It was another busy week for solar last week, With a number of new technologies making the headlines. Among those, Lux Research named two solar companies among its top tech companies to watch, SunPower announced a first commercial deployment of a new PV array, the Clean Energy Trust’s grand prize was awarded to a solar company and solar sails made the news again.
First off, Lux Research named Zep Solar and Intermolecular as two of the most compelling companies with new, innovative technologies. Zep Solar was named for its work to make racking PV systems easier, reducing installation time and cost. While Intermolecular was recognized for its history of working with semiconductor manufacturers to increase their products’ efficiencies. Now, apparently its looking to use its knowledge and experience in the solar industry.
Meanwhile LuminAID took home the top award, $100,000 in startup capital in Clean Energy Trust’s Clean Energy Challenge. The company builds inexpensive, lightweight, inflatable solar lights. The idea is the lights can be shipped in flat packages to disaster areas and aid in the recovery and or safety for the victims of the disasters. The company was envisioned in reaction to the Haiti earthquake and became a more pressing matter when the company founders found themselves in Japan’s earthquake in 2011.
SunPower, known for its industry leading silicon PV cells recently completed its first installation of a new technology that allows it to use much less of its cells while producing the same amount of energy using its C7 Tracker. The tracker is a low-concentration system that focusses light by a factor of seven on a row of SunPower’s Maxeon PV cells. The company said the system can deliver solar power at the lowest levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) yet. It completed the first commercial-scale deployment of the system at Arizona State University in Mesa, Ariz. SunPower signed a power purchase agreement with the Salt River Project (SRP), which in turn signed a PPA with the university for all the power produced by the array.
Both NASA and Japan have launched solar sails into space in the past, but NASA now plans to launch a solar sail that has more square footage than most homes. The Sunjammer is a 13,000-square-foot solar sail attached to a satellite that’s designed to sail roughly 1.5 million kilometers from the earth where it will study solar flairs.
Turning to more terrestrial and domestic applications, more U.S. residents are interested in putting solar on their homes via PPAs or leases than ever before, but that’s part of a larger trend toward what SunRun calls ‘disownership’ or renting and leasing items that people formerly purchased. The study found that roughly 25 percent of all citizens are now more likely to lease items that used to be commonly bought. Among them, (not surprisingly) solar, bikes, vacations, and more.
Solar is still making waves on the utility-scale in the U.S., too. Last week First Solar announced that it bought the 150 megawatt Solar Gen 2 Project in Imperial County, Calif. The company plans to complete the project by the end of 2014, which may make it one of the quickest arrays in excess of 100 megawatts to go from starting construction to completion. The project is under a power-purchase agreement with San Diego Gas & Electric and was originally supposed to start generating power for the utility in 2012.
Also in big solar projects, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) issued a request for proposals to develop solar projects on 3,714 acres in Colorado. The agency opened up two sites for solar that were previously identified as Solar Energy Zones. One parcel is the 1,064 acre De Tilla Gulch parcel, and the other, the 2,641 acre Los Mogotes East parcel.