The NYT's Green Inc blog has a post on a concentrating solar PV (CPV) project at a California University - Concentrating Photovoltaic Project Under Way at California College.
The nation’s first big concentrating photovoltaic power plant is under construction in the California desert.
SolFocus, a Silicon Valley startup, is building the one-megawatt solar farm for Victor Valley College in Victorville, a desert community northeast of Los Angeles.
The company builds large solar panels that contain small mirrors that concentrate sunlight onto tiny, high-efficiency solar cells. Though more expensive than conventional solar cells, they use a fraction of the silicon and produce more electricity. That means less land is needed for a SolFocus power plant than one deploying conventional photovoltaic panels.
The SolFocus panels are mounted on trackers that follow the sun throughout the day. While SolFocus has built power plants in Europe, the California project is its first solar farm in the United States. Victor Valley College selected SolFocus after receiving competitive bids from several companies that install conventional photovoltaic panels and thin-film solar systems.
“After reviewing several options for a solar provider, SolFocus demonstrated that it could deliver the best value in solar energy for the college,” Robert Silverman, Victor Valley College’s president, said in a statement. The SolFocus power plant will supply about 30 percent of the college’s overall electricity demand.
SolFocus’ technology needs strong, direct sunlight to maximize electricity production. “If this deployment had been in somewhere in Northern California or Washington or Oregon, we probably wouldn’t have won the battle,” said Nancy Hartsoch, a vice president of marketing at SolFocus. Ms. Hartsoch added that in desert regions, the company’s technology generates electricity at prices competitive with traditional photovoltaic panels.
The 122-panel arrays will cover six acres at the college and the project is expected to be completed by early May. Ms. Hartsoch said SolFocus also has two other megawatt-size power plants undergoing permitting in the desert that have not yet been announced.