SolFocus 1MW CPV system helps power pistachio processing in Central California

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A 1MW concentrator photovoltaic power plant built on six acres of land formerly reserved for baby pistachio trees has been activated and is providing electricity to the Southern California Edison regional grid in Central California. The site, which features SolFocus CPV systems, is located on the Nichols Farms property in Hanford. Sol Orchard developed the project, with Bechtel Power providing the engineering, procurement, and construction expertise.

Consisting of 119 8.8KW SolFocus SF-1100S two-axis tracking units (equipped with Boeing Spectrolab high-efficiency cells) connected to two 500KW and one 250KW Satcon inverters, the installation is projected to produce 2,244 million kWh of electricity in the first year, equivalent to about 70% of the pistachio processing facility’s demand.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed; Nichols Farms owns the power plant, according to company sources.

SolFocus CEO Mark Crowley said that “this CPV agribusiness project with Nichols Farms is the first of its kind in North America. It demonstrates how SolFocus technology can easily accommodate a wide variety of energy demands that farms and other agricultural sites need.”

“The CPV industry has announced several large projects that will have a significant impact in upcoming years,” he added. “However, it is this type of distributed-generation solar plant which can immediately impact sustainability across a broad range of applications. Chuck Nichols’ visionary view of sustainable farming is to be commended.”

Nichols explained that “as an integrated grower, processor, and marketer of pistachios, I appreciate the value of harnessing natural resources in an efficient, sustainable manner. That’s why I selected SolFocus CPV from a list of solar options. The high energy yield combined with the superior environmental footprint of the SolFocus systems made it an ideal choice for our facility which processes pistachios for farmers throughout the Central Valley of California.”

Solar project developer Sol Orchard introduced the concept to Nichols Farms, and developed the project from concept to completion, according to Jeff Brothers, company president.

“This is the third project we have developed utilizing SolFocus technology,” he said. “The high energy yield and reliable products allow us to move forward on projects quickly and with good financial results. Bringing Bechtel in as the contractor gave us assurance that when the switch was flipped, we’d have a robust power plant capable of delivering on all of its expectations.”

“Helping to advance high-efficiency, large scale solar energy is a strategic interest for Bechtel,” said Ian Copeland, president of Bechtel’s renewable power division. “The SolFocus system provides a combination of high-efficiency CPV with rapid installation capabilities that can deliver cost competitive power very quickly.”

(For more on the Nichols Farm project and ongoing developments at SolFocus, check out the blog here.)


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