California initiative installs record solar panels

The California Public Utility Commission reported last week that the state has installed a record 78 megawatts of solar panels during the first quarter of 2009. California is the world’s third-largest solar market according to CPUC data.

The California Solar Initiative, managed by CPUC, aims to produce 3,000 MW of new, solar-powered electricity by 2016 in order to move the state toward a cleaner energy future and helping to lower the cost of solar systems for consumers. CPUC data suggest that solar-panel prices have fallen 25 percent or more, on average. Rachelle Chong, California’s Public Utilities Commissioner said, “CPUC is pleased to see 78 MW record of solar panels installed for Q1 09. We are committed to solar for everyone.”

California will spend $3.3 billion over the next ten years on the solar initiative, including $400 million for the New Solar Homes Partnership to produce 360 MW and $700 million for the Publicly Owned Utility Program to produce 700 MW. One megawatt of power can provide electricity to between 460 and 900 homes depending on the region.

Dow Jones reports that a flurry of acquisitions and mergers in the solar-power industry that has occurred in the last few weeks is likely to continue due to tough credit markets. Four acquisitions caught the eyes of industry observers, according to the Dow Jones article. The deals included San Francisco-based Recurrent acquiring solar assets of UPC Energy Group; Act Solar Inc. partnering with National Semiconductor Corp. for funding; MMA Renewable Ventures getting funding from Spanish solar developer Fotowatio SL; and Tempe, Arizona-based First Solar Inc. acquiring the project-development pipeline of Optisolar Inc.

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