New Jersey-based Petra Solar seeks to install its SunWave solar panels on utility poles in California, where about 100 units are being tested in cities; Petra's chief sees opportunity due to large-scale solar project regulatory delays, cost advantages

LOS ANGELES , September 13, 2011 () – Petra Solar Inc. is proposing to install its SunWave solar system on California’s utility poles as a cost-effective alternative to large scale solar projects, which have been delayed by regulatory hurdles, said Petra’s chief, reported The New York Times on Sept. 12.

Large-scale project delays stand in the way of California meeting its 33% renewable portfolio standard. “And that is where Petra Solar comes in,” said Shihab Kuran, the company’s CEO.

The South Plainfield, New Jersey-based company, which has installed tens of thousands of the hi-tech panels in New Jersey, has put up about 100 panels in pilot programs with various city governments in California.

Petra estimates that installing the SunWave panels on 50% of California’s utility poles would increase the state’s solar generating capacity by 720 megawatts (MW). The state now has about 10,000 MW of installed solar capacity, the Times reported.

The California governor’s office supports expanding the state’s “distributed solar resources,” said Mignon Marks, executive director of the California Solar Energy Industry Association.

However, the state hasn’t given up on large-scale solar plants outside cities; instead it is working to lift some of the regulatory burdens that frequently slow down such projects, she said, reported the Times.

Kuran said California is focusing more on solar power generation in cities and towns, where it can directly meet growing power demand, reported the Times.

Aside from generating power, the SunWave system is able to wirelessly send data and receive instructions. Each panel is equipped with grid applications developed jointly with the U.S. Dept. of Energy.

The system is designed to prevent overloading or outages, and has “reactive power” capabilities, said Joe DeLuca, VP of development and product management at Petra.

Adam Browning, executive director of the Vote Solar Initiative in San Francisco, expects that California will rely on various types of renewable energy projects. The success of Petra in California will depend on pricing it can offer utilities, he said, the Times reported.

The Petra system is the only one worldwide that doesn’t require “investing in the upgrade of transmission or distribution infrastructure, or building new substations, or clearing out large areas of land and relocating animals,” said Kuran.
About 40 MW of New Jersey’s 500 MW of total installed solar capacity will come from Petra’s solar panels by year-end.

New Jersey ranked as the world’s best spot for solar power investment in first-half 2011, according to a report released this week by Boston-based Lux Research Inc. California didn’t make the top five, which included Portugal, Australia, Italy and India, reported the Times.

The primary source of this article is The New York Times, New York, New York, on Sept. 12, 2011.

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