San Diego Gas & Electric strikes power purchase agreement with French solar panel maker Soitec for total of 305-MW from newly opened US$150M San Diego factory and four others to be built in region, all with Soitec's own solar panels

Tracy McDonald

Tracy McDonald

Dec 16, 2011 – Associated Press

SAN DIEGO , December 16, 2011 () – A French solar panel maker opened a $150 million factory Friday in a step that brings California closer to its target of getting one-third of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020.

Soitec will employ 450 people at its San Diego plant, which will begin commercial operations in the fourth quarter of 2012.

Gov. Jerry Brown celebrated the rare dose of good news on job creation by taking a dig at rival Texas.

"We're not going to compete with Texas on some of the stuff they do, but when it comes to utilizing the solar radiation, we've got a lot," Brown told an audience at the plant's entrance. "In fact, I like to assert we've got more sun available for energy in California than Texas has oil in the ground."

Brown, who signed a law this year requiring utilities to get one-third of power from renewable sources by 2020, said the state will surpass its goal. The state got 13.9 percent of its power from renewable sources in 2009.

Soitec said it will produce enough panels for 200 megawatts of electricity each year, enough to supply 75,000 homes. San Diego Gas & Electric Co., which serves 3.5 million customers in Southern California, has agreed to purchase 305 megawatts from plants built with Soitec panels.

Soitec will build five solar plants in east San Diego County with its own panels, yielding 105 megawatts for SDG&E, said Jim Avery, the utility's senior vice president of power supply. Tenaska Inc., an Omaha, Neb.-based power company, plans to ship 150 megawatts to the San Diego region from a plant in California's Imperial Valley.

SDG&E, a unit of Sempra Energy, currently gets about 20 percent of its electricity from renewable power sources, Avery said. The plants built with Soitec panels will add about three percentage points.

Soitec is building the San Diego factory without any government loans or financial support, said Clark Crawford, vice president of sales and business development in North America. The company raised $198 million in a stock offering in July.

Soitec, based in Bernin, France, last month posted a loss of $17 million on revenue of $214.6 million)for the first half of its fiscal year.

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