Nancy Pelosi to Turn On Solar-Powered Radio Station

UPDATED: Politicians are lining up to appear alongside renewable energy projects these days — yesterday it was Republican Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin, and earlier this month it was California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. This morning it’s Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, who plans to officially turn on three solar arrays created by solar startup SolFocus that will partly power the transmission tower for local radio station KGO Radio in San Francisco.

Update: Pelosi flipped on the switch at the radio station a little after 10:30 and declared solar “the future.” Here’s our photo of the events in the radio studio; the bright lights in the second photo lit up after she turned the solar system on.

KGO says it will be the first major broadcast media outlet in California to reach its listeners by solar power. The festivities will happen on the Ronn Owens show at 10:30 this morning in San Francisco, where Pelosi will turn on the system. The arrays are actually at KGO’s Fremont transmitter site, but a video will be streamed live for the studio audience in San Francisco.

SolFocus makes concentrating photovoltaic systems (CPV) that use mirrors and lenses to concentrate sunlight onto tiny, highly efficient solar cells. The systems are meant to cut back on one of the most expensive parts of traditional photovoltaic systems, the silicon-based solar panel (see our list of 13 CPV startups here). Many CPV projects are made to deliver that middle range of solar power needed for commercial installations — basically more power output than a solar panel on a residential rooftop, but less than a large, utility-scale solar-thermal project in the desert. The system that Pelosi is flipping on will provide 7.2 kilowatts.

While SolFocus is only a couple of years old, the Mountain View, Calif.-based company is well-funded and is starting to get its systems installed. The startup already raised $95 million from New Enterprise Associates, Moser Baer India, David Gelbaum, Metasystem Group, NGEN Partners and Yellowstone Capital, and it’s reported to be looking to add between $60 million and $80 million in a Series C round. In Spain SolFocus says it has completed its portion of a 3-megawatt CPV owned by Spain’s Institute of Concentration Photovoltaic Systems (ISFOC).

Images of SolFocus array courtesy of SolFocus.