Chevron launches Project Brightfield, a solar testing facility in Bakersfield

Published 11/11 2013 10:17AM

Updated 11/11 2013 10:17AM

From Green Right Now Reports

Chevron Corp., based in San Ramon, Calif., announced today that it will host a demonstration and testing site for seven solar technologies — six thin-film and one crystalline-silicon photovoltaics — at the site of a former oil refinery in Bakersfield.

Chevron has announced Project Brightfield in Bakersfield.

Chevron has announced Project Brