Chevron is a fossil-fueled company, a Forbes 50 multinational that hardly fits buzzwords like “clean” or “green.” Yet the oil giant is making strides in renewable energy, primarily through its solar power-installing subsidiary, Chevron Energy Solutions. It’s more likely a way to solidify a financially successful future in the coming paradigm shift in energy production than any heartfelt promotion of sustainability, but Chevron has unveiled an 18-acre solar panel testing facility at a former refinery site in Bakersfield, the heart of California’s oil production.
The plan is to find the lowest cost and most effective option in solar photovoltaic (PV) technology. The facility will house panels from seven solar manufacturers, reaching a grand total of 7,700 panels that will provide up to 740 kilowatts of solar power to the electric grid. Chevron began by collecting data from 180 solar companies and pared that down to 38, each of which received visits from the company. After that number was sliced in half, Chevron eventually narrowed it down to the seven finalists.
Only one of the products represented at “Project Brightfield” utilizes conventional crystalline silicon solar panels. The other six are thin-film products, which require much less or none of the expensive silicon (compared to traditional panels), but are also typically less efficient at converting sunlight into electricity.
The six thin-film manufacturers with panels at the test facility are:
- Abound Solar of Colorado
- Miasolé from Silicon Valley
- German manufacturer Schüco
- Japan’s Solar Frontier
- Solibro, a division of German solar giant Q-Cells
The only crystalline silicon solar panels are made by Innovalight, another Silicon Valley solar startup that produces a silicon-based “ink” that it prints onto a substrate to make its PV modules.
The test site will run for three years while Chevron collects data on the seven technologies. The determined best technology will be used on Chevron facilities or by Chevron Energy Solutions for building solar arrays.
Other recent solar moves by Chevron include plans to build a 1-megawatt concentrating photovoltaic (CPV) power plant in New Mexico, as well as investments in Brightsource Energy, a Big Solar company with contracts for 2.6-gigawatts-worth of solar thermal power projects in the works.
Via NY Times