Chevron to Build a 1-Megawatt Concentrating PV Facility in New Mexico

March 17, 2010

Photo of a series of flat, square photovoltaic lenses mounted as a solar tracking device.

Concentrix's concentrating photovoltaic system uses Fresnel lenses to focus sunlight on high-efficiency solar cells.
Credit: Concentrix

Chevron Technology Ventures plans to break ground this spring in Questa, New Mexico, on a 1-megawatt (MW) concentrating photovoltaic (CPV) facility, the largest of its type in the United States and one of the largest in the world. CPV systems employ lenses to concentrate the sun's rays on relatively small, high-efficiency solar cells. Although the cells are typically expensive, the CPV technology reduces costs by requiring fewer cells, although that is offset somewhat by the need for a solar tracking system. Chevron Technology Ventures, a division of Chevron Corporation, selected Concentrix Solar GmbH of Germany to install its proprietary CPV system, which uses a two-axis tracking system and Fresnel lenses to focus solar rays on triple-junction solar cells. The facility will include about 175 high-efficiency solar panels placed on about 20 acres of land, and the electricity produced will be sold to the Kit Carson Electric Cooperative. Concentrix already installed a demonstration system on the University of California San Diego campus in July 2009, achieving system efficiencies of 25%. See the press releases from New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson (PDF 68 KB) and Concentrix, as well as the CPV technology description on DOE's Solar Energy Technologies Program Web site. Download Adobe Reader.

Chevron Technology Ventures will build the CPV facility on the tailing site of a molybdenum mine operated by sister company Chevron Mining Inc. As such, the project represents one way to take contaminated lands and use them for the production of renewable energy, an idea currently being explored by the U.S. government. In September 2008, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) launched the "RE-Powering America's Land" initiative to promote the developing of renewable energy on potentially contaminated land and mining sites. The EPA partnered with DOE's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) to identify Superfund sites, brownfields, and former landfill or mining sites that may be used for renewable energy projects. As a result of that work, the EPA and NREL are currently evaluating the feasibility of installing wind, solar, or small hydropower systems at 12 sites located in Puerto Rico and 10 states: California, Florida, Kansas, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. See the NREL press release, the EPA's list of fact sheets for the 12 sites, and the EPA Web site for the RE-Powering America's Land initiative.