This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.

January 09, 2002

New Solar Electric Systems Indicate a Growing U.S. Market

Solar electric system installations have reached new heights in the United States in recent months, suggesting that there may finally be a sizable U.S. market for photovoltaic products. In December, for instance, the Alameda County Board of Supervisors in California decided to expand its 640-kilowatt solar electric system to 1.14 megawatts. The expanded system will cover roughly three acres of the Santa Rita Jail in Dublin, California. PowerLight Corporation expects to finish the expansion this spring. PowerLight also recently installed a 335-kilowatt solar electric system on the roof of Cypress Semiconductor in San Jose, California, and has started round-the-clock manufacturing of its solar roof tiles to meet increasing demand.

San Diego, California, is also getting into the act: a new agreement between AstroPower, Inc. and homebuilder Standard Pacific of San Diego will make solar electric power a standard feature in the new Standard Pacific Maravu community. AstroPower will supply at least 43 solar electric systems in the next year, with a target of providing 100 systems in the next two years. See the AstroPower press release.

Washington state provides another example - the state's largest solar photovoltaic system, a 23-kilowatt installation on the roof of the Puget Sound Environmental Learning Center on Bainbridge Island, was completed last month by the Schott Applied Power Corporation. See the Schott press release.

In Maryland, Siemens Solar Industries completed what the company claims to be the world's largest solar roadway lighting project. More than a mile of roadway in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, is now lit by the company's 200-watt solar electric lighting systems. The roadway leads to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Headquarters Campus. See the Siemens Solar press release.

But the biggest gains may be yet to come: the New Energy Company, a maker of high-concentration photovoltaic (HCPV) systems, announced in the past week two 10-year contracts to provide solar electric power - one with Teixeira Farms, Inc. of Santa Maria, California, and one with Andrew Martin Company, Inc. of Carson, California. The agreement with Andrew Martin Company includes the installation of a 220-kilowatt HCPV system, and the agreement with Teixeira Farms calls for the installation of four 1-megawatt HCPV systems. The New Energy Company intends to install all of the systems by the third quarter of this year. See the New Energy press releases.

Concentrating photovoltaic collectors, like the New Energy Company products, use devices such as Fresnel lenses, mirrors, and mirrored dishes to concentrate sunlight onto a solar cell. Certain solar cells, such as gallium arsenide cells, can efficiently convert concentrated solar energy into electricity, allowing the use of only a small amount of semiconducting material per square foot of solar collector. Concentrating collectors are usually mounted on a two-axis tracking system to keep the collector pointed toward the sun. For more information, see the DOE Photovoltaics Program Web site.