Concentrated solar to get big Colorado spread

The Rocky Mountain state is in line to host the world's largest concentrated solar farm, courtesy of companies backed by Goldman Sachs.

Colorado could soon be home to the largest concentrated photovoltaic (CPV) solar farms in the world .

A 30-megawatt solar plant in the works would cover approximately 225 acres of the San Luis Valley in Colorado on land adjacent to transmission facilities owned by the electricity utility, Public Service Company of Colorado (PSCo).

Concentrated solar photovoltaic setup
Large-scale concentrated solar panels made by Amonix use Fresnel lenses to maximize the amount of electricity that can be garnered from the sun's rays. Amonix

PSCo is a subsidiary of the electricity and natural gas giant Xcel Energy, which has signed a contract to have Congentrix, a wholly owned subsidiary of Goldman Sachs Group, to design and build the concentrated solar plant.

Congentrix has garnered all the necessary permits for the project, which is estimated to provide enough electricity to power 6,500 homes annually once completed, but said it has not yet finalized financing.

Assuming Congentrix secures financing shortly, the project will break ground in the first quarter of 2011 and be providing electricity to area residents by 2012, the company said in a statement.

CPV manufacturer Amonix, which will be providing the solar panels for the project, is also connected to the Goldman Sachs Group. It received $25 million in Series A funding from the investment giant, as well as $129 million in Series B funding from other investors including Kleiner Perkins.

CPV solar systems, unlike regular solar panel systems, use lenses or mirrors to maximize the amount of electricity that can be generated from sunlight. Amonix is known for using Fresnel lenses.

In conjunction with the deal's announcement, Xcel Energy has also affirmed that it has a preference for solar over wind when it comes to its renewable energy portfolio.

"Photovoltaic and solar generation have a better match to our peak load than does other intermittent renewables like wind," Tom Imbler, Xcel Energy vice president of commercial operations, said in a statement.

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