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SolFocus and Bechtel to deliver renewable power in California

The firms have installed California Central Valley’s first ever concentrating photovoltaic (CPV) III-V based plant at a pistachio farm.

SolFocus, Bechtel Power Corporation and developer Sol Orchard, have announced that a one megawatt highbased CPV solar power plant was completed for Nichols Farms in Hanford, California.


This is the latest in a string of distributed generation projects that SolFocus has completed and continues CPV on the path to utility-scale generation. The SolFocus installation will produce 2,244 million kilowatt hours (kWh) in the first year, which is roughly 70 % of the processing facility electricity demand. The power plant, located on six acres adjacent to the pistachio processing facility, consists of 119 8.8 kilowatt SolFocus SF-1100S CPV systems.

The plant, which utilises the SolFocus SF-1100S CPV systems, was designed and built by Bechtel, and is now connected to the regional electrical grid serviced by SoCal Edison.

"As an integrated grower, processor, and marketer of pistachios, I appreciate the value of harnessing natural resources in an efficient, sustainable manner," said Chuck Nichols, owner of Nichols Farms. "That's why I selected SolFocus CPV from a list of solar options. The high energy yield combined with the superior environmental footprint of the SolFocus systems made it an ideal choice for our facility which processes pistachios for farmers throughout the Central Valley of California."

California's central valley region has significant solar resources and a wealth of agricultural business that can benefit from the implementation of innovative solar technology. The Nichols Farms project is delivering lower operating costs, and the impact of future increasing energy costs has been minimized.

"Helping to advance high-efficiency, large scale solar energy is a strategic interest for Bechtel," said Ian Copeland, President of Bechtel's Renewable Power division. "The SolFocus system provides a combination of high efficiency CPV with rapid installation capabilities that can deliver cost competitive power very quickly."

"This CPV agribusiness project with Nichols Farms is the first of its kind in North America," said Mark Crowley, CEO of SolFocus. "It demonstrates how SolFocus technology can easily accommodate a wide variety of energy demands that farms and other agricultural sites need. The CPV industry has announced several large projects that will have a significant impact in upcoming years. However, it is this type of distributed generation solar plant which can immediately impact sustainability across a broad range of applications. Chuck Nichols' visionary view of sustainable farming is to be commended."

"All of California is rich in renewable resources – sun, wind, geothermal, and biomass. Across the world, solar companies know about the powerful solar insolation in the Colorado and Mojave deserts. We're really pleased to see that this new and growing industry is investing in our Central Valley too," commented Michael Picker, Special Advisor to the Governor for Renewable Energy Facilities.

"As a Hanford native, I know how essential agriculture is to the local economy of the 30th District," said Assemblyman David Valadao. "By increasing energy and cost efficiency through the deployment of SolFocus CPV solar technology, Nichols Farms demonstrates the next generation of solar technology and sustainable agriculture. I am proud to witness the merger of renewable energy innovation and agribusiness here at Nichols Farms."

Solar project developer Sol Orchard introduced the concept to Nichols Farms, and developed the project from concept to completion. "This is the third project we have developed utilizing SolFocus technology," commented Sol Orchard President Jeff Brothers. The high energy yield and reliable products allow us to move forward on projects quickly and with good financial results. Bringing Bechtel in as the contractor gave us assurance that when the switch was flipped, we'd have a robust power plant capable of delivering on all of its expectations."

SolFocus CPV technology employs a system of patented reflective optics to concentrate sunlight 650 times onto small, highly efficient III-V based solar cells. The SolFocus SF-1100S system being deployed at the farm features dual axis tracking for consistent energy delivery. It also offers environmental benefits including no water usage for energy production, a small land footprint with dual use potential, and no permanent shadowing or wildlife corridor disruption.
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