GreenVolts Finds A Different Way To Do Solar

GreenVolts did at least one smart thing to boost its chances in the unsparing world of solar power. They sold a system to Jim Van Dyke, a lifelong California rice man who wears a cowboy hat.

“We handle 160 million pounds of rice a year,” Van Dyke says in a GreenVolts promotional video, looking like the sort of fellow who’d pop up in a Mitt Romney commercial tossing a football to his grandson. And how’s he going to power his rice drying operation now? You got it: GreenVolts concentrating photovoltaic solar.

GreenVolts, CPV, Jim Van Dyke, rice dryer

image via GreenVolts

It’s going to fascinating to watch the GreenVolts story unfold.

The Fremont, Calif-based company is going hard at the larger distributed market, around 500 megawatts and up, and it’s doing so with the more efficient but more expensive concentrating photovoltaics (CPV). Plus, the company brings a nique approach to CPV by offering a totally integrated product – modules, trackers, power systems and power plant management software.

Concentrating photovoltaics 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.

The CPV payoff is much higher efficiency when combined with tracking systems that ensure the cells are capturing maximum sunlight.

Back to Jim Van Dyke.

He says his power costs were increasing at 5 or 6 percent a year, and electricity has been fast approaching a quarter of his expenses. Going solar sounded like something to look into, but there was the problem of not having a whole lot of space for a sprawling array.

Enter GreenVolts. By using their high-efficiency system – 29 percent and up, the company says, compared to the low teens that thin-film starts at, or mid- or high-teens of standard PV – the company says it squeezed 464-kilowatts of generating capacity onto a 3.9-acre, L-shaped portion of land.

GreenVolts adds that with the integrated system approach, it “has been able to design for quicker, lower cost installation. Heavy equipment was not required and preassembly reduced on-site labor, which helped to contain the construction site (less space needed for staging and subassembly). As a result, the project was completed on schedule and with minimal impact to the ongoing operations at the dryer.”

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.


  • Reply June 26, 2012


    What is the cost of such a system?

  • Reply June 27, 2012


    Not one mention of cost, what is the cost per kwh, including the amortization of the equipment less government subsidies?

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