Chevron commissions 740KW solar PV test bed on old oil refinery site near Bakersfield

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In what will be one of the more comprehensive side-by-side evaluations of emerging solar PV technologies, Chevron has opened a 740KW (DC) demonstration test bed representing what it calls next-generation thin-film and crystalline-silicon panels on the location of a former Chevron oil refinery near Bakersfield, CA. Dubbed Project Brightfield, the company said it hopes the installation will help it determine how to use renewable energy at existing Chevron industrial sites.

Seven different technologies from seven companies can be found among the systems deployed on the eight acres used for the project: cadmium telluride (Abound Solar), copper indium selenide (Solar Frontier, Schüco), copper indium gallium (di)selenide (MiaSolé and Solibro), tandem-junction amorphous silicon (Sharp), and nanosilicon ink (Innovalight).

The 7700 PV panels (which will provide power both to the local utility grid and to Chevron’s Kern River Field oil production operations) will be benchmarked against a system comprised of standard Sharp polycrystalline-silicon modules. Each company can access data about its technology, find out how well it performs in various conditions, and compare it against the Sharp control panels, according to Chevron.

Jerry Lomax, Chevron’s VP of emerging energy, told PV-Tech that the size of the seven arrays varies widely, from the smallest system of around 2KW to the larger installations of more than 200KW.

He also said that a several brands of balance-of-systems components, such as inverters, mounting, and racking, have been deployed as part of the evaluation, although he would not disclose which companies’ BOS gear has been used.

Chevron Energy Solutions, which helped in the selection of those BOS components, was the construction manager for the project, according to Lomax, which broke ground in September 2009, had most of the panels installed by the end of the year, and was grid-connected in early to mid-February.

The cost of the project has not been disclosed.

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