150 MW Californian CPV project to use locally-produced modules

As part of the deal, agreed last week, a purpose-built concentrated photovoltaic (CPV) power plant, called Imperial Solar Energy Center (ISEC) West will be constructed on a 1,057 acre site near El Centro in western Imperial County.

The facility will use German company Concentrix Solar’s CPV technology, which will be purpose-built at a new 200 MW capacity factory in the San Diego region. The factory will also supply ground-mounted CPV modules to other utility-scale solar power projects across the dry South Western states.

Concentrix Solar, a division of French-based micro-chip manufacturer Soitec, says its CPV power plant technology is designed for areas of high irradiation and has a low heat degradation coefficient, making it especially useful for large power plants in desert regions – adding that the low temperature coefficient of its multi-junction solar cells means that a CPV system’s performance is much less affected by temperature than other photovoltaic technologies.

The ISEC West project will hook up with SDG&E’s Imperial Valley substation and transmit energy over the utility’s Sunrise Powerlink transmission line, currently under construction and scheduled for completion in 2012.

The utility has been particularly active in the renewable energy sector in recent months, signing deals to purchase in excess of 750 MW of Imperial Valley renewable power. This is largely because, under state law, it is required to source at least 20 per cent of its power from renewables – last year it only managed 11.9 per cent.

Last November, SDG&E inked a deal with another subsidiary of CSOLAR Development for the construction of up to 130 MW of solar photovoltaic capacity at a 900-acre site in the southern part of Imperial County known as the Imperial Solar Energy Center South (ISEC South).

The ISEC West project has been warmly welcomed in the region, especially since it looks set to create employment for up to 700 people, 450 at the CPV module factory and 250 in the construction of the ISEC West facility.

Speaking about the initiative, San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders told reporters: "This project is a model for how the shift toward clean energy use can be a boon for our region’s economy."

He added: "It creates skilled manufacturing jobs and builds our base of innovative companies. I couldn’t be more thrilled about the positive impact it will have on both San Diego and Imperial counties."

Subject to approval from the California Public Utilities Commission, building work will begin at the USD$100 million factory this summer and take about 18 months. Once completed, delivery of the CPV systems to the ISEC West solar power plant is slated to begin in early 2013 and run until 2015.