Companies have come to realize that they can avoid most of the bureaucratic snags involved in building plants that produce over 50 megawatts. Furthermore, by grouping their panels into small lots, they’ve been able to grab small tracts of land on the edges of cities and towns, or on land that can be dual-purposed like farms. A secondary advantage is the ability to hook into the existing power grid without the modifications required to channel power from a large plant.
The idea is to build 10 acre lots on the outskirts of small cities that could feed into the municipal power grid directly. Each lot, consisting of several rows of solar panels mounted on rails above ground, could provide up to 2 megawatts, enough to serve 1,000 homes. The panels would be mounted on rails to prevent them from affecting the surrounding wildlife and vegetation. Nanosolar has gotten plenty of attention for its claim that it can sell its cells for as low as 99 cents per watt, low enough to be competitive with non-renewable energy sources, as well as recently raising over $50 million more from EDF Energies Nouvelles.
Coolearth solar who I recently covered claims that they will produce electricity for 18 cents a watt, and hopes to ramp up its production of balloon concentrators to 50 megawatts by next year (2009).
Coolearth Solars target is 29 cents per watt INSTALLED by 2010. 18 cents per watt for materials. 18 cents / Wattp (Watt panel)
CoolEarth Solar's plans
FY07+ - 10-50 kW installations
FY08+: 50 kW - 1 MW installations
FY10+: 1-10 MW Micro-utility franchises
There are several solar thermal companies and some are described by Al Fin
SolFocus, for example, makes large solar concentrator panels, which use mirrors to focus more light onto highly efficient solar photovoltaics. It raised $63.6 million.