It’s entirely appropriate that California should take the lead in the generation of solar power. In the wake of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s signing of an executive order that raises the state’s renewable energy portfolio standard (RPS) to a national high, one company broke ground on a new solar-power facility that will raise the bar for the industry.

The San Francisco-based Cleantech America began construction in August 2009 on California’s first utility-scale photovoltaic solar project to be approved under the state’s RPS program. Named CalRENEW-1, the solar farm is located in the city of Mendota in California’s Central Valley and will provide 5 megawatts of solar electricity to PG&E under a long-term power-purchase agreement. The facility is scheduled to begin operation before the end of 2009 and, when completed, will be one of the largest photovoltaic solar projects in the state.

CalRENEW-1 represents a successful collaboration between the company, PG&E and the city of Mendota. Project supporters boast that it demonstrates the viability of large-scale photovoltaic solar to help the state meet its renewable-energy goals.

In September, Schwarzenegger signed an executive order raising the state’s RPS from 20 percent by 2010 to 33 percent by 2020. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the state with the next highest RPS is New York, where utilities must acquire 24 percent of their electrical power from renewable sources by the year 2013.