For Colorado, a solar farm made in the U.S.A.

Cogentrix, which promises that at least 80 percent of components for its rotating concentrated solar project will be locally sourced, wins a DOE loan guarantee.

Cogentrix plans to use solar panels from Amonix, whose dual-axis panels follow the sun's movement. Amonix

Cogentrix Energy has been granted a $90.6 million conditional loan guarantee from the Department of Energy to build a 30-megawatt concentrated photovoltaic solar plant in Alamosa, Colo., the company announced yesterday

The company also said it plans to source a minimum of 80 percent of the solar farm components from within the U.S. That promise is significant given the size and scope of the solar farm, and its technology.

The Alamosa Solar Generating Project will be the largest solar project in the world using high concentrated photovoltaics (HCPVs) with a dual-axis tracking system. That means that each concentrated solar panel is mounted on a tracking system that rotates in conjunction with the sun's daily movement, maximizing its direct sunlight exposure and, hence, its electricity production.

Cogentrix, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Goldman Sachs Group, plans to use solar panels made by Amonix.

Amonix, which is based in California and has a manufacturing facility in Nevada, is known for using Fresnel lenses in its utility-scale CPVs. The company claims that when used in conjunction with its dual-axis rotating tracking system, its HCPV solar farms operate 40 percent more efficiently than farms using fixed-mount conventional solar panels.

Amonix received $129 million in Series B funding from venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins in April 2010, and prior to that $25 million in Series A funding from the Goldman Sachs Group.

A successful mega-farm using such technology could serve as a commercial example for the world and generate more interest in dual-axis HCPV set-ups. And a successful mega-farm using U.S. components for this type of technology, could further generate interest in the U.S.-based solar components themselves.

Cogentrix announced in February had chosen Mortenson Construction to be the general contractor for the project. While Mortenson is one of the largest power contractors doing business U.S., it also happens to be a U.S.-based, family-owned construction company.

When complete, the Alamosa solar farm will generate about 75,000 megawatt-hours of electricity per year, enough to power about 6,500 Colorado homes, according to the DOE.

As part of the deal, the electric utility Public Service Company of Colorado (PSCo) will purchase the farm's entire generated electricity supply. PSCo is a subsidiary of the electricity and natural gas giant Xcel Energy. Xcel Energy is the company that contracted Cogentrix to design, build, and operate the plant.

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About the author

In a software-driven world, it's easy to forget about the nuts and bolts. Whether it's cars, robots, personal gadgetry or industrial machines, Candace Lombardi examines the moving parts that keep our world rotating. A journalist who divides her time between the United States and the United Kingdom, Lombardi has written about technology for the sites of The New York Times, CNET, USA Today, MSN, ZDNet, Silicon.com, and GameSpot. She is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not a current employee of CNET.

 

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