companies the incentive to grow their facilities and their number of employees.

CEO Tom Werner says solar remains a viable renewable source.

"What we have is we've got 25 years of experience, so we can do a good job of rifle-shooting and not shot-gunning," said Werner. "So yeah, we have a huge advantage."

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