Arizona Utility Showcases Space-based Solar PV

Bathed with some of the greatest solar energy resources in all the United States, it’s fitting that Arizona would also have some of the best utility efforts toward harnessing that solar energy.

Arizona Public Service (APS), through their specialized solar testing facility, have started generating power using new, high efficiency multi-junction photovoltaic (PV) cells just like those typically used on satellites, and spacecraft such as the Mars Rover. According to APS, this is the first known utility-produced electric power from such space based cells. This new technology uses both solar sunlight concentrators, and high-efficiency, multi-junction PV, allowing the final power output to be almost 50 percent more efficient than conventional PV cells. APS began working with two companies, Spectrolab and Concentrating Technologies LLC, about three years ago to test the new technology and help increase its reliability. The demonstrated high efficiencies of these solar technologies are not necessarily ground-breaking on their own. Their efficiencies are staggering, but it’s their final cost-per-watt whichas kept them from being readily accepted and used in traditional solar markets. Satellite and other space-based programs are typically more concerned about efficiency and weight, not price. Since 1988, APS has tested and/or developed technologies that convert solar energy into electricity at the APS STAR site (Solar Testing And Research). APS also uses STAR to learn how to produce lower-cost electricity from sunlight using current and emerging solar technologies. As a result of its research over the years, APS has built commercial solar power plants in Flagstaff, Glendale, Prescott, Yuma, Scottsdale, Gilbert and Phoenix.

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