The emerging market for concentrated solar power (CPV) plants is creating growth opportunities for other industries and companies like Hydro Aluminum.
The company built the frame for the 550-kilowatt Skyline Solar CPV project in Durango, Mexico. It’s currently the largest CPV plant in Latin America.
“While the size might be small, this is a relatively new technology,” said Allan Bennett, vice president of solar market development for Hydro. “We only have 10 megawatts of installed capacity worldwide total. And the fact that this project is to grow to 10 megawatts is fairly significant.”
Hydro is first and foremost a metal company, supplying aluminum and aluminum products worldwide. But it got into the solar business early, when it helped to build the Nevada One concentrated solar power (CSP) plant in 2005.
“We kind of fell into it,” Bennett said. “We got hooked up with a big company early on and grew with them.”
Hydro built the framework that made the CSP troughs possible all over the world and supplied plants from the American Southwest to Germany and Italy. But the market is shifting away from CSP these days.
The high profile Blythe Solar plant in California announced a switch from CSP to traditional solar photovoltaic panels last year.
“CSP has been fairly quiet for us the last couple years,” Bennett said.
He said he believes there will be room for all of the technologies once the market gets acquainted with them all and things start to settle down in the industry. CSP offers the advantage of energy storage, which eliminates the risk created by intermittent power sources like traditional solar PV.
“Right now, solar PV is sort of the darling because of the big price drop,” he said.
But this new and emerging market in CPV also has a place, he said. It’s optimized solar power production, and Hydro is well-positioned to grow with this market the same way it did with CSP, he said.
“We’re well situated to that work,” he said. “We’ve already done things like it.”
He said the company can apply the same knowledge it gained in building CSP framing and infrastructure to CPV plants.
The project with Skyline went well, he said.
“It’s perfect because they have experts in design, and we have experts in metal,” Bennett said. “We were able to save them about 40 percent of the mass of the structure, which is a huge cost saving.”