Southern California environment news and trends

California hits new high in solar energy generation

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David McNew/Getty Images

As reported by GreenTechMedia, California has hit a new record high for solar energy production. According to Stephanie McCorkle of the California Independent System Operator (CASIO), the record was set on June 8 with 849 megawatts of solar energy generated.

“We don’t know how to measure or predict where we’ll go next, since this is the first time we’re seeing numbers this high,” explained Steven Greenlee, a spokesperson for CASIO by telephone. “If anything, it shows that the state is making progress on meeting its goal of 33 percent renewable energy. That’s indirectly, because those numbers are counted differently. But it’s still very good news and evidence that we’re on the right path to greening the grid.”

Both McCorkle and Greenlee agree that record number is sure to go even higher over the course of the summer.


World’s largest solar farm coming to Imperial Valley

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The Imperial County Board of Supervisors has given the green light to Folsom’s 8minutenergy Renewables to build a series of large-scale solar projects that will result in the world’s largest solar farm. The decision was supported by environmental organizations Defenders of Wildlife, Natural Resources Defense Council and the Sierra Club, which has been working in partnership with 8minutenergy Renewables on the project. Among the primary concerns is a program that protects the habitat of the burrowing owl, a local threatened species.

"By working with the Sierra Club and the rest of the environmental community to provide additional stewardship for the burrowing owl they have demonstrated that they will go the extra mile," said Bill Corcoran, Western Regional Director of Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign in a press release.


San Jose company set to build solar plant in Baja California

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Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images

A field of solar panels.

Solar energy systems supplier Solfocus has committed to building a 450-megawatt power plant near the border of Mexico and California. A joint operation between San Jose-based Solfocus, Mexican real estate developer Grupo Musa and Synergy Technologies in America, the plant will be built in 50-megawatt tranches. As announced in a press release, construction will begin on the first tranche later this year, with operations scheduled to begin sometime in 2013.

“The project is in direct alignment with the Mexico and U.S. bilateral clean energy agenda. The countries share a common goal of achieving strong economic growth and energy security while addressing climate change and increasing the reliability of energy infrastructure,” said Lic. David Munoz, Director General of the Baja California State Commission of Energy in the release. “Mexico has been successful with wind energy, and now this large solar project will support our energy infrastructure and economic development efforts in the very near future.”


Patrick Dempsey represents nationwide solar initiative

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Scott Olson/Getty Images

Everything really is coming up solar these days. Just this week we reported on the boom in solar usage across the country, hitting record numbers in 2011. We also checked in on a locally based program retrofitting homes in East L.A. with solar panels. Now a philanthropic effort initiative looks to donate solar equipment to “local schools, health clinics, and nongovernmental organizations and building the infrastructure to sustain the investment, including a network of supportive local partners, local installers, and system component providers.”

Manufacturer Trina Solar Limited is driving the effort, with actor and part-time racecar driver Patrick Dempsey serving as a spokesperson for the project.

“Solar power can be a practical solution to the critical issues facing the nation’s population and environment,” Dempsey said in a press release. “Solar is ready today to help local communities, as well as to create jobs and new businesses.


U.S. solar panel usage through the roof

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Lauren Sommer for NPR

Despite signs pointing to what could have been a grim year, 2011 was booming for American solar industries. According to a new GTM Research, solar panel installations more than doubled last year, with 1,855 megawatts of photovoltaic capacity going up as opposed to a mere 887 megawatts in 2010. That’s 109 percent growth, for those keeping score at home.

"In 2011, the market demonstrated why the U.S. is becoming a center of attention for global solar," said Shayle Kann, the managing director of the GTM Research’s solar practice in a press release. “It was the first year with meaningful volumes of large-scale PV installations.”

“We went from an industry that was installing megawatts a year to an industry that’s installing gigawatts,” adds Rhone Resch, president and chief executive officer of the Solar Energy Industries Association to the New York Times. “If we can attract the investment, the opportunity to grow is really limitless simply because demand for energy, and clean energy, is just so great.”