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Edison's bright idea: Solar panels on industrial roofs can act as mini power plants

Mar 19, 2010 - Ryan Carter -San Gabriel Valley Tribune - McClatchy-Tribune

Southern California Edison officials on Thursday said they've found another large rooftop to turn into a power plant to harness megawatts of energy from the sun.

The Rosemead-based utility announced that it will install 16,300 solar panels on the roof of a 436,000-square-foot building in Rialto owned by AMP Property Corp.

By the time it's installed, that rooftop will become a mini power plant for a neighborhood, Edison officials said. And at a time when many lawmakers are pushing for more green jobs and cleaner power, Edison officials think they are on to something.

"It's in the right place at the right time," said Mark Nelson, director of generation, planning and strategy for Edison.

The panels, which will be installed in time to meet peak summer demand, will create 1 million watts of solar generating capacity. That power can then be connected to Edison's nearest neighborhood of customers.

"It's the ability to have small, localized power plants in areas that need the power and not have to build those big transmission lines that become time-consuming ..." Nelson said.

The Inland Empire has become a prime area for Edison's rooftop solar panels, Nelson said. There are several facilities in the area that have rooftops of 200,000 squarefeet or more, which Edison requires.

In this case, San Francisco-based AMB Property Corp.'s building became Edison's latest rooftop power station, which follows similar projects in Fontana and Chino.

"We found a very stable partner in Edison, and we didn't have the concerns that their business would not be viable," said Aaron Binkley, AMB's director of sustainability. "They are tapping into a new space resource, which is a rooftop."

In the business model, Edison essentially leases their rooftop from the building owner -- a transaction that has benefits for both.

Edison can interconnect small power plants directly to the distribution grid in a market where the price of doing a rooftop solar installation has come down.

A firm like AMB is beginning to see some benefits in the nascent rooftop solar market. Government incentives, technology and a renewed emphasis on green technology are adding some fuel to "forces that are coming together at the right time," Binkley said.

The job market might benefit, too, Edison's Nelson said.

Over the five-year span of the rooftop solar project, more than 600 jobs could be created for work on 100 sites, Edison said.

Between the three rooftops in the Inland Empire, officials say a combined 3 million watts of solar power will be created.

626-962-8811, ext. 2720


Updated: 2016/06/30

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