Meg Cichon and Jennifer Runyon, RenewableEnergyWorld.com
December 11, 2012 | 2 Comments
Last night, Renewable Energy World network editors announced the project of the year winners at an Awards Gala during Renewable Energy World Conference and Expo, North America, which is co-located with Power-Gen International. Below, find our winners and runners up.
Best Solar Project: Solarpark Meuro, owned by GP Joule and saferay in Brandenburg, Germany
Worldwide, there are more than 70 GW of installed solar photovoltaic (PV), according to the latest REN21 Global Status Report. That’s more than ten times the amount of installed solar PV capacity than just five years ago. No country has been as far ahead of the pack in terms of installing solar power capacity than Germany.
The largest PV project in Germany, the 166 MW Solarpark Meuro covers 200 hectares (491 acres) and was constructed on a former lignite mining strip. Canadian Solar provided panels for 148 MW of the project, which was built by GP Joule and saferay in the East German city. The additional 18 MW of solar modules came from First Solar and were installed by Phoenix. Solarpark Meuro’s benefits are many. The project turns a brownfield, a former lignite mining strip, into an energy producing solar farm. In addition, the project created hundreds of local jobs when it was built, with most construction and operation contracts awarded to local companies.
Finally, Solarpark Meuro is a testament to Germany’s wildly successful -- and hotly debated -- feed-in tariff (FIT), which has spurred more than 29 GW of total installed capacity in the country. Under the FIT, owners of solar generation assets sell all the power that they generate to the utility at a premium rate. The utility collects the additional money needed to fund the FIT payments through added taxes on all ratepayers’ bills.
Solarpark Meuro was commissioned in late September 2011 by Prime Minister of Brandenburg, Matthias Platzeck.
Best Solar Project Runner-Up: Alamosa Solar Project, owned by Cogentrix in Alamosa, Colo.
Cogentrix’s 30 MW concentrating photovoltaic (CPV) project in Alamosa, Colo. is the largest high-concentration solar field in the world, generating power for use by customers of Public Service Co. of Colorado, an Xcel Energy subsidiary.
Commissioned in April 2012, this large-scale project sets a precedent for renewable power generation, both through its $90 million in funding from the Department of Energy and its commercialization of concentrating photovoltaic power generation. The plant is located on a 225-acre site in the San Luis Valley of southern Colorado, chosen specifically for its outstanding sunlight characteristics (high DNI), its high elevation (7,800 FASL) and the presence of an existing 115 kV transmission line for interconnection.
The Alamosa Solar Project consists of 504 dual-axis, pedestal-mounted trackers, each with a capacity of approximately 60 kW. A hydraulic motor rotates and tilts the assembly throughout the day so the surface of each panel maintains an optimal angle with the sun. Each tracker assembly is 70 feet wide by 50 feet high and converts one-fourth of the sun's energy into useable electricity. Each assembly contains 7,560 Fresnel lenses that concentrate sunlight approximately 500 times onto multi-junction solar cells, which produces more energy at a lower cost than silicon solar cell-based technology.
The facility has more than 28 miles of grounding cable throughout the site and more than 52 miles of underground electric cable for transferring the power from the field to the interconnection transmission grid at 115 kV.
The Alamosa Valley is currently undergoing a transition away from an agricultural economic base due to the ever-restrictive use of water. The benefits from the construction and long-term operation of the Alamosa facility are an increase to the local tax base and the establishment of long-term jobs at the facility, which will help offset any decline in the loss of agricultural work.
Cogentrix and Xcel Energy, the state's largest utility, spent about a month testing the system and making sure it performed to expectations. The facility is now supplying electricity to Xcel under a power purchase agreement (PPA) and paving the way for more communities across the country to tap into the potential for renewable solar energy generation.