Last week Texas A&M University-Central Texas announced ambitious plans to build a $600 million solar testing facility, which it said would be the largest in the world. The university is partnering with the Center for Solar Energy to develop a roughly 800-acre site. It will also include a solar farm that will power the campus.
“Technological innovation is the cornerstone of the Center’s programs, and it will use the 50MW solar field to create a baseline of data for grading new and existing technologies, while also providing a basis for research. Developers of promising early stage technologies will thus be attracted to Central Texas for training, support, and validation,” said Bruce Mercy, executive director of the Center for Solar Energy.
The University is developing the project with PPA Partners, which has a similar venture at Arizona Western College in Yuma. The new Center for Solar Energy will be in Bell County, Texas. It is designed as an incubation program that will help develop early-stage solar power technologies. The project’s intention is to help show potential capital investors how the technologies work and encourage them to bring these successful technologies to the marketplace.
“The collaboration between A&M-Central Texas and the Center for Solar Energy is truly a market-changing partnership and will make A&M-Central Texas the premier destination for the study and advancement of solar energy,” said John Sharp, Chancellor of The Texas A&M University System. The school will also use the solar center to help it generate new course offerings designed to encourage research and education in renewable energy, and its business and marketing programs.
According to the center, it will host the largest assortment of photovoltaic technologies in the world and serve as a true test site for leading-edge technologies, leading to thousands of clean energy jobs in Central Texas.
The center will dwarf the 5MW installation at Arizona Western College, where the school is testing five 1MW solar arrays, each using a different technology. It will also dwarf SolarTAC (Solar Technology Acceleration Center), which at 74-acres near Denver is currently the U.S.’s largest solar testing center.
The new center at Texas A&M plans to help bring emerging solar technologies from to market over a two-year time period. It will also feature training, engineering, demonstration and manufacturing support. Technologies will enter the center’s testing program by means of a scholarship, venture capital partner or advisory board recommendation, the center said.
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