Colorado Solar Research Center Powers Up

Members of the Solar Technology Acceleration Center (SolarTAC) and supporters convened in Aurora, Colo., this week, to mark a milestone in “Powering Up” one of the world’s largest solar test and demonstration facilities.  Since announcing the initial launch of SolarTAC one year ago, the site infrastructure development has progressed to the point where members can now break ground for their planned solar technology implementation and testing.

SolarTAC originated when six public and private sector entities–Abengoa Solar (ABG.MC), the City of Aurora, the Colorado Renewable Energy Collaboratory, Midwest Research Institute (MRI), SunEdison, and Xcel Energy (NYSE: XEL)–joined forces to build a site where member companies can bring their early commercial or near-commercial stage solar technologies for testing and demonstration under actual field conditions.

The City of Aurora provided the land for SolarTAC and is developing an adjacent area of 1,900 acres as the Aurora Renewable Energy Campus.

“We welcome SolarTAC into Colorado’s New Energy Economy ecosystem,” said Colorado Governor Bill Ritter. “The testing and research conducted at this facility will tie-in well with the state’s solar industry, further enhancing Colorado’s position as a gateway for high performing solar products that lower energy costs while drawing more companies and solar jobs.” 

By the end of this year, nearly $1.8 million of infrastructure work will be completed by MRI, SolarTAC’s management and operating contractor, to prepare the site for member companies to move-in equipment and construct member-specific facilities.   

U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) also announced their intent to join SolarTAC.

NREL membership in SolarTAC will allow the national laboratory to better engage with industry to solve challenges in increasing the amount of solar electricity produced in the U.S. Among other projects, NREL will install a $2 million pilot-scale advanced thermal energy storage test and evaluation facility at SolarTAC to help improve heat storage technologies that can offset variability.

“The collaborative aspects of SolarTAC make it a natural fit for EPRI, where one of EPRI’s roles is to build industry collaboratives to support R&D,” said Bryan Hannegan, Vice President of Environment and Renewable Generation at EPRI. “Commercial renewable energy technologies, such as advanced solar PV and concentrating solar power with storage, are expected to make significant contributions to the world’s energy supply in coming decades, and the work at SolarTAC will help make that possible.”

At this stage in the site development, Abengoa Solar and SunEdison are ready to begin installation of equipment and facilities for testing and evaluation of advanced solar technologies.

“SunEdison is pleased to join with our partners in reaching this important milestone in the development of SolarTAC,” said SunEdison chief technology officer, Mark Culpepper.  “One of the most significant long-term opportunities presented by SolarTAC will be the ability to study the way PV systems connect to and interact with the grid.”

Abengoa Solar currently plans to install an operational scale CSP collector loop and associated assembly building at the site to test and validate new designs of its technologies. During the event, the nearly 150 attendees were updated on the site development plans, and had an opportunity to see solar technology demonstrations led by Abengoa Solar and SunEdison representatives.

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