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Home > Feature Articles > Alternative Energy Solutions > Solar Energy

Concentrating Photovoltaic Solar Makes Big News in a Small Town, Nipton CA

Cities can go solar with medium size concentrated solar PV systems. Case in point: Nipton, CA that is now generating 85% of its energy. No wonder PG&E tried to stop cities from starting energy generating capabilities!

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Fast Company reports that a California town is the "most solar" in the US.

Just a month after being fast-tracked through U.S. Commerce Department’s Patent and Trademark Office's (USPTO) green-tech patent application process, (Get a helpful PDF here) Skyline Solar, a Silicon Valley start-up founded by SolFocus veteran Bob McDonald, announced its latest high-profile project:

An 80 kilowatt solar plant that will power 85% of Nipton, California. That's the highest percentage of solar electricity used in any town in the U.S.

But... Nipton only has a population of 20 people. Visitors pass through the community on the way to Joshua Tree National Park or Mojave National Reserve. If you are going that way... you might want to check out this cutting edge application of concentrating PV solar power generation.

High Gain Solar Arrays (HGS)

Skyline's HGS system uses single-axis tracking and metallic reflector racks that concentrate light onto strips of monocrystalline silicon cells. HGS combines the durability of silicon solar cells with thin-film solar's low cost. The technology is meant strictly for medium to large scale systems.

Partnering vs Internal Growth

First, Skyline tapped into government funding. Then regional funding and partnership for a demo site. The company, one of only six to receive a $3 million Department of Energy grant for solar photovoltaic research, has already raised $24.6 million in funds from investors last fall and constructed a 24-kilowatt demonstration plant in San Jose, California with funding from the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA).

The the company is working to snag a big piece of the growing midsize solar installation market.

Skyline has big plans for the future--the startup recently enlisted Cosma, an auto parts manufacturer, to supply sheet metal for solar reflectors. The partnership will, Skyline hopes, allow the company to quickly ramp up commercial production of its systems.

Skyline's HGS arrays can reportedly generate 10 times more energy per gram of silicon compared to flat solar panels, thanks to specially designed reflector arrays that concentrate light. They also use half the amount of parts compared to similar systems.

And then, there's the competition: other concentrating photovoltaic start-ups including SolFocus, Amonix, and Sol3g.

Edited by Carolyn Allen, owner/editor of California Green Solutions
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