SkyFuel Unveils Low-Cost Solar Troughs

SkyFuel officially launched its low cost trough-shaped solar concentrators, dubbed SkyTrough, at an event in Colorado today. Parabolic troughs are an older solar technology, and while most are made out of glass, SkyFuel’s are made from the company’s own ReflecTech film material — sort of like mylar but sturdier — which it says can deliver the “world’s highest performance, lowest cost utility-scale solar power system.” The trough system, which we wrote about earlier this month, concentrates sun light onto a liquid-filled tube, which heats up and powers a steam turbine to produce electricity.

Claiming the world’s best performing, lowest-cost utility solar system is a bold statement, especially considering there’s so many competing solar thermal companies out there right now (see our list 11 Solar Thermal Companies Powering Up). In fact SkyFuel is making a lot of strong statements, trying to make a splash; they have been much quieter than many of their competitors up to this point. SkyFuel also says that its system “features the largest parabolic trough modules ever built,” at 375 feet long and 20 feet tall, and the company’s aluminum frame makes the system “30 percent lighter per unit of mirror area than even the best of the previous utility-scale parabolic collectors.”

At the launch event in Colorado, the state’s governor Bill Ritter called SkyFuel an “example of how Colorado is building a new energy economy and becoming a national and international leader in renewable energy.” All the states are touting their green companies and green jobs. Yesterday California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger dedicated a solar parking lot at Applied Materials’ (s amat)campus in Sunnyvale, California. Schwarzenegger said: “We are all going through tough economic times, and this is exactly why I am talking about investing in clean, green technology. It’s one of the best investments out there, and it’s where the innovation and job growth will be.”

SkyFuel’s R&D facility is in Arvada, Colo., but its headquarters are in Albuquerque, N.M. — the company developed its technology in part with a grant from New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardon’s Energy Innovation Fund, as well as a $17 million Series B round led by Leaf Clean Energy Co., announced last April.

As we said in our report on the company earlier this month, SkyFuel seems to be one of the most realistic and business-savvy of the solar thermal bunch. Their idea is to keep costs low and supply customers with a cheaper version of a tried and true technology, while working to perfect a next-generation technology. The company doesn’t have plans to build factories to produce its own equipment, and plans to partner with power-plant builders and utilities, instead of building its own power plants. SkyFuel’s V-P of business development, Christopher Huntington, told us the company doesn’t want to compete with the power plant builders but position itself more like Intel, “…with “Intel Inside” powering the technology.”

Images courtesy of SkyFuel.