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News Release NR-2909

Solar Technology Acceleration Center is Powering Up

October 21, 2009

Members of the Solar Technology Acceleration Center (SolarTAC) and supporters convened in Aurora, Colo., today, to mark a milestone in “Powering Up” one of the world’s largest solar test and demonstration facilities.  Since announcing the initial launch of SolarTAC one year ago, the site infrastructure development has progressed to the point where members can now break ground for their planned solar technology implementation and testing. 

SolarTAC originated when six public and private sector entities  --  Abengoa Solar, the City of Aurora, the Colorado Renewable Energy Collaboratory, Midwest Research Institute (MRI), SunEdison, and Xcel Energy -- joined forces to build a site where member companies can bring their early commercial or near-commercial stage solar technologies for testing and demonstration under actual field conditions. 

Today’s occasion also included the announcement that the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) have both signed letters of intent to join SolarTAC.

Aurora Mayor Ed Tauer kicked-off the afternoon’s activities, by noting the economic impact of SolarTAC and the emerging solar industry.  “SolarTAC takes renewable energy from a nice idea to a real-world impact.  It’s a company’s secret weapon for creating commercially successful business,” said Tauer.  The City provided the land for SolarTAC and is developing an adjacent area of 1,900 acres as the Aurora Renewable Energy Campus. 

“We welcome SolarTAC into Colorado’s New Energy Economy ecosystem,” said Colorado Governor Bill Ritter.  “The testing and research conducted at this facility will tie-in well with the state’s solar industry, further enhancing Colorado’s position as a gateway for high performing solar products that lower energy costs while drawing more companies and clean energy jobs.”  

“SolarTAC will be an important part of finding real world solutions to developing solar power,” said Dick Kelly, chairman and CEO of Xcel Energy. “We believe that through SolarTAC, we will develop technologies that are more efficient, reliable and cost effective and will allow us to use more of this abundant, clean energy resource to meet our customers’ future energy needs.”

By the end of this year, nearly $1.8 million of infrastructure work will be completed by MRI, SolarTAC’s management and operating contractor, to prepare the site for member companies to move-in equipment and construct member-specific facilities. The work includes grading, drainage and soil erosion control, access roads, electric power supply and distribution, fire protection, sewer and water lines, communications lines, fencing and security.           

“We have made steady progress in developing the SolarTAC site and in identifying potential new member companies that will further accelerate the commercialization of solar technologies,” said Roger Harris, Ph.D., MRI associate vice president and director of Energy and Life Sciences.”

NREL membership in SolarTAC will allow the national laboratory to better engage with industry to solve challenges in increasing the amount of solar electricity produced in the U.S.  Among other projects, NREL will install a $2 million pilot-scale advanced thermal energy storage test and evaluation facility at SolarTAC to help improve heat storage technologies that can offset variability.

“The collaborative aspects of SolarTAC make it a natural fit for EPRI, where one of EPRI’s roles is to build industry collaboratives to support R&D,” said Bryan Hannegan, Vice President of Environment and Renewable Generation at EPRI. “Commercial renewable energy technologies, such as advanced solar PV and concentrating solar power with storage, are expected to make significant contributions to the world’s energy supply in coming decades, and the work at SolarTAC will help make that possible.”

At this stage in the site development, Abengoa Solar and SunEdison are ready to begin installation of equipment and facilities for testing and evaluation of advanced solar technologies.

SunEdison’s initial deployments at SolarTAC will include a proprietary, low cost, recycled, ballasted ground mount system designed for installation on a variety of ground conditions.  The array will include examples of all major photovoltaic (PV) module technologies, including: standard and high efficiency crystalline silicon, amorphous silicon (a-Si), cadmium telluride (CdTe), copper indium diselenide (CIS) and both low and high concentration PV systems. The initial array will also be used for expanded testing of distributed direct current power management and advanced inverter technologies that offer the potential to significantly increase energy yield.  The arrays will be monitored using the SunEdison Energy and Environmental Data System (SEEDS). SolarTAC will serve as an important beta test site for SEEDS as new capabilities are added.

“SunEdison is pleased to join with our partners in reaching this important milestone in the development of SolarTAC,” said SunEdison chief technology officer, Mark Culpepper.  “One of the most significant long-term opportunities presented by SolarTAC will be the ability to study the way PV systems connect to and interact with the grid.”

In the future, SunEdison plans to gradually increase the number and variety of module technologies deployed on the site and will leverage SolarTAC to validate new mounting systems, installation methods, and electrical configurations to minimize cost and maximize energy harvest.  SolarTAC will provide an invaluable test-bed to study forecasting, variability, energy storage, and reactive power control along with other methods and technologies to ensure safe and reliable interconnection of high penetration levels of PV on the grid.                

The Abengoa Solar Facility at SolarTAC will be used for testing, validating, and demonstrating advanced and emerging concentrating solar power (CSP) technologies, including outdoor studies and readiness deployment of prototype systems.   “We look forward to the progress we will be able to achieve in advancing our technologies at the SolarTAC site,” said Hank Price, vice president of Technology Development.  “The site will be a long-term experimental test-bed for Abengoa Solar’s R&D technology and it will provide an environment to collaborate with universities, national laboratories, and other solar researchers.”

 Abengoa Solar currently plans to install an operational scale CSP collector loop and associated assembly building at the site to test and validate new designs of its technologies.  At today’s event, Abengoa Solar displayed several modules of the Astro, one of its established concentrating solar collector designs.  

During the event, the nearly 150 attendees were updated on the site development plans, and had an opportunity to see solar technology demonstrations led by Abengoa Solar and SunEdison representatives.   

 

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For further information contact NREL Public Relations at 303-275-4090.
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