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SolarReserve, a U.S. developer of large-scale solar power projects, has received unanimous approval from the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to sell power from its 150 MW Rice solar energy project under an amended 25-year power purchase agreement (PPA) with utility Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E).

SolarReserve secured a 25-year power purchase agreement for the Rice project with PG&E in December 2009. The contract was amended in late 2011 to accommodate a modification in the transmission connection of the plant and a revised commercial operations date.

According to SolarReserve, the Rice project, to be located in eastern Riverside County, will be the first large-scale solar project in California to include energy- storage capabilities. With eight hours of full power energy storage, the Rice project will diversify California's energy mix, generating more than 450,000 MWh annually of clean energy, the developer adds.

Kevin Smith, CEO of SolarReserve, notes that the CPUC made it clear that the project's ability to store energy was a key factor in approving the amended Rice contract. In the CPUC's 5-0 unanimous vote, Catherine J.K. Sandoval said, "This particular project will also offer storage, which is a key component, and make it therefore hopefully more flexible in terms of being able to help us support integration. I look forward to this technology coming into California and helping us with renewable integration."

Also in the vote, Commissioner Mike Florio said, "Eight to 10 hours of fully dispatchable storage is quite impressive and offers significant benefits to the system that we don't yet know how to quantify fully, but there's definitely value there. There is a similar project reaching completion in Nevada, and hopefully this is the first of many."

The project has received full environmental permits, including its California Energy Commission license and National Environmental Policy Act approvals. It will be located on privately owned and previously disturbed land in the Sonoran Desert. Financing activities are under way, and the project is expected to break ground in early 2014, with commercial operation scheduled for mid-2016.

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