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Soitec announces major U.S. CPV solar power project

The firm will build a new 200MW CPV manufacturing facility which uses its III-V multijunction solar cell technology, in the San Diego region.

Soitec, a supplier of Concentrix concentrated photovoltaic (CPV) technology has been selected by Tenaska Solar Ventures to produce 150 megawatts (MW) of clean energy for San Diego Gas & Electric.

The new CPV solar power plant, named Imperial Solar Energy Centre (ISEC) West, will be constructed on a 1057-acre site in Southern California’s western Imperial County, and is expected to be completed in 2015.

To support the project, Soitec will build a new factory in the San Diego region to manufacture its proprietary CPV modules. With an annual production capacity of 200 MW, the new CPV manufacturing facility will supply CPV modules not only to ISEC West, but to other utility-scale solar power projects throughout the desert southwest of the U.S.

San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) signed a 25-year power-purchase agreement with a subsidiary of CSOLAR Development, LLC, a renewable energy company managed by Tenaska Solar Ventures that will develop and operate the ISEC West solar power plant. The ground-mounted concentrated photovoltaic power plant will have a capacity of 150 MW of solar generated electricity.

The ISEC West project will produce enough electricity to meet the annual electricity needs of approximately 55,000 California homes. Concentrated photovoltaic technology converts sunlight directly into “clean” electricity via concentrator optics and high efficiency solar cells that neither produce noise nor emit greenhouse gases. Additionally, CPV technology requires no water for ongoing operations, a crucial consideration for the water-constrained Imperial Valley. Finally, the ISEC West project represents a significant economic investment in Imperial County, one that will create hundreds of jobs in the area.

“The start of construction of the Sunrise Powerlink has triggered a wave of proposed new utility-scale solar and wind projects in the Imperial Valley region,” said James Avery, SDG&E’s senior VP of power supply. “What is unique about this contract is that not only will the Imperial Valley benefit from the jobs created to construct the solar plant, San Diego will benefit from the approximately 450 new jobs that will be created at the new manufacturing facility that will be located here in the region. SDG&E’s voluntary commitment to obtain 33 percent of its power from renewable sources by 2020 is creating new jobs in both the Imperial Valley and here in San Diego, and we are proud of this accomplishment.”

Concentrix CPV solar power systems are more efficient and perform better than conventional solar systems, particularly at locations with extremely hot ambient temperatures and dry weather conditions.

Because of the very low temperature coefficient of its multijunction solar cells, a CPV system’s performance is much less affected by temperature than any other photovoltaic technology. Additionally, a CPV system’s 2-axis tracker produces a high and constant power production output throughout daylight hours.

According to Dave Fiorelli, President of Tenaska’s Development Group, “The ISEC West solar power plant will demonstrate Concentrix CPV scalability, and commercial viability of this innovative technology for utility scale deployment. We are excited to work with Soitec and SDG&E to bring clean energy to the homes and businesses of Southern California.”

“Soitec is extremely pleased that Tenaska Solar Ventures chose our Concentrix CPV technology for the ISEC West solar power plant,” adds André-Jacques Auberton-Hervé, CEO and Chairman of the Board of Soitec. “Our CPV systems are perfectly suited for the very high solar irradiance prevalent in the Imperial Valley. As a CPV leader, we are very committed to the U.S. market and look forward to increasing our presence in the San Diego community by contributing to the emerging renewable energy ecosystem in the region.”

The ISEC West project has applied for a U.S. Department of Energy loan guarantee. Upon receipt of the guarantee and closing of its agreement with Tenaska, Soitec will implement capacity investments to construct its San Diego area factory and pursue options for related financing. The factory location is anticipated to be announced this summer, with completion expected within 18 months of construction start. Soitec’s delivery of the CPV systems to the ISEC West solar power plant will begin in early 2013 and finish in 2015. At full capacity, Soitec’s San Diego operations will generate up to 450 jobs in the local area.
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