Solar Panels on Industrial Building Roofs, to make electricity for 160,000 homes

This story, points out what we http://www.wind-inc.comhave been preaching for 7 years. End use, on site electric production. It saves expensive transmission costs and in this example will make power for 160,000 homes. Plus it increases the appraised value of the buildings that it is put on says our appraisal department ( It also lowers the location building's "heat" exposure and lowers air conditioning costs. Our credit

Solar on industrial building roofs, concept promoted by for years

and compliments to USA Today for carrying this story and to Julie Schmit for writing it. Also, another insight. See who is promoting this concept? The utility companies. The smart ones who have the interests of the nation in focus, are getting the idea, that we need additional renewable energy. As we at Wind Inc. and Boothe Global Perspectives have been communicating for years, this is the trend and the answer for our nation. See the story here:

By Julie Schmit, USA TODAY FONTANA, Calif. — The view from a warehouse roof here is consistent. In every direction, there are blocks and blocks of warehouse roofs baking in the Southern California sun. Rather than letting them sit bare, a California utility hopes to blanket roofs like these with solar panels to produce enough electricity to power 162,000 homes.

Southern California Edison has installed solar on two warehouse roofs and is working on another in the Los Angeles region. The utility expects to do 100 to 125 more, totaling about 1.5 square miles of roof space in the next five years.

The program, in which the utility owns the solar, is the largest of its kind in the nation, not surprising since California is the No. 1 solar market. But utilities in other states, including North Carolina, New Mexico, Arizona and New Jersey, have smaller plans to rent roofs for their own mini-solar-power plants, too.

The phenomenon, while in its infancy, presents another way for solar to spread in a bigger way than it has historically done when home and business owners put solar on roofs. The deep-pocketed utilities are planning bigger installations. Yet the systems don't consume green land or require new power-transmission links, as do some massive solar farms planned for deserts in California, Arizona and Nevada. As such, rooftop solar is likely to face fewer environmental hurdles than the farms and can get permits and be built much faster.

"Everybody is looking to see how this works," says solar analyst Alfonso Velosa at research firm Gartner. "Southern California Edison is the experiment."

Like other utilities in much of the country, Edison is under pressure to increase use of renewable energy, such as solar and wind.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has set the goal for California's utilities to get 33% of their energy from renewable sources by 2020.

Traditionally, utilities have looked to other companies to build solar power plants and sell the power to them. But with Edison's rooftop project, it'll own the solar and pay the warehouse owners to rent the space. The power will flow to Edison's grid and serve all kinds of customers, maybe even the building from which it came.

The panels are like the photovoltaic panels that go on household roofs. But the roofs are massive, and the panels number in the tens of thousands.

33,700 solar panels on 1 roof

The first roof Edison installed is here, in Fontana, just east of Los Angeles amid a major warehouse distribution hub. From the Fontana roof, 9 million square feet of warehouse roof is visible, Edison says.

The Fontana roof holds 33,700 solar panels over almost 600,000 square feet. It kicks out 2 megawatts of electricity, enough to serve 1,300 California homes. The electricity travels under a parking lot to an existing power line on the street.

It took Edison two months to get the project permitted and two to get it built. Solar farms in California's desert can take years to get permits and to be built. Edison told state regulators that it anticipated paying building owners $20,000 per megawatt per year for rent, or about $20,000 per year for about 250,000 square feet of roof space.

"I don't have to use green land, and it's a lot faster," says Mark Nelson, who heads the project for Edison.

The Fontana warehouse is owned by ProLogis, a leading global warehouse owner with more than 475 million square feet of industrial space.

The Denver-based company, which refused to comment on its rent for the Fontana warehouse, has been approached for years by cellphone companies wanting to put towers on roofs and other companies wanting to turn them into billboards. Solar is looking more promising, not only in Southern California but across ProLogis' markets, says ProLogis Vice President Drew Torbin. "We see a big demand," he adds.

ProLogis started experimenting with rooftop solar in Europe in 2005. In addition to the Fontana warehouse rented to Edison, ProLogis has solar panels on 10 other warehouse rooftops in the U.S. On those, a third party owns the panels and sells the power to utilities. In the next four years, ProLogis expects to allow panels on up to 25 million square feet of its warehouse space.

"It's a way we can create new value for an existing asset," Torbin says. "It's good for our business and it's good for the environment."

In addition to the 250 megawatts of solar that Edison expects to own, it expects at least another 240 megawatts to be put on commercial rooftops by other companies that will sell the electricity to Edison.

That'll mean more competition for roofs. Edison needs roofs that are less than 5 years old so they'll last while panels run their 20-year lifespans.

Real estate firm AMB Property, which owns 22.4 million square feet of warehouse space in the Los Angeles region, has also rented Edison a warehouse roof. It expects rents to rise as Edison and others compete for space, especially given the recession-driven dearth of new construction. "Time is on the side of the building owners," says Steven Campbell, AMB senior vice president.

The rooftop photovoltaic model also presents new management challenges for utilities. They've long managed power that flows from a big plant onto the grid. What they don't have is experience managing smaller flows from hundreds of diversely located sites.

Earlier this year, Hawaiian Electric said it found that electricity supplies from small photovoltaic installations were prone to going off-line when there were disturbances on the power grid —a situation it's addressing with the solar industry. The utility said it also experienced outages that would not have happened or would have affected fewer customers without so much photovoltaic on the grid.

Edison says it's confident it can manage the flow, and it spent months developing the technology to connect the roof panels to its distribution system.

Some consumer advocates disapproved of Edison's plan, saying it would be too expensive for ratepayers. Solar photovoltaic power remains the most expensive renewable source, and Edison's plan would result in power that costs more than twice the average of other electricity sources, including coal and natural gas, says Dave Ashuckian of the Division of Ratepayer Advocates at the California Public Utilities Commission. What's more, other California-subsidized photovoltaic programs provide solar for less than what Edison's will cost, Ashuckian says.

Photovoltaic vs. solar thermal

While photovoltaic is the type of solar used on homes and businesses, another technology has traditionally been viewed as better for large-scale solar.

That technology is solar thermal, in which thousands of mirrors over hundreds or thousands of acres of land concentrate the sun's heat on a liquid, which creates steam that runs a generator to make electricity. Photovoltaic technology generates electricity directly from sunlight via an electronic process.

In the past, solar thermal has been considered lower-cost and better suited to big solar farms. But more larger-scale photovoltaic farms are taking shape in California that rival or best the size of some of the proposed solar thermal farms. Several factors have aligned to make larger-scale photovoltaic projects, whether on the ground or the roof, more attractive, including:

• Panel pricing. Pricing for solar panels last year dropped 40% from 2008, researcher Navigant Consulting says. That makes solar more affordable and helps utilities persuade state regulators to OK the systems and pass the costs onto ratepayers, says Julia Hamm, executive director of the Solar Electric Power Association.

• Incentives. In the fall of 2008, utilities became eligible to receive federal tax credits for up to 30% of a project's cost. The tax credit was also extended to 2016, giving utilities certainty that they could begin longer-term projects and still get tax credits for years.

• Better technology. Panels no longer need as many, or any, punctures in roofs to be held in place. Instead, they use weights or design. That means there's less risk of leaks and less weight.

"It's taken a decade to get the technology ready," says Julie Blunden, vice president of solar panel maker SunPower, which will supply Edison with panels. That, and lower panel costs, "starts to make it a reasonable proposition," Blunden says.