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It’s a little hard to wrap your head around this one, but global oil giant Chevron (yes, that Chevron) has just announced plans to install a solar power system at the Kern River oil field in California. This ain’t no small potatoes, either. All together, Kern River is the fifth largest oil field in the U.S. and Chevron’s solar array will consist of 7, 700 solar panels, according to Reuters. The system is designed to generate 740 kilowatts of electricity to run Chevron’s oil pumps and pipelines at the field.
The Kern River solar array is just one piece of a $2 billion investment Chevron plans for solar and alternative energy. That’s a tidy little chunk of the oil company’s change, which seems to indicate that the company sees the writing on the wall for fossil fuels. Not that oil will disappear, just that the potential returns from solar power and other alternative energy in the retail market are starting to look mighty attractive. Once again, follow the money…
The 8-acre Kern River site will serve as a test ground for seven different types of solar energy that could be deployed at Chevron’s facilities worldwide, as detailed in a recent Los Angeles Times story. That’s actually old news; according to the Times, Chevron started using solar at its facilities since 1992.
Chevron isn’t only using solar to pump more fossil fuels. It’s also becoming a solar installer and supplier. Last month the company announced that it is building a solar array in Mexico, on a 20-acre mine tailing site that it owns. Solar energy from the installation will be sold to the local grid. The company is also building a 3.7 megawatt solar project in partnership with a school district in San Jose, California. The company has become quite the solar expert and will do the project from soup to nuts, including designing, building, and operating it, as well as assessing its performance. If Chevron gets out of the oil business it won’t be any time soon, but it’s sure positioning itself to follow the money out of fossil fuels when the time comes.
Image (altered): Oil well by Jasper Morse on flickr.com.
Tina Casey specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. You can also follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.