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LA approves 100 MW solar feed-in tariff program

A USPS solar installation in LAAs part of its effort to boost use of renewables in Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) Board of Water and Power Commissioners has approved 100 megawatts (MW) of a 150 MW solar feed-in tariff program. Under the program those wanting to install PV arrays between 30 kilowatts and 3 MWs will be paid up to 17 cents per kilowatt hour generated by their solar array under 20-year contracts. The program could become active as soon as February 1.

Under the program the first 20 MWs of PV installed will be eligible for an FiT rate of 17 cents per kilowatt hour produced. After that limit is reached the FiT rate will fall by 1 cent per kilowatt hour. After the initial offering, the department plans to offers 20 MWs of FiTs every six months. As each segment is subscribed, FiT rates will continue to drop by 1 cent per kilowatt hour, ending at 13 cents per kilowatt hour. Under the FiT customers, solar companies, and third party ownership companies are eligible to install solar and within LADWP’s service territory and sell it to LADWP at the set prices.

“It’s for anybody who has a project where they want to build solar…in our service area,” said LADWP spokesperson Carol Tucker. That could include large homes, commercial buildings and those who want to install solar on the ground. However, smaller systems, like most home arrays, can still qualify for department’s standard offer, which offers a rebate and net-metering. The difference between, the two is that arrays under the FiT program feed all the electricity produced straight onto the grid, while net-metered systems use the power locally first then feed any excess power produced back to the grid. The size restriction was put in place because of the costs associated with connecting and integrated FiT systems, she said.

This the first installation of a larger, 150 megawatt program, which is expected to run through 2016.The commission could make a determination on the second, 50 MW part of the program as  soon as March 2013.

In announcing the commission’s decision LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said, “Today we took another major step forward in transitioning to a clean energy future for Los Angeles. I’m proud of the LADWP Board of Water and Power Commissioners for moving Los Angeles forward to become the largest city in the nation to offer a feed-in tariff solar program.…The FiT program takes advantage of our abundant sunshine to spur new private sector investment that will create jobs and decrease our city’s reliance on dirty fossil fuels.”

The FiT is part of a larger effort that LADWP is taking to green its energy supply. “LADWP is replacing over 70% of its existing energy supply over the next 15 years,” said LADWP General Manager Ronald Nichols. He said solar was an important part of the transition and that locally produced solar power helps maintain power reliability in throughout its service area.

Under the FiT projects can range from 30 kilowatts to 3 MW. A certain percentage of that will be reserved for smaller projects, those between 30 kilowatts and 150 kilowatts.

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