California utility Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) inked a $2 to $3 billion solar deal last year with Brightsource Energy for 900MW of solar thermal power. Now PG&E has furthered its commitment to both Brightsource and solar energy by expanding the deal to 1,340 MW–enough to power 530,000 homes and make it the world’s largest solar deal. The next largest deal is a contract for 1,300 MW between BrightSource and Southern California Edison. All of the Brightsource contracts are part of the utilities’ push to produce 20% of power from renewable sources by 2010 and 30% by 2017.
Brightsource’s solar thermal technology works with a central power tower containing an array of mirrors that reflect light from the sun onto a water-filled central receiver. The reflection creates steam that powers a turbine. BrightSource’s Israeli pilot plant is already in operation and steam production has been verified.
The first of PG&E and Brightsource’s seven plants, a 110MW solar thermal plant in Ivanpah, CA, will come online in 2012. Operation dates for the other six plants are still up in the air.