Harry Reid turns on Amonix Concentrated Photovoltaic Solar Plant

308 kW (kiloWatt) DC CPV (Concentrator Photovoltaic) Plant appears to have an installed cost of just over $6 per Watt.
Amonix expects to choose a Nevada manufacturing site in the next few weeks with plans to be in operation by yearend 2010.

View Amonix 308 kW CPV at River Mountain Water Treatment Facility in a larger map

On Saturday in Henderson, Nevada USA, “Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid “Flips the Switch” on Amonix Concentrated Photovoltaic Solar Plant at Southern Nevada Water Treatment Facility” was supposed to mark the ceremonial start of electricity production.

A quick look at my SPI 09: Concentrating PhotoVoltaics Highlights and an old Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA) Amonix Case Study reveals the six (6) Amonix Inc. 7500 CPV solar power generators installed at the River Mountain Water Treatment Facility have been producing power since July 2009. In “SNWA Builds High-Concentration Photovoltaic near trail”, the River Mountains Loop Trail Blog has photos of complete looking systems in May 2009, a year ago. The installation’s rating specification has changed from 208 kW AC (May 2009) to 240 kW AC? (July 2009) to 308 kW DC today.

Manufactuing update
In “New solar manufacturing plant to create 300 jobs” by Kyle Hansen for the Las Vegas Sun, Amonix CEO Brian Robertson said:

The company is considering three sites and expects to make a decision in the next few weeks. Once the site is selected, construction will begin immediately and the facility should be operational by the end of the year.

So to recap, the SNWA CPV Plant has been producing electricity since at least July 2009, and Amonix announced plans for a Nevada manufacturing site in the January 2010 “436 Clean Energy Manufacturing Jobs to Be Created in U.S. by Solar Manufacturing Leader, Amonix” press release about the Section 48c Manufacturing Tax Credit awards.

Couldn’t the political press event have waited for the final Amonix decision on the Southern Nevada manufacturing location so there was a tangible story aspect to the dedication? While I favor and appreciate efforts to promote photovoltaics, the staged event was more focused on reelection year politics than promoting solar.

Cost per Watt (W)
Per the Las Vegas Sun, SNWA Renewable Energy Programs Manager Gary Wood said:

The cost of the plant was $2.1 million. It includes about $250,000 worth of infrastructure improvements that can support more solar panels if the authority wants to expand the plant in the future.

If I use the 308 kW DC capacity figure, the SNWA installed cost per Watt ranges from just over $6 per Watt DC correcting for the infrastructure improvements ($2.1M minus $250K) to $6.82 per Watt DC with the improvements enabling future photovoltaic expansion.

In the June 2008 SNWA Board of Directors Meeting Approved Minutes, the board agreed on item number:

9. Approve an agreement with Amonix, Inc., for the purchase and installation supervision of eight advanced solar-power generating systems in an amount not to exceed $1,465,000, and authorize the General Manager to approve amendments, as needed, up to 10% of the base amount and within the general scope of the agreement.

FINAL ACTION: A motion was made by Director Maxfield to follow staff’s recommendation. The motion was approved.

Even if I assume the six (6) systems have equivalent capacity to the eight (8) planned by the agreement, the installation would appear to have been at least 26% over budget again ignoring the infrastructure improvements.

The BFC (Big Frakin’ Crane) approach has not demonstrated the promised installation economies in the SNWA project espoused in “$130M for Amonix: CPV Refined and Reconsidered” by Eric Wesoff at Greentech Media. I like real language, but I suggest Amonix refrain from abbreviating the River Mountain Water Treatment Facility to River Mountain WTF.

As a side note, almost all of my prior Amonix website links were wiped out with the site redesign and relaunch, an all too common practice.

It’s a good thing this was not announced in Vegas.

7 comments

  1. jerry shaffer says:

    hello i am a license pv installer with the state of nevada. will i have a chance to be working with this new company installing or manufacturing.

  2. Nic Morgan says:

    When I first read your headline I was confused. “Why would Harry Reid turn on them? Took me a second…

  3. Bob in Philly says:

    Amonix should certainly be applauded for their progress to date. As a member of the solar industry, I too appreciate any and all progress solar and other renewable energy technologies. One only need to look at the Gulf of Mexico situation to see the vast dangers of the traditional energy technologies.

    Most in the industry are aware of less than robust track record of the solar concentrator sector particularly in the lower concentration CPV technologies. Amonix and SolFocus represent two exceptions to the CPV segment general history.

    It will be interesting to see if the two other cost factors in the Amonix installation can be learned from as in the ongoing operating cost of running a large dual axis tracker system along with inverter performance dynamics.

    Calibration in regard to dual axis systems can be complex and given the power curve drop off characteristics of CPV systems to sudden cloud cover, these costs must be taken into consideration as well.

    While I again applaud Amonix for real progress, other external cost issues should be put into focus to see the whole cost picture.

  4. George says:

    Any info on actual installed cost of the latest amonix trackers
    at Alamosa? $/Watt ??

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