News and analysis about energy in California with an eye toward renewables.

Distributed Wholesale Solar Performing Better Than Expected

SunPower panels | Photo: Senator Mark Udall/Flickr/Creative Commons License

When theory meets the real world, the real world is often disappointing. How often do we hear of projects not doing as well as projected? In an effort to sell a project, proponents will often downplay weaknesses and emphasize the upper range of possibilities. It's just human nature, and so we usually expect performance to come in somewhere under what we'd been promised.

So it's lovely when a project actually turns out to perform better than promised. And this week, SunPower, a developer of solar generating projects working with 26 water agencies and districts in California, said its solar installations have provided 102 percent of the power the company had projected.

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"Water agencies and facilities typically have huge energy demand and a responsibility to rate payers to minimize operational costs," said Howard Wenger, SunPower president of regions, when he spoke to the Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA) Fall Conference in San Diego on December 4. "We are very pleased that our water agency and district customers are seeing returns above and beyond expectations, delivering added value to the public agencies and their ratepayers."

SunPower has installed about 25 megawatts' worth of generating capacity on property owned by water companies in California. It's working on a new 922-kilowatt system for Western Municipal Water District in Riverside, which district already benefits from a one-megawatt SunPower facility, and a 1.2-megawatt system for the City of Oceanside Water Utilities Department. Both facilities will use single-axis tracking technology, allowing the panels to stay oriented at the sun as the earth rotates. All told, SunPower's installations on 43 water company properties throughout California have offset about 46.3 million pounds of carbon dioxide that would have been emitted had the utilities used coal-fired electricity rather than PV.

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About the Author

Chris Clarke is a natural history writer and environmental journalist currently at work on a book about the Joshua tree. He lives in Joshua Tree.
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