So Cal Edison, eSolar enter 245-MW power pact

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Southern California solar thermal developer eSolar and investor-owned utility Southern California Edison said on Tuesday they will build a total of 245 megawatts of concentrating solar towers to be operational in 2011.

Pasadena, California-based eSolar will build the plants in the Antelope Valley of Southern California and will then sell the renewable, no-emissions electricity to SCE in a 20-year purchase agreement.

SCE, serving 4.8 million electricity customers, is the biggest subsidiary of Edison International, based in Rosemead, which like Pasadena is in the Los Angeles area.

In April, eSolar announced $130 million in funding from Google Inc’s philanthropy arm and other investors.

The SCE series of solar towers to be built by eSolar were mentioned in April when eSolar made its Google funding announcement., technology incubator Idealab, Oak Investment Partners and other investors contributed to the funding.

Concentrating solar power is seen by its developers and investors as a viable replacement for fossil-fueled power plants because its plants can rival the size of many conventional power plants.

Also, its supporters say concentrating solar power will soon provide electricity near or at the price of coal- and natural gas-fired power plants.

So Cal Edison’s top renewable power officer Stuart Hemphill said, “eSolar’s proposed solar projects promise to be modular, scalable and easily and rapidly deployed. SCE is excited about the prospects of eSolar’s unique solar technology and the potential benefits it can bring for our customers.”

SCE and other California utilities are required by the state to increase their no-emissions power sources.

Asif Ansari, founder and chief executive of eSolar, said the prefabricated solar towers offer flexibility with customers ranging from smaller plants to smaller utilities as well as those like SCE, one of the largest power utilities in the United States.

Reporting by Bernard Woodall;; +1 213-955-6752; Editing by Christian Wiessner