San Diego Gas & Electric Company  (SDG&E) said Tuesday it has signed a 20-year contract for up to 156 megawatts (MW) from the first phase of Sempra Generation’s Energía Sierra Juárez wind project in Baja California, Mexico. Both SDG&E and Sempra Generation are subsidiaries of Sempra Energy (NYSE: SRE ).
For SDG&E it is the latest in a flurry of activity to advance the company toward California’s renewable portfolio standard requiring that the state’s three investor-owned utilities supply 33% of their retail electricity sales from renewable power by 2020. At the end of Q1 2011, SDG&E was at 11.9%, compared with Southern California Edison at 19.4% and Pacific Gas and Electric at 17.7%, according to the California Public Utilities Commission .
SDG&E’s Energia Sierra Juarez contract is subject to approval by the CPUC and Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. First stage of the project, located about 70 miles east of San Diego and just south of the U.S.-Mexico border, is expected to begin in 2012. Energía Sierra Juárez has been under development by Sempra Generation since 2007 and could produce up to 1,200 MW of wind power when completed.
On April 12, SDG&E announced  renewable energy contracts for a combined total of 80 MW of solar energy in San Diego County. Including those agreements and this latest contract with Sempra Generation, the utility has signed a total of 12 new contracts in the past 12 months, adding to its resource mix more than 1,000 MW of renewable energy to be generated in Southern California.
In the April 12 announcement, SDG&E described two 25-year solar power purchase agreements and revised its agreement with renewable energy developer NaturEner to buy power from the company’s Rim Rock wind farm project in Montana. NaturEner is based in Spain, has offices in San Francisco and Calgary, and has more than 1000 MW of wind power under development in the U.S. and Canada.
The first of the solar agreements is a 25-year contract with subsidiaries of Carmel, California-based Sol Orchard, LLC to purchase as much as 50 MW of locally produced solar energy. The agreement calls for 21 individual, ground-mounted photovoltaic plants that would be built mainly in rural communities in San Diego County over the next two years. Most will be 2-MW projects, but some will be as large as 4 MW.
The second solar power purchase agreement is with subsidiaries of Soitec Solar Development, LLC, a renewable energy company managed by Soitec SA (Paris: SOI.PA ) . The agreement includes three contracts with the combined capacity of 30 MW of solar energy to be generated at three solar power plant sites in San Diego County. The plants will use Soitec Concentrix technology using concentrator photovoltaic (CPV) technology modules that will be manufactured at a new Soitec factory to be built in the San Diego area. The projects will deploy a ground-mounted, dual-axis tracking CPV solar power system, which uses lenses to concentrate sunlight onto very small, extremely efficient solar cells that convert the light into electrical energy.
SDG&E’s contract revision with NaturEner reduced the power contracted from 309 MW to 189 MW and included provisions for a tax equity investment on behalf of utility customers.
Photo credit: Sempra Energy
DISCLOSURE: The writer has no positions in, or professional connections with, these companies.