From: LA Times
Published January 5, 2009 08:17 AM

Sempra solar energy project makes advances in costs

Generating clean electricity that's as cheap as power from fossil fuels is the Holy Grail of green-energy companies. A new solar project powering California homes appears to be closing in on that prize.

Sempra Generation, a subsidiary of Sempra Energy in San Diego, just took the wraps off a 10-megawatt solar farm in Nevada. That's small by industry standards, enough to light just 6,400 homes. But the ramifications are potentially huge.


A veteran analyst has calculated that the facility can produce power at a cost of 7.5 cents a kilowatt-hour, less than the 9-cent benchmark for conventional electricity.

If that's so, it marks a milestone that renewable fans have longed for: "grid parity," in which electricity from the sun, wind or other green sources can meet or beat the price performance of such carbon-based fuels as coal and natural gas.

"We now have an alternative-energy source that can actually deliver cost-competitive electricity with no subsidies," said Mark Bachman, senior equity analyst for Pacific Crest Securities in Portland, Ore.

The stock of First Solar Inc., the Tempe, Ariz., company that manufactured the solar modules for the project, has soared 20% since Bachman released his analysis in mid-December. It jumped $13.54 on Friday to $151.50.

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