Nipton goes Skyline Solar

~80.6 kiloWatt-peak (kWp) DC High Gain Solar (HGS) project awaiting final interconnections.
$4.05 per Watt-peak DC installation cost per the CSI data.

From Nipton goes Skyline Solar, Photo Credit: Oltmans Construction Co.

I first became aware of a new Skyline Solar, Inc. project located in Nipton, California USA (http://www.nipton.com/) via the California Solar Statistics website which provides program and application information on the California Solar Initiative (CSI). I contacted Skyline Solar in April 2010; they didn’t comment preferring to announce finished projects.

Well it took a while, but I reviewed the Site Plan Permit for the project at the San Bernardino County Land Use Services Department North Desert Office in Victorville after the Victor Valley College Solar Power Plant Celebration.

From Nipton goes Skyline Solar

The Site Plan (shown above) describes a 100.8 kWp DC system consisting of 56 High Gain Solar Arrays or 876 HGS Panels. By my calculations, there are sixteen (16) HGS Panels per Array implying a total of 896 HGS Panels (16 times 56) so I believe the 876 number was a typo.

I phoned the permit applicant, Gerald Freeman, who was kind enough to share the project history and status. Mr. Freeman was excited and animated (a common trend!) to discuss the photovoltaic solar system which will supply 80% of Nipton’s power. While Nipton has about 30 residents, Mr. Freeman expected Gateway to Mojave National Preserve visitors to bump the population up to near 250 over the recent Memorial Day holiday weekend.

The Site Plan Permit application was submitted in December 2009 and approved in early January 2010. The system installation began in February and was completed by the end of April 2010. Three (3) interconnections with Edison International (NYSE:EIX) subsidiary Southern California Edison (SCE) have been approved and the final three (3) interconnections should be completed in the next few weeks. Substation modifications were required by SCE to complete the interconnections.

Mr. Freeman has a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with a specially created finance entity, Sustainable Investments LLC, and has an option to buy the systems after five (5) years. Skyline Solar’s role is as the system manufacturer, designer, and installer.

The Nipton system is divided into two sites to the north and south of Nipton Road respectively. The southern site has three (3) Columns with twelve (12) HGS Arrays each, twice as long as the Columns at the VTA Demonstration Project. The HGS Arrays appear to have a system capacity of 1.68 kWp, and the Columns are 20.2 kWp for a combined system capacity of 60.6 kWp. Subcontractor Oltmans Construction Co. has photos of the Skyline Solar Phase I project. The southern PV Columns will power the hotel, store, restaurant, house, and the water well.

The northern site has another Column with twelve (12) HGS Arrays; the short Column with eight (8) HGS Arrays on the Site Plan was postponed because of the economic crisis. The northern PV Column will power the school and perhaps two houses.

CSISkylineNiptonresults

Per the CSI data, the installation uses twelve (12) SMA Solar Technology AG (ETR:S92) Sunny Boy 7000US Grid-Tied Inverters or three (3) per Column.

Since In Search of Skyline Solar – Part 3, it appears the power per HGS Panel 100 has been boosted almost 48% from ~71 Watt (W) to 105 W. I assume the modules have been improved or rerated from over a year of actual VTA performance data or both. Although the Du Pont Apollo DA105-A2 105W Thin Film a-Si Module is mentioned in the CSI reservations, this module was chosen as an equivalent placeholder pending the in process certification of the Skyline Solar monocrystalline solar module by the CEC (California Energy Commission).

As indicated in the CSI Program Handbook section 6.1, Equipment Certifications and Rating Criteria:

As described in Section 2.2.1, an exception may be made for new equipment that has not yet received certification but for which the certification process has been initiated.

Equipment must be certified before any incentive payments will be made.

Once certified, I expect the Skyline Solar module will be among the CSI List of Other Eligible Solar Electric Generating Technologies.

CSI Reservation Number Confusion
Again reviewing the CSI Reservation data, there are a total of 752 modules implying 47 HGS Arrays. From a forwarded email, I learned there are an even 48 HGS Arrays. I therefore analyzed and adjusted the CSI data for the mysterious and undocumented 48th Array to calculate the ~80.6 kiloWatt-peak (kWp) DC Nameplate Rating and a ~70.4 kW CEC PTC Rating.

