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California utility to spread 'solar power plant' across rooftops

Southern California Edison launches ambitious project to install 250 megawatts-worth of solar panels on commercial rooftops.

Southern California Edison (SCE) on Thursday launched a program to build the equivalent of a small power plant on commercial rooftops with thousands of solar panels.

The program calls for SCE to put enough solar photovoltaic panels on commercial buildings to turn out 250 megawatts of electricity, enough to supply about 162,000 homes.

Got roof space? Southern California Edison has some solar power for you. Southern California Edison

Once completed, the panels will take up 65,000,000 square feet of roofs in Southern California, or 2 square miles.

The total cost would be about $875 million and is projected to take about five years.

The utility, which has the backing of California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, said that it will help it meet California's mandate of generating 20 percent of the state's electricity from renewable sources by 2010.

Commercial rooftops are a relatively attractive place to put large-scale solar panel installations.

Typically, businesses do not own those panels. Instead, they contract with an outside provider who sells electricity that the panels generate back to the business owner at a predetermined rate.

SCE said that the panels will help alleviate the stress on the grid during the hottest times of the day.