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Clean Power The global oil giant Chevron is easing into solar power

Published on March 23rd, 2010 | by Tina Casey

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My Brain Hurts — Solar Powered Oil Fields are Coming

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March 23rd, 2010 by
 
The global oil giant Chevron is easing into solar powerIt’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.

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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…

Chevron and Solar Power

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 as a Solar Power Supplier

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.

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About the Author

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. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.



  • Susan Kraemer

    At first it seemed like so many panels (7,000) for so little power (740 KW), but I see in the link below that nearly all of the companies being tested are thin film (which I’ve heard, takes more to make the same power) but I am surprised that it is so many modules.

    For example I once did an estmate for about 100 KW on rooftops and it took 600 175 W panels.

    So about 7 times that (740 KW) should only take about 7 X 600 = 4200 panels, ballpark. So thin film seems to use about twice as many panels…? Is that right?

    http://earth2tech.com/2010/03/22/project-brightfield-chevron-launches-solar-test-bed/

  • Susan Kraemer

    At first it seemed like so many panels (7,000) for so little power (740 KW), but I see in the link below that nearly all of the companies being tested are thin film (which I’ve heard, takes more to make the same power) but I am surprised that it is so many modules.

    For example I once did an estmate for about 100 KW on rooftops and it took 600 175 W panels.

    So about 7 times that (740 KW) should only take about 7 X 600 = 4200 panels, ballpark. So thin film seems to use about twice as many panels…? Is that right?

    http://earth2tech.com/2010/03/22/project-brightfield-chevron-launches-solar-test-bed/

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