Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Los Angeles boasts world's largest solar energy plan

Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa Monday unveiled an ambitious plan that calls for installing solar panels on residents' rooftops to meet 10 percent of the city's energy needs by the year 2020.

"Our solar initiative is the largest of any kind anywhere in the world. When it takes full effect, L.A. will have 1,280 megawatts more capacity -- more than exists in the entire United States today," said the mayor.

Utility officials say that the energy plan, Solar LA, is expected to cost each Los Angeles resident an additional 2 dollars a month once it is complete. Details of the plan, including a cost estimate, will come up over the next 90 days.

The framework of the plan calls for 380 megawatts of power to be generated from solar panels installed on residents' rooftops and through the SunShares Program, which would allow customers to purchase shares of a city solar plant in exchange for credits on their energy bills.

Another 500 megawatts of energy would come from utility-scale solar power projects that would feed into two transmission stations run by the city's Department of Water and Power.

The third part of the plan calls for 400 megawatts to be generated from solar systems installed on the rooftops of city- owned property. The project, with a cost between 1.5 billion U.S. dollars to 3 billion dollars, is slated for completion in 2014.

"The L.A. solar plan represents the generation of renewable energy in Los Angeles, by Los Angeles and for Los Angeles," said David Nahai, general manager of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.

Nahai said that the plan opens up the door of Los Angeles to the solar industry like no other market, and he hoped the solar industry would in turn reciprocate by bringing the prices down.

Currently only less than 1 percent of the city's energy supplies comes from solar, while coal and natural gas resources account for 76 percent of the energy produced by the utility.

According to the mayor's office, every 10 megawatts of solar power could potentially create 200 to 400 jobs.

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