A new survey by the Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA) has ranked Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) as the US’s top electric utility in the amount of solar power added to its system in 2011. PG&E is first in the Annual Solar Megawatts category of the more than 240 utilities that participated in SEPA's 2011 Utility Solar Rankings survey.

PG&E claims it has helped more than 12,000 customers in Northern and Central California connect 162MW of solar at their homes and business in 2011, bringing the total number of customer solar installations to more than 63,000. It also connected 135MW of new large solar projects for the benefit of all customers. This includes PG&E's own expanding solar facilities, which when completed will deliver 250MW of clean energy – enough to power about 150,000 average customer homes.

"PG&E is pleased to support our customers' choice to go solar so they can realize the benefits of solar energy for their homes and businesses," said Helen Burt, senior vice president of customer care for PG&E. "We remain committed to providing our customers with clean, reliable, and affordable energy, including an increasing amount of power from large utility-driven solar projects."

Julia Hamm, president and CEO of SEPA said, "PG&E successfully adapted its business models and operations to allow for a significant amount of solar energy to be integrated into the grid last year, delivering the many benefits of clean solar energy to its customers."

Overall, utilities interconnected more than 62,000 PV systems of all sizes last year, according to SEPA's survey. These new systems resulted in almost 1,500MW of new utility solar capacity, more than twice as much as was added in 2010. Both the number of systems and the amount of new capacity make solar electricity the fastest growing electric source in the US in 2011.

"In addition to the photovoltaic systems added by customers and third-party producers, much of the growth has come from the direct actions of utilities," said Hamm. The findings show that 39% of new solar capacity came from utilities owning or contracting for solar power. Large solar projects, greater than 10MW each, represent the bulk of this capacity.

The full report on the total solar capacity of U.S. utilities, rankings by regions and other utility solar trends will be available in late May.

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