Chevron Launches Solar Test Bed $CVX

Oil giant Chevron has an itch to test out early stage solartechnology. This morning Chevron plans to show off a solar test bed inBakersfield, Calif., dubbed Project Brightfield, that will use seven“emerging pre-commercial” solar photovoltaic technologies. The companies providing the technology range from massive corporation to smallstartups, and include: Sharp, Abound Solar, Miasole, Schuco, Solar Frontier, Solibro and Innovalight.

Project Brightfield, a 740 kW project with 7,700 solar panels, willbe built on an 8-acre dirt plot where Chevron formerly ran a refinerythat belched out gasoline and asphalt. Chevron’s solar testbed newscomes on the heels of the oil giant announcing last month that it will build a 1 MWconcentrating solar photovoltaic system on the tailing site of a mine in Questa, New Mexico using technology from Concentrix Solar, a Freiburg,Germany-based company.

Chevron, like the other oil giants that have dabbled in solar,remains largely in the early stages of testing out solar technology.Some oil companies are taking more aggressive stances than others. Oilgiant BP invests just $10 million in solar photovoltaic research through its subsidiary BP Solar, reports the LA Times, but according to its 2009 annual report BP Solar sold 203 MW worth of solar panels last year.

Other oil firms don’t see a long-term future in solar. At the WallStreet Journal’s ECO:nomics conference earlier this month Shell CEO Peter Voser explained Shell’s decision to exit the solar industry because, “We don’t see that being somethingwe can scale.”

Here’s more details on the seven firms that Chevron has tapped forProject Brightfield:

Sharp: Japanese consumer electronics maker and solar giant Sharp has been working to boost its thin film solar manufacturing capacity six fold toreaching a goal of 1 gigawatt of production capacity by 2010. As earlyas 2014 Sharp is looking to deliver 6 gigawatts of thin film solarproduction. (Sharp also makes solar cells and the machines that makethin film solar equipment).

Miasolé: Santa, Clara, Calif.-based Miasole makesthin film solar tech from Copper Indium Gallium Selenide or (CIGS) andis providing 200 kW of power at Project Brightfield. MiaSolé saysBrightfield is its first commercial project in California. Miasole just started shipping solar panels to customers in December and has raised at last $300 million in venture financing since its founding in2001.

Innovalight: Founded in 2002, Innovalight makesphotovoltaic silicon ink that can produce cells that can convert 18percent of sunlight into electricity. The company is working with JASolar, and raised a new round of $18 million in funding in January from EDBInvestments (EDBI) of Singapore, Vertex Venture Holdings, the venturesubsidiary of Temasek Holdings, Apax Partners, ARCH Venture Partners,Convexa Capital, Harris & Harris Group, Sevin Rosen Funds and Triton Ventures.

Solar Frontier: Solar Frontier is the subsidiary ofJapanese oil refiner Showa Shell Sekiyu, and makes Copper IndiumSelenide (CIS) modules. Formerly called Showa Shell Solar, the companyis planning to spend $1.1 billion to build its third plant, according to the Cleantech Group, and has been working on the technologysince 1993, and started producing CIS modules in 2006.

Abound Solar: Formerly AVA Solar, thin-film solarpanel maker Abound Solar fired up its first full-scale factory in April 2009 after more than adecade of development at Colorado State University. Abound raised $104million equity financing in 2008 from DCM, Technology Partners, GLG Partners,Bohemian Companies and Invus.

Schuco: German giant Shuco makes aluminum, steel and solar components, and has developed a U.S. presence over the past three years. Schuco showed off thin film solar technology at the U.S. Intersolar solarconference last year.

Solibro: A subsidiary of German solar cell giantQ-Cells, and is now called Q-Cells Modules, the company makes CIGS thinfilm solar. The company shipped its first products to customers in 2008and expanded to 135 MW production in 2009.



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