2 Solar Plants To Be Built In Southern California

Despite all of President Obama's talk about renewable energy, it's been tough lately for the solar industry. First Solar, one of the country's largest solar power companies, just struck a deal with Southern California Edison to build two large solar power plants. Together the plants would produce enough electricity to power 170,000 homes.

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Sales for the solar power industry haven't fared well either. But NPR's Elizabeth Shogren reports that one of the country's largest solar power companies sees light on the horizon.

ELIZABETH SHOGREN: First Solar just struck a deal with Southern California Edison Company to build two large solar power plants. Together they'd produce enough electricity to power a 170,000 homes. Alan Bernheimer represents First Solar.

Mr. ALAN BERNHEIMER (Communications Director, First Solar): It is true that it's been a tough year but projects like this are very encouraging.

SHOGREN: Like most solar panel companies, First Solar saw its stocks plummet in the recession. Solar projects require lots of capital, and even generous tax breaks haven't been enough to lure investment for most big projects. Although First Solar is based in sunny Tempe, Arizona, most of its business is in Germany. First Solar vice president John Carrington says the new deal was aided by California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's target to produce a third of the state's electricity from renewable sources by 2020.

Mr. JOHN CARRINGTON (Vice President, First Solar): That's really helped propel the solar business in California.

SHOGREN: Attorney R.J. Lyman helps clients build clean energy projects. He says it won't be easy to meet President Obama's goal of 20 percent renewable power by 2020.

Mr. R.J. LYMAN (Attorney): Announcements like this need to happen every week, week after week, year after year, for a decade to come.

SHOGREN: Generous loan guarantees and grants from the economic stimulus package are just becoming available. They could help close more solar deals in the near future.

Elizabeth Shogren, NPR News, Washington.

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