Concentrated Solar Comes En Masse To Colorado

Cogentrix Energy has selected Morrison Construction’s Renewable Energy division as the general contractor for their 30 megawatt solar power plant in Southern Colorado. The Alamosa Solar Generating Project will be the world’s largest concentrated photovoltaic (CPV) solar field once completed. Amonix will be designing and manufacturing the solar panels, while Morrison will be responsible for the construction and operations of the facility itself.

This is the second solar power plant Morrison has built, the first being the Solar Technology Acceleration Center (SolarTAC), a testing site in Aurora, Colorado. The Alamosa project will be built almost 200 miles south of SolarTAC on 225 acres of land in the San Luis Valley, 7,500 feet about sea-level and surrounded by the Sangre de Cristo mountain range. Commercial operations are expected to begin sometime in 2012. The energy produced will be sold to Xcel Energy, a company servicing Colorado and several surrounding states, and be equal to the needs of roughly 6,500 homes.

image via National Renewable Energy Lab

CPV solar fields are important to lowering the overall cost of solar power, which, at the moment, is still much more expensive that typical grid power rates. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory released a report [pdf] in 2009 highlighting some of the challenges of raising CPV technology to the level where it can compete with fossil fuels.

It should be noted that solar power is currently the most expensive form of renewable energy, and because of its expense will mostly be the last source to reach grid parity. The price of energy, however, is almost entirely dependent on location. As society begins to utilize energy needs based around a wider variety of resources found in nature, the cheaper costs will be. For example, solar panels may be more efficient to provide energy to homes in Hawaii, while the similar homes in North Dakota will rely on wind farms.

Aaron Colter is a freelance writer and marketing consultant in Portland, Oregon. A graduate of Purdue University, he has worked for the NCAA, Dark Horse Comics, Willamette Week, AOL, The Huffington Post, Top Shelf Productions, DigitalTrends, theMIX agency, SuicideGirls, EarthTechling, d'Errico Studios and others. He is also the co-founder of BananaStandMedia.com, a free record label, recording studio, and distribution service for independent musicians.