CPV Will Help Power Global Climate Talks

The 17th annual Conference of the Parties (COP17) global climate talks kick off this week with a high sense of urgency but amid the reality of low expectations.

With the world’s focus fixed intently on Durban, South Africa, it’s looking unlikely that there will be anything presented that will ease the stalemate between the U.S. and China over adopting emissions targets.

While policy discussions will dominate the stage, one company is taking a different approach to energy awareness and is using the event as a way to market itself and the benefits of solar power. And they’ll be doing that with a concentrating photovoltaic (CPV) power plant, a technology that often goes unnoticed by all but the most astute energy observers.

To those seeing it for the first time, CPV uses an optical system to concentrate a large area of sunlight onto central PV cells, which then turn the sunlight directly into electricity. This type of technology is seen as ideal in a place like South Africa, which has large solar ambitions and a wealth of sunshine. The technology is also seen by advocates as a potential solution in the area because of its ability to operate without cooling water and its minimal environmental impacts.

One of the companies at the forefront of this technology is Soitec, which has manufacturing plants and research and development centers in France, Singapore, Germany and the United States. For the Durban summit, the company built a 500 kW solar energy facility about 25 kilometers away that will power the event. The CPV project will be officially inaugurated by South African President Dr. Jacob. G. Zuma on Dec. 4.

According to the company, the CPV plant was constructed in just one month by local workers. Group Five, an integrated construction services, materials and infrastructure investment group operating in Africa, was the local construction partner for the project.

At the entrance to the Climate Change Response Expo, Soitec will display a full-sized, 10-meter-high solar panel tracker to give visitors a close-up look at CPV technology, and the demonstration project will be used to charge electric vehicles.

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