Published on June 10th, 2010 | by Susan Kraemer2
Small Mojave Desert Town Goes 85% Solar
June 10th, 2010 by Susan Kraemer
Nipton, a tiny Californian town in the blaring sun of the Mojave just went solar, and is likely to soon become a tourist attraction as “the most solar town in America.” The townsfolk, all thirty eight of them, just installed their own citywide supply of clean abundant solar power.
But the 38 souls in Nipton didn’t pick just any clean abundant solar power. Nipton selected Silicon Valley start-up Skyline Solar to provide their town’s electricity with an innovative high gain solar (HGS) that marries CSP, PV and trough-based solar thermal.
Three year old Skyline has already snagged a $3 million developmental contract with the U.S. Department of Energy, and found $24 million in its first round of interested investors. It was among the first beneficiaries of the accelerated patent approvals by the Obama administration Department of Energy earlier this month, under the Greentech Pilot Program.
Nipton’s brand new solar installation has been engineered to produce 85% of Nipton’s electricity needs now, and if the town grows larger, with all that tourism it can now expect, it will be easy to add more. Installers will be able to build power plants more quickly using Skyline’s pre-engineered systems because the upgradeable, pre-engineered solar energy systems are modular and scalable.
This makes them faster to install, and once installed, the reflective troughs, and the tracking system, and a central passive cooling system all help the solar generate ten times the energy per unit of silicon, which also means wasting less material. Skyline squeezes every last electron out of their systems with a combination of efficiency measures.
How it works
Their HGS arrays comprise conventional monocrystalline-silicon panels, but these are mounted on the edge of a W-shaped configuration called a reflective rack. The two troughs that make up the rack counterbalance each other, capturing and focusing sunlight – reflecting it into the panels.
The panels are positioned so heat can escape easily, and the system is passively cooled by the air flowing through it. That leads to a higher conversion efficiency for the system, because when solar panels get too hot, their efficiencies drop.
Because the system is made of reflective aluminum, rather than steel and mirrors, its light weight means it can be cost effectively mounted on a tracker, which follows the sun and exposes the panels to more sunlight throughout the day.
Pay as you go
Because the systems are small and modular, they can be combined to scale up to various-sized projects.
The company’s first demonstration project in San Jose was made up of twenty four 18-by-6-foot systems. A 1-MW system would take 500 to 600 of these units.
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