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Concentrating photovoltaic solar technology — which uses mirrors and lenses to focus sun rays onto high efficiency photovoltaics — is such an unusual hybrid technology that I wasn’t expecting many big firms to tackle it. But lo and behold, this afternoon Chevron (s CVX) announced that its venture arm Chevron Technology Ventures will build a 1 MW concentrating solar photovoltaic system on the tailing site of a mine in Questa, New Mexico owned by Chevron subsidiary Chevron Mining Inc.
Chevron says when the 175-panel project is built on 20 acres — construction will start this Spring and is planned to be finished before the end of the year — it will be the “largest CPV installation in the U.S. and one of the largest in the world.” Chevron will use CPV technology from Concentrix Solar, a Freiburg, Germany-based company that was spun out of the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems in 2005, and was sold to microelectronics supplier the Soitec Group in December. (Soitec bought 80 percent of the shares and 20 percent remain owned by Fraunhofer ISE and the company’s founders and senior management).
Concentrix has been selling concentrating PV plants called Flatcon, which the company says can produce electricity for 10 to 20 percent cheaper than standard PV. Concentrix was also backed by Good Energies and Abengoa Solar that created a joint venture with Abengoa, called Concentrix Iberia, for the Spanish markets. But Gunther Portfolio reported that Soitec bought out Abengoa in the acquisition deal.
The Chevron Questa mine, which produces the metal molybdenum used in steel alloys, made news last year when the recession forced the mine to cut 50 percent of its staff. So it’s not surprising that New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, who made the announcement, is standing behind turning the tailing site of the mine into a site for clean power.
Image courtesy of Concentrix Solar.