The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) approved of Southern California Edison's (SCE) proposal to develop up to 500 megawatts of energy using distributed solar generation, which would largely consist of contracting with "Independent Power Producers" to install roof-top photovoltaic solar panels. As SCE, and possible Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E)--which is also considering distributed solar generation--standardize the process for distributed solar generation the benefits of this model may take root and alleviate some of the pressure on the Mojave Desert.
Distributed generation can take the form of up to 1 or 2 megawatts of generation from panels placed on top of large commercial buildings, raised over parking lots, etc. Compared to the vast "utility-scale" projects being proposed in pristine Mojave Desert habitat, distributed generation will bring considerable savings since it will not require a large transmission network, it takes advantage of the under-utilized space in urban landscapes, does not require lengthy approval processes, and adds reliability since no single event can jeopardize power transmission or generation. Best of all, we can enjoy more undisturbed Mojave Desert wilderness if we produce energy where we live, instead of on a fragile national treasure.
However, do not expect SCE and PG&E distributed energy projects to spell a new era in responsible energy just yet. The demand for renewable energy is still high enough, and the pace of distributed energy is still slow enough, that governments and energy companies will still view vast solar farms in the Mojave as the quickest way to meet California legislated standards that 20% of power originate from renewable energy sources.