With the opening of the Alamosa Solar generating facility, Colorado is now home to the world’s largest concentrating photovoltaic electric power plant in the world.
Located in the San Luis Valley, the 30-megawatt plant was developed by Cogentrix Energy.
Covering 225 acres, the project features more than 500 pedestal-mounted trackers, each one with 7,560 Fresnel lenses that focus sunlight onto arrays of solar cells. The lenses boost the power of the sunlight hitting the photovoltaics by a factor of 500.
By focusing sunlight onto high-efficiency solar cells, concentrating photovoltaic power (CPV) is able to use fewer silicon solar cells than traditional photovoltaic power.
According to the CPV Consortium, “CPV, with its higher efficiency delivers higher energy production per megawatt installed, provides the lowest cost of solar energy in high solar regions of the world. The technology is in its early stage with significant headroom for future innovation, and it has the ability to ramp to gigawatts of production very rapidly. Many of the limitations for PV in the past are overcome by advances in CPV technology.”
As of 2011, the global base of installed CPV totaled just 60 megawatts, according to the CPV Consortium. The organization predicts that capacity will rise to 275 megawatts by the end of 2012, 650 megawatts by the end of 2013, 1,100 megawatts by end of 2014 and 1,500 megawatts by the end of 2015.
Other large CPV systems in operation include a 5-megawatt NextEra Energy plant (opened in 2011) in Hatch, New Mexico, that uses technology from Amonix; Arima Eco Energy’s 1.65-megawatt power station in Pingtung, Taiwan; Soitec’s 500-kilowatt power plant in Durban, South Africa; and SolFocus’ 1-megawatt CPV facility at Victor Valley College in Victorville, California.