solar thermalPacific Gas & Electric is buying 550 MW of concentrated solar. It’s one of the biggest solar purchases ever, from what will be the world’s biggest concentrated solar plant. The company is trying to conform to California’s mandate that it get 20% of its power from renewables by 2010.

According to Mr. [Fong] Wan [VP for energy procurement], about 12 percent of P.G.& E.’s electricity today comes from renewable sources, divided somewhat evenly among wind, biomass, small hydropower and geothermal. (California does not count traditional large hydroelectric dams toward the quota.)

The contract with Solel would add nearly two percentage points to the company’s renewable energy total.

… Ideally, [Wan] said, solar thermal energy would eventually account for up to 5 percent of the utility’s energy supply. The company is on track to meet the 20 percent quota, he said, even if some suppliers do not deliver as promised.

PG&E’s paying around $0.10/KWh, “roughly what an average kilowatt-hour sells for at retail to American residential customers.” As the demand signal for renewables becomes louder and more steady, I expect that number will fall considerably.