Partnership expands Mesa's use of solar power - East Valley Tribune: News

Partnership expands Mesa's use of solar power

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Posted: Friday, September 11, 2009 10:39 pm | Updated: 3:07 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

Mesa's Energy Resources Department and SolFocus, a California-based solar energy company with a manufacturing plant in Mesa, will showcase new solar technology at the city's Central Arizona Project Water Treatment Plant in east Mesa.

Mesa's Energy Resources Department and SolFocus, a California-based solar energy company with a manufacturing plant in Mesa, will showcase new solar technology at the city's Central Arizona Project Water Treatment Plant in east Mesa.

The city said this week it has reached an agreement with SolFocus to build 11 next-generation concentrating photovoltaic solar arrays at the plant, 7750 E. Brown Road. Those panels will be installed beside four existing demonstration arrays previously installed by SolFocus at the plant.

The new arrays will supply 92 kilowatts of electricity - enough for 10 to 15 houses - to the Salt River Project electric grid and will power Red Mountain Park across the street.

The installation, which is scheduled to be operational by the end of this year, will use new technology developed by SolFocus under a $2.2 million contract with the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Lab, the company said.

That contract resulted in development of a photovoltaic system that is more efficient in converting sunlight into electricity, the company said. Twenty-five percent of the sunlight will be converted to energy, up from 17 percent previously, according to SolFocus.

A PV cell creates electricity when it is exposed to sunlight. The SolFocus system uses mirrors made at the company's Mesa factory, 3130 N. Oakland, to concentrate more sunlight on each solar cell, causing them to produce more electricity.

The Mesa water treatment plant will be the first demonstration of the improved system, the company said.

The installation is expected to cost $558,180, and the city expects to save $16,000 to $20,000 in utility costs annually, resulting in a payback period of 28 to 35 years.

Although that's not very cost effective yet, the project is intended to demonstrate and develop the clean-energy system further, city officials said.

"By entering into a strategic alliance with a local business like SolFocus, the city can help expand solar technology, enhance the local economy and improve the quality of life for the people of Mesa," said Bill Jabjiniak, Mesa's economic development director.

"The support of the city of Mesa has been important to SolFocus as we have worked together to manufacture, test and deploy this innovative technology," added SolFocus President Mark Crowley.

He said the system is most promising in areas like Arizona that have lots of sunshine.

The project is contingent on federal stimulus money being available under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The city hopes to receive word on funding by mid-October. Then it would take only a few weeks for the system to be installed, said Ian Satter, spokesman for the Energy Resources Department.

Glass reflectors for the system will be manufactured at the SolFocus Mesa plant, which completed an expansion in April that increased its capacity by 15 times.

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