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.
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.”
This isn’t the first we’ve seen of GreenVolts in the ag sector – although last time, we didn’t know it was their system that went in at an Imperial Valley feedlot, providing 480-kilowats of power-generating capacity and shade for the cows, until a reader pointed it out to us.
“Van Dyke’s Rice Dryer and GreenVolts illustrate the economical and environmental benefits of applying solar technology to the agriculture industry,” California Energy Commissioner Robert Weisenmiller says in a GreenVolts release.
That’s a solid endorsement – but it’s the guy in the cowboy, who drops his g’s, that might carry more weight in the ag community.
”We’re competin’ on the world market,” Van Dyke says. “We ship to the Middle East, we’re competin with Australia, competin’ with Egypt, so we have to contain our costs in order to keep the growers viable, so they can stay in business and we can stay in business. And the solar is part of our deal to control the costs and it’s gonna do it.”