4 April 2011

SolFocus completes CPV plant for California agribusiness

Concentrator photovoltaic (CPV) system maker SolFocus Inc of Mountain View, CA, USA, engineering, construction and project management firm Bechtel Power Corp and Sol Orchard LLC (which specializes in ground-mounted, solar projects for land owners to develop underutilized land into revenue-generating or operating-expense-off-setting use) say that a 1MW CPV plant has been completed for Nichols Farms in Hanford in California’s San Joaquin Valley.

Picture: SolFocus’ CPV arrays powering Nichols Farm.

The installation will produce 2,244 million kilowatt hours (kWh) in the first year (about 70% of the processing facility’s electricity demand). Sited on 6 acres adjacent to the pistachio processing facility and consisting of 119 SF-1100S CPV systems (each generating 8.8kW of power), the plant was designed and built by Bechtel, and is now connected to the regional electrical grid serviced by SoCal Edison.

“As an integrated grower, processor, and marketer of pistachios, I appreciate the value of harnessing natural resources in an efficient, sustainable manner,” says owner Chuck Nichols. “The high energy yield combined with the superior environmental footprint of the SolFocus systems made it an ideal choice for our facility, which processes pistachios for farmers throughout the Central Valley of California.”

California’s central valley region has significant solar resources and agricultural businesses that can benefit from solar technology. The Nichols Farms project is delivering lower operating costs, and the impact of future increasing energy costs has been minimized, says SolFocus.

“Helping to advance high-efficiency, large-scale solar energy is a strategic interest for Bechtel,” says Ian Copeland, president of Bechtel’s Renewable Power division. “The SolFocus system provides a combination of high-efficiency CPV with rapid installation capabilities that can deliver cost-competitive power very quickly,” he adds.

“This CPV agribusiness project with Nichols Farms is the first of its kind in North America,” reckons SolFocus’ CEO Mark Crowley. “It demonstrates how SolFocus technology can easily accommodate a wide variety of energy demands that farms and other agricultural sites need,” he adds. “The CPV industry has announced several large projects that will have a significant impact in upcoming years. However, it is this type of distributed generation solar plant which can immediately impact sustainability across a broad range of applications.”

“This new and growing industry is investing in our Central Valley,” comments Michael Picker, Special Advisor to the Governor for Renewable Energy Facilities. “By increasing energy and cost efficiency through the deployment of SolFocus CPV solar technology, Nichols Farms demonstrates the next generation of solar technology and sustainable agriculture,” adds Assemblyman David Valadao.

Sol Orchard introduced the concept to Nichols Farms, and developed the project from concept to completion. “This is the third project we have developed utilizing SolFocus technology,” says president Jeff Brothers. “The high energy yield and reliable products allow us to move forward on projects quickly and with good financial results,” he comments. “Bringing Bechtel in as the contractor gave us assurance that, when the switch was flipped, we’d have a robust power plant capable of delivering on all of its expectations.”

SolFocus’ CPV technology uses a system of patented reflective optics (curved mirrors) to concentrate sunlight 650 times onto small gallium arsenide-based solar cells (on germanium substrates) that have high solar energy conversion efficiency. The SF-1100S system deployed at the farm features dual-axis tracking for consistent energy delivery, offers environmental benefits including no water usage for energy production, a small land footprint with dual-use potential, and no permanent shadowing or wildlife corridor disruption. SolFocus claims that its CPV technology provides the shortest energy payback and lowest greenhouse gas (GHG) intensity of any solar technology. In solar-rich regions it also yields significantly more energy than other technologies, with an extremely light environmental footprint, the firm adds.

Tags: SolFocus CPV

Visit: www.solfocus.com

Visit: www.bechtel.com

Visit: www.solorchard.com

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