Recently, Arizona Western College unveiled its new 5 megawatt solar project, which features five different technologies, among them two concentrated photovoltaic (CPV) systems.
CPV systems are newer to the market than other technologies, but large solar projects like this are helping them leap forward and become more familiar to investors like Main Street Power and Morgan Stanley which financed the Yuma, Arizona, project—which included CPV installations from GreenVolts, Inc. and SolFocus.
Normal solar panels are pretty boring with relatively predictable results, said Main Street Power Senior Vice President Jonathan Postal.
“Whereas CPV is quite new,” said Postal. “What we saw, especially in a climate like Yuma, is to look at CPV as a game changer. And the price point for CPV when we started looking at this project really was you were producing more power for the same cost, and that's obviously the Holy Grail for us in the finance space.”
“There's a period of time it takes to get financing people comfortable with new technologies, which isn't shocking,” said Nancy Hartsoch, SolFocus vice president of Marketing. “[With] young companies like GreenVolts and ourselves, you're coming out with a new product that has to live in the field for 30 years.”
SolFocus has been around for about six years, with its products in the field for about four years.
GreenVolts faces the same challenges.
“Projects like this are critical to new technology companies like ours. We need to prove ourselves out in the market, and this gives us the opportunity to do that,” said Eric Romo, GreenVolts’ vice president of Strategic Development. “There's only so much we can do with test sites and funding things on our balance sheet. We eventually need customers and tier-1 credible customers like APS, and Main Street and Morgan Stanley working with us to show that our product is something that people should adopt.”
While CPV is still new, it’s making significant advances.
“I think 2011 was its breakout year, where I think [institutions] like Morgan Stanley Main Street and other large financing people have started to say: 'Yup, we believe the benefit is much greater than the risk.’ And I think you'll see it here where these technologies are going to produce 2,400 to 2,800 megawatt hours a year compared to some of the other technologies which will produce less in this particular climate,” Hartsoch said.
The CPV systems and their performance are being compared and tested alongside other PV technologies, which include thin-film PV from Sharp Solar, monocrystalline modules from SolarWorld and polycrystalline modules from SunTech.