Chevron breaks ground on Concentrix Solar CPV project

logoChevron1 MegaWatt (MW) Concentrator PhotoVoltaic (CPV) plant is a pilot demonstration for a period of five years.
Concentrix Solar plans to build a US manufacturing facility.

New Mexico puts old mine to solar use” by Candace Lombardi at the CNET Green Tech Blog presaged the event. Although I contacted the Communications Office of New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, the Concentrix Solar division of the Soitec Group (EPA:SOI), Chevron Technology Ventures (CTV), and Chevron Corporation (NYSE:CVX), the lone photo of the event is in The Taos News taken by Rick Romancito. I believe Concentrix Solar CEO Hansjörg Lerchenmüller is visible in the photo to the far left.

Reviewing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) Preferred Alternative for cleaning up mining-related contamination at the Chevron Mining, Inc. (CMI) Questa, New Mexico, mine site:

Proposed Cleanup Plan December 2009

I discovered the plan to operate the CPV plant for a five (5) year test period in this paragraph:

Chevron Technology Ventures, in working with CMI, EPA and the New Mexico regulatory agencies, plans to construct a 1 megawatt solar energy facility at the northeastern portion of the tailing facility in 2010. The solar facility is to be operated as a pilot demonstration for a period of five years and would test concentrating photovoltaic (CPV) technology. In conjunction with the solar project, CMI would also demonstrate the effectiveness of alternate cover depths of 1, 2, and 3 feet for the protection of human health and the environment.

Construction of the 1 MW CPV plant on about 20 acres (~8.1 hectares) at the CMI Questa Tailing Facility is scheduled for completion in December 2010. No doubt the project is complicated by preparing the site to evaluate alternative capping soil depths.

The project is said to “include approximately 175 CPV systems”; 175 Concentrix Solar CX-P6 Systems (Technical Data Sheet) each rated at 6 kW (kiloWatt) Nominal AC Power specify a system capacity of 1.05 MW AC. Therefore, the Questa CPV project may just edge the VVC SolFocus installation for North American bragging rights once completed.

View Questa Mine 1MW CPV Project in a larger map

Editorial: A light at the end of the tunnel for Questa mine” at The Taos News said:

The cleanup could cost Chevron Mining nearly $1 billion and take up to 30 years to complete. The mine is estimated to have enough ore to harvest for 40 more years and the proposal would allow most of the work to be done while it is operating.

Although the financial terms of the deal between Chevron Technology Ventures and Concentrix Solar have not been disclosed, the magnitude of the Questa cleanup confirms my understanding that Chevron was somewhat indifferent to the price of the CPV plant. Sourced from the Concentrix Solar factory in Freiburg, Germany, I infer (guess) the cost was $6 per Watt or higher due to exchange rates and perhaps with or without the EPC (Engineering, Procurement and Construction).

Per “Chevron breaks ground on solar plant” at the New Mexico Business Weekly,

As part of the solar installation agreement, Chevron will use 30 acres of the plant as a pilot demonstration site to evaluate different soil depths suitable for use at the closure of the mine in an attempt to show that shallower depths of one or two feet will still ensure no adverse impacts to the health of the local community and the environment.

If the project validates capping soil depths below the EPA mandate of three feet for mine tailings, Chevron will realize significant cleanup savings with the placement of cover across the 1050 acre (~425 hectare) tailing facility. In fairness to Chevron, the Questa mine was acquired along with Unocal in 2005.

Electricity produced by the CPV plant will all be sold to the Kit Carson Electric Cooperative (KCEC) through a PPA (Power Purchase Agreement). Terms including the period of the Chevron Solar PPA have also not been disclosed although the agreement was discussed in a closed Executive Session of the January 26, 2010, KCEC Board Meeting.

I can only assume the successful test of the CPV technology over the 5 year period will result in extended operation of the solar plant contingent upon the cover depth evaluation results on the site.

ConcentrixSolarlogo Concentrix Solar Updates
At the 3rd Solar Energy Investment & Finance Summit USA in San Francisco, Concentrix Solar Business Development Manager Michael Armstrong said:

We are in the process of getting UL and CEC certification for the US right now, as a matter of fact it will be out next month.

I suggest keeping an eye on the California Energy Commission (CEC) List of Other Eligible Solar Electric Generating Technologies for the California Solar Initiative (CSI) in June 2010.

In response to a cost per Watt question, Mr. Armstrong said:

Right now with a kit, with the EPC, with everything, we are in the mid $4’s and we expect to be much lower than that in the very near future. And part of that formula is that we will be building a factory here in the United States.
I think within 24 months you will see some extremely aggressive pricing from all of us in the CPV world.

On May 18, 2010, “Knowledge Oasis Muscat holds inaugural ceremony of third generation solar energy panel” at reports on a Concentrix CPV demonstration system installed at the Knowledge Oasis Muscat (KOM) technology park in Oman.


  1. Abhishek says:

    Don’t you think that this 1 MW demonstration plant is getting too much press.

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