California utility commits to massive solar buy, B.C. deals with oil spill

Call it the light and dark sides of the energy industry: yesterday, as news spread that a major California utility will make a ginormous solar buy, a British Columbia neighborhood was drenched in crude oil spewing from a broken pipe. Related? Only in the sense that all our global energy interests are tied. But holy visual metaphor, Batman! While officials in Burnaby, B.C., struggled to clean up the mess — which led to the evacuation of 20 homes, the “voluntary evacuation” of 80 more, and residents complaining of headaches and nausea — Pacific Gas & Electric execs polished their own image with a pledge to buy 550 megawatts of solar power generated by the world’s largest thermal solar array. The planned Mojave Desert facility — which will use mirrors to focus the sun’s rays on pipes containing fluid that will then produce steam that powers turbines, whew — will start making energy by 2011 or 2012, and is, says PG&E VP for Energy Procurement Fong Wan, “one of the most promising technologies for us.”