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SolFocus lands Greek deal for concentrated solar

A leading vendor in the emerging area of concentrated photovoltaics, SolFocus, lands another deal for a 1.6-megawatt solar-power installation in Greece.

Solar start-up SolFocus on Monday said it has signed an agreement in Greece to produce electricity from its concentrated solar arrays.

The installation will produce 1.6 megawatts, enough to power about a town of about 2,500 residents at any given moment. Renewable-energy developer Samaras Group will head the installation, which is expected to be completed in the spring of 2009.

SolFocus' 1100S system uses mirrors to convert 25 percent of sunlight into electricity. SolFocus

SolFocus, formed in 2006, is one of the leading companies in a race to validate concentrated photovoltaic (CPV) technology for utility use. It already has a handful of customers, including some in Spain.

Concentrated photovoltaic technology takes different forms, but the most common design uses mirrors to focus sunlight onto expensive, high-performance solar cells. Typically, they have mounting systems that track the sun over the course of the day.

By concentrating the light, these arrays squeeze more electricity out of solar cells. SolFocus' 1100S system, which will be used in the Greek power deal, concentrates the light 500 times, allowing it to convert 25 percent of sunlight into electricity.

Concentrated photovoltaic technology is best suited for specific geographies around the equator with the right light. Another technical barrier is dealing with the high degree of heat these systems create.

Analysts say concentrated photovoltaics are expected to be used by utilities for small or midsize power plants, between 10 megawatts and 100 megawatts, to deliver electricity at times of peak demand.