For the cumulative ~102 kW AC CSI Rating (“Alternating current output of photovoltaic module calculated by multiplying the CEC PTC Rating with the Design Factor.”) of the installation, I adjusted for the 48th Array and an inconsistent design factor. I believe the high ~1.45 Design Factor reflects the combined performance benefits of Skyline Solar’s 10x concentration and 1-axis tracking in generating kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity at the location.

Molycorp Minerals, LLC
Mr. Freeman is hopeful Nipton will complete the remaining portion of the solar project in the near future. According to “
Molycorp Files for $350M IPO to Crank Out Minerals for Greentech” by Josie Garthwaite at earth2Tech and “Challenging China in Rare Earth Mining” by Keith Bradsher for The New York Times, Molycorp is planning “to modernize and expand” the Mountain Pass Rare Earth Operations (mine) with the initial public offering proceeds. If the Mountain Pass mine reopens, Mr. Freeman expects 1100-1200 employees will be hired by Molycorp by yearend 2011, growing Nipton’s permanent resident population.


View Larger Map

I understand a ribbon cutting ceremony for the Nipton Skyline Solar installation is scheduled for Friday, June 11, 2010.

Skyline Solar did not accept my offer to fact check the details of my post.

6 comments

  1. It is important for countries, such as the United States, to move away from the dependency on foreign oil and to use energy resources that are readily available. No one can deny the sun isn’t a steady resource.

  2. Jim Jenal says:

    Nice post – I found this by way of the LA Times story to which you commented. Much more “reporting” being done by you than by the Times!

  3. What is most important to me in this cost data is ultimately the cost per kilowatt-hour of electricity delivered.
    The solar industry has been resistant to divulging full information in a way that can be 3rd Party verified. I understand that this is because it makes it harder (in their opinions) to negotiate better (higher) sales prices, to bring home a better profit and rate of return to investors.
    However, I believe there are negotiation techniques that can be used to promote one’s viewpoint in full daylight. The techniques in the time-tested “Getting To Yes” by Roger Fisher and William Ury show how this can be done.
    By being so proprietary about price information, the solar industry is shooting themselves in the collective foot.
    Thanks for presenting this information. I would be happy to collaborate in getting pricing information out there on my website at http://www.SafeEnergyAnalyst.org and elsewhere. I can be reached at russlowes@gmail.com

  4. Jim Vincent says:

    I own property in Pioche, Nevada. I have a 300 acre site, that could be used for a site, for the solar system. Who is the contact person, the phone number and title of the person I should contact. Please advise. If you would like to see more about Pioche, Nevada. Go to http://www.piochenevada.com

    Thank you, Jim Vincent, 702-232-5754-cell, e-mail: jvincent15@cox.net

  5. Edgar A. Gunther says:

    Good article at the Las Vegas Sun with new facts, photos, and the ribbon cutting ceremony, “Remote California town blazes trail with solar plant that saves water” http://bit.ly/aSz6yC

    Check out those comments!

  6. fireofenergy says:

    It’s a shame that Obama WASTED $1/2 Billion on solyndria when it would have been better utilized with Skyline (or better yet, robotic PV assembly plants). Still, though, it seems that the $4.05 per peak watt installed costs are too high. I really like the CPV concept over Concentrated Solar Power because of minimal moving parts, no extreme temperature, and hardly any water issues. This is a great step in the right direction since larger scale production will undoubtedly reduce costs per watt. Robotic assembly plants need to be developed for the PV, the mirrors and stuctural parts. The resulting cost reductions would more than make up for “the lost to robots jobs” on the installation side of it (because much more would be made and sold).

    We really don’t have to worry about electrical storage yet. We have enough natural gas to cut CO2 emissions by over 50% “overnight” {without using} renewables (by replacing coal)!

    A “downside”… SES’s dishes are about a buck cheaper per watt installed (but then again, they have larger contracts and can’t use molten salts for cheap energy storage either)…

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