Solar PV awards: Copper Mountain, Pocono Raceway, Solar City, SunRun

At this week’s Renewable Energy World/Photovoltaics World Conference & Expo, solar PV projects and industry innovations are on display, with awards handed out to Sempra Generation’s 48MW “Copper Mountain”, Pocono Raceway’s solar farm, and finance/policy contributions from SolarCity, GRID Alternatives, and SunRun.

March 9, 2011 – At this week’s Renewable Energy World/Photovoltaics World Conference & Expo (Tampa, FL), editors from Renewable Energy World are handing out top marks for excellence in renewable energy projects and leadership, spanning solar PV to hydro to wind and geothermal.

Among the winners for the solar PV sector:

Project of the year: Sempra Generation’s 48MW “Copper Mountain”. The site in Boulder City, NV (~40mi SE of Las Vegas) went online in December 2010 and is (for now) the US’ largest PV power plant, utilizing nearly 775,000 First Solar thin-film panels on ~380 acres. (To illustrate the project’s massive size: some of the rows of panel-supporting steel posts reach nearly 2.5 miles long.) Copper Mountain has a 20-year contract with Pacific Gas & Electric in Northern California.

Project of the year, readers’ choice: enXco’s 3MW Pocono Raceway Solar Farm, tops from a pool of 9000 votes. Launched to offset the racetrack’s projected 40% increase in energy rates (ultimately it will save nearly $400K in annual energy costs), the $16M 25-acre system houses 40,000 thin-film solar panels (First Solar out of Perrysburg, OH), generating roughly 3.6-3.8M kWh — the racetrack only needs 1MW for the track, and will supply the extra ~2MW back to the grid, generating another $650K in annual RE credits. The Pocono race track’s Web site also shows how much power the project is generating — right now it’s a steady 370kW of AC power, and more than 1.7 million kWh (1.7GWh) generated to date (anticipated 20-year output is 72 million kWh).

Innovation in Finance: SolarCity’s affordable solar financing options. Basically, customers lease their PV systems instead of buying the equipment outright, paying as they go instead of all at once. The result is lower monthly bills (via leasing) and smaller electricity bills (from grid-complementary solar power).

Innovation in Policy: GRID Alternatives’ single-family affordable solar homes program (SASH), which offers incentives on PV solar systems to qualifying low-income homeowners in the Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), Southern California Edison (SCE), and San Diego Gas and Electric (SDG&E) service territories.

Leadership in finance: SunRun cofounders Lynn Jurich and Edward Fenster (president and CEO, respectively). Under the vision and guidance of these Stanford B-school grads, the company launched its first residential solar financing plan in 2007. Today it has over 8000 customers in AZ, CA, HI, MA, NJ, and PA, and has raised $300M in financing for purchasing solar systems from PG&E and BanCorp, as well as $83M in venture capital.

Videos showcasing all the winners can be viewed here.

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