Throw out the solar panel performance data from labs and manufacturers. It’s flawed, said Bruce Mercy, CEO of PPA Partners, in a Solar Power International session decided to Concentrated Photovoltaic technology.
“I’ve been higher and lower,” he said, “but never close to the data they provided.”
He said the industry must develop better – and more truthful – methods of rating how technology performs to compete globally and achieve $1.00/watt installed cost. And more accurate tests, he said, occur in the field.
Mercy is known by his peers as the “weird developer.” At the podium, he recognized his lack of patents, published papers and letters behind his name. “The only letters that came to me were Bruce Mercy, LOL,” he said.
Humor aside, he’s a serious developer, having enough authority to convince a subsidiary of conservative-leaning Morgan Stanley to finance a 5-MW technology testing system at Arizona Western College in the Yuma, Arizona.
Located in a desert that holds the world record for annual sun hours – 4,174 out of 4,456 – the array provides 100% of the college’s daytime energy needs while being an educational opportunity for students.
The technologies, which will save the college about $75 million over their contract life, include CPV panels from SolFocus and GreenVolts, Thin Film panels from Sharp Solar, Mono Crystalline panels from SolarWorld and Poly Crystalline panels from Suntech.
The system uses single-axis trackers from SunEdison and dual-axis trackers from SolFocus and GreenVolts. The tracking systems allow the panels to continually track the movement of the sun in order to maximize electricity generation.
The CPV system is built on a waste treatment site across the street from campus. “This shows we’re capable of installing on any type of terrain,” Mercy said. The four other arrays are scattered on two sides of the college, including 6-acres of panels on a parking structure.
The experiment has run 9 months so far, and trends are beginning to develop. But Mercy is looking ahead already. “We’ll continue developing sites because there is so much to learn,” he said.