One of California’s largest power companies, Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), will buy energy from a 150 megawatt solar power plant built by a Santa Monica-based company under a long-term contract, officials with PG&E said Tuesday.

California has a target to obtain a third of its electricity from renewable energy sources by 2020, but one issue facing the clean power sector is how to store energy for times when the sun does not shine or the wind does not blow.

Enter SolarReserve. The company, which has been located in Santa Monica since it was founded two years ago, is creating a project that uses mirrors to focus sunlight to heat molten salt, which in turn heats water for a steam generator to produce electricity. The molten salt technology also can store the energy when sunlight is not available.

State regulators must approve the power deal between PG&E and SolarReserve.

The project is expected to be completed in 2013 and generate enough electricity for some 68,000 homes, the utility said. The plant will be located 30 miles northwest of the city of Blythe in eastern Riverside County.

“Throughout the process, we have worked hard to minimize the project’s impact on local resources which is why the project is being developed on privately-owned land that had been previously used as an air field,” said Kevin Smith, SolarReserve’s CEO. “Further, the project will use a dry cooling system that minimizes water usage without significantly impacting the plant’s operational performance.

“We look forward to working with state and federal regulators in the permitting process to help bring this important project to reality for Californians.”

The plant is expected to create 450 construction jobs and employ 45 permanent staff with an operating budget of more than $5 million, with the majority being spent in Riverside and San Bernardino Counties.

SolarReserve also landed on Tuesday a 25-year power purchase agreement with NV Energy for the energy generated by a 100 MW solar project that the renewable player is developing in Nevada.

Privately held SolarReserve has a license to use the molten salt solar power technology developed by United Technologies Corp.

Daily Press

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