Southern California Edison announced March 27 that it plans to install an $875 million, 250 MW solar power rooftop project across parts of the Inland Empire. The announcement comes after Sempra said it was going into the renewable energy generation business last month. The parent company of SoCal Gas and San Diego Gas & Electric is starting with a wind farm development in Baja. For the last decade, utilities avoided investing in renewable energy because it was deemed too small a business. But now, with the state\u2019s 20 percent renewable mandate looming less than two years away, there is renewed interest and pressure to make capital investments in non-fossil electric generation resources. Unlike other large solar projects planned in areas far from transmission lines and population centers, this one would sit on hundreds of thousands of feet of commercial rooftops close to the grid. It would feed directly into the distribution lines to serve the fast-growing, hot area east of Los Angeles. This utility-scale photovoltaic rooftop project is touted as the largest of its kind in the world. \u201cThis project is just a hint of what will come in the future,\u201d Governor Schwarzenegger said standing on the expansive roof of the shuttered Kaiser Steel Mill in Fontana. \u201cIf commercial buildings statewide partnered with utilities to put this solar technology on their rooftops, it would set off a huge wave of renewable energy growth.\u201d The steel mill rooftop is 500,000 square feet. Edison plans to install 2 MW of photovoltaic panels on it. It signed a lease with the property owner, ProLogis, this week. An unspecified portion of the solar system is expected to begin pumping out power by this August, which is when the utility\u2019s demand soars. \u201cThe sunlight power will be available to meet our largest challenge--peak load demand on the hottest days,\u201d said John Bryson, Edison International chief executive officer. Edison says it will install 1 MW a week on properties owned by Prologis, which claims to be the biggest private real estate owner in California. The utility expects to complete the 250 MW installation in five years. In spite of this latest project, Edison--like the state\u2019s other two investor-owned utilities--still falls short of ensuring its power supplies are one-fifth renewable by 2010. \u201cWe are more than happy to get more renewables on line that avoid the thicket of new transmission lines,\u201d said Jim Metropulos, Sierra Club of California senior advisor. He added that there were concerns, however, that the utilities\u2019 and California Public Utilities Commission\u2019s push to tap more solar, wind, and other alternative energy supplies by 2010 is causing them \u201cto put on blinders and ignore processes that seek to increase renewable supplies beyond 20 percent.\u201d The massive scale of the project is estimated to lower the cost of photovoltaic installations by at least 50 percent, from $8,000\/kW to $3,500\/kW, according to Bryson. Edison spokesperson Gil Alexander said the utility was negotiating with a number of solar panel manufacturers. He does not expect the shortage of photovoltaic supplies, including silicon, to impact the utility\u2019s proposal. Market sources say the supply of polysilicon is increasing, and thus, the cost and availability of photovoltaic panels is expected to be cheaper and more abundant. Before the project is launched, it must be approved by the California Public Utilities Commission.