$90.6 Million Loan Guarantee Goes To Solar

With help from the federal government, a uniquely large solar-power plant is coming to the high and dry San Luis Valley of Colorado.

Cogentrix, leveraging a freshly finalized $90.6 loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), plans to build a 30-megawatt plant using high concentration photovoltaic (CPV) technology. In fact, in announcing the loan deal, which had been conditionally approved back in May, the DOE said the Alamosa Solar Generating Project will be the largest CPV plant in the world.

HCPV, Amonix, Alamosa Colorado

image via Amonix

Concentrating photovoltaic systems use lenses or mirrors to concentrate sunlight onto high-efficiency solar cells. It’s not to be confused with concentrating solar power (CSP), the typical option for utility-scale solar development, in which – to put it simply – mirrors focus sunlight to heat water to create steam that can drive a generator.

At the Alamosa plant, the HCPV panels will follow the sun with a dual-axis tracking system that “rotates and tilts the cells throughout the day so the surface of the solar panel maintains an optimal angle with respect to the sun,” according to the DOE. Cogentrix estimates the Amonix-made system, though more expensive than traditional PV panels, is nearly twice as good at turning sunlight into power, with an efficiency rate of “nearly 40 percent.”

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.