Pacific Gas and Electric Co.

to Buy Electricity From Israeli Company

(July 25, 2007)

Pacific Gas and Electric Co. has reached an agreement with Solel Solar Systems, which is based in Beit Shemesh, Israel, to purchase 553 megawatts of electricity from the Mojave Solar Park, which Solel will build and operate in California’s Mojave desert. According to the twenty-five year contract, PG&E will buy enough electricity to power 400,000 homes in the Mojave Desert.

The Mojave Solar Park will cover up to nine square miles or 6,000 acres and will generate about the same amount of electricity as a large coal-fired power plant. The park, which will cost an estimated $2 billion, will be more than five times larger than the largest solar plants operating today, which generate less than 100 megawatts of electricity.

Solel is still waiting for approval from California’s Public Utilities Commission, Energy Commission, and other state and local agencies, but is confident it will receive support from the state because it would help California reach its clean-energy goals. Starting in 2010, the state will require all electric utilities to secure at least twenty percent of their electricity supplies from renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar power. In addition, PG&E believes that the impact on the environment will be minimal.

Company officials are hoping that construction of the plant will begin in 2009 and that carbon-free electricity will be generated starting in 2011. Three separate sites are being considered for the plant, which will use transmission lines that were originally used by the coal plant near Laughlin, Nevada that is no longer in use.

The massive Mojave Solar Park will use solar-thermal technology instead of photovoltaic technology, which is more commonly used, to produce electricity for California. The plant would use 1.2 million mirrors to harness the desert sun’s power. These mirrors would heat fluid that generates steam, which in turn would power turbines that produce electricity that would then be fed into PG&E’s electric grid. Solel opted to use solar-thermal technology because it is less expensive and easier to build on a large-scale level than photo-voltaic technology, which generates electricity using rooftop panels that generate electricity on site.

Solel is one of the world’s largest solar thermal companies and is constructing similar plants in Israel and southern Spain. Nine plants in the Mojave Desert already produce 354 megawatts of electricity using Solel technology. The high intensity of the sun at that location makes it one of the best for generating solar-thermal power.

Source: International Herald Tribune