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DWP closes applications for solar buyback program

City News Service | 7/17/2012, 12:36 p.m.

LOS ANGELES, Calif.--The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power is a step closer to launching a pilot program that will allow customers to sell their excess solar energy to the utility for delivery to the rest of the city, a spokesman said today.

The LADWP announced that after receiving 26 submissions, the application period to be a part of the feed-in tariff, or FiT, program was closed.

The FiT demonstration program is aimed at increasing the department's renewable energy portfolio. State law requires the utility to generate 33 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020.

The department expects to purchase up to 10 megawatts of solar power from the first round of participants.

LADWP General Manager Ronald Nichols called it "a significant step toward enhancing the amount of solar energy produced in Los Angeles. We are very encouraged by the strong showing of well-priced proposed projects in the first round of bidding."

Staff are reviewing the applications and will winnow the field to a short list of proposed projects in August. The department will then study each of the solar panel setups to assess their ability to feed electricity into the city's power grid.

The utility will evaluate each project based on how much the applicants proposed to charge for the electricity.

The City Council in April gave the department permission to sign contracts lasting up to 20 years to purchase solar power at up to 30 cents per kilowatt hour, well above the 10 cents per kilowatt hour charged by large-scale solar producers. A DWP official told the council in April the department expects to sign contracts at rates will below the 30-cent ceiling.

Department spokesman Joseph Ramallo declined to release estimates about how much DWP will pay for the power, saying that would "compromise contract signing of the well-priced projects."

The applicants include apartment building owners and commercial and industrial property owners throughout the city. A minimum 30 kilowatt hour contribution to the grid eliminated residential solar power producers.

Nichols said the demonstration program would help the department discover pricing information to make expanding the program cost-effective. The LADWP hopes to eventually purchase 150 megawatts, about 3 percent of the utility's electricity supply, of solar power from its customers.