San Diego Gas & Electric to purchase largest Concentrated PV plant

San Diego Gas & Electric to purchase largest Concentrated PV plantYesterday (March 10), Tenaska, an energy development company, and San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) announced a 25-year power-purchase agreement for the 150 megawatts of power that will be produced at the Imperial Solar Energy Center West site. In addition, they announced that the power will be generated by Concentrix ground-mounted concentrated photovoltaic (CPV) modules. It is the largest CPV project announced to date.

The project and another solar project being developed in the Imperial Valley are actually owned by Tenaska affiliate CSOLAR Development, LLC, a renewable energy company managed by Tenaska Solar Ventures, said Bart Ford, Tenaska’s vice president of development.

The announcement of the agreement and the selection of Concentrix as the module supplier were both major events for the project, Ford said.

“Signing the power-purchase agreement with SDG&E and selecting a solar technology provider are major milestones for the Imperial Solar Energy Center West project and move the project significantly closer to generating renewable energy and creating jobs in Imperial County,” he said. “We are excited about the potential for Soitec’s Concentrix CPV technology to be a commercially viable alternative technology within the solar industry.”

Photovoltaics and concentrated solar power have dominated the solar-electric-generation market. But increasingly, companies are looking to get more power out of less land. That’s where CPVs come in. They focus sunlight on highly efficient photovoltaics, to get more bang for the buck.

Other companies, like Amonix, are also building CPV modules.

“CPV technology is particularly well suited to the very high solar irradiance prevalent in the Imperial Valley. While CPV is more costly to manufacture and operate, its productivity is higher when long days with strong sunlight are present. This results in higher energy production as compared to non-CPV technologies,” Ford said. “Tenaska selected the Concentrix technology as we see it as scalable to support utility-scale solar projects.”

The plant will take up 1,057 acres in the Imperial valley. By comparison the 150 megawatt first phase of Sempra Generation’s Mesquite Solar Energy project using conventional photovoltaics will take up 1,530 acres, according to the DOE’s Final Environmental Assessment of the Mesquite project.

Soitec, which manufactures the Concentrix devices, will also build a new production facility in the San Diego area to build the modules for distribution throughout the U.S. The facility will be able to produce 200 megawatts of CPV annually and will employ roughly 450 people, according to Tenaska. The location will be announced this summer.

Construction of the power plant will add another 300 jobs locally, according to Tenaska. The company said it will start receiving Concentrix modules in 2013 and expects to complete the project in 2015.

Image courtesy of Soitec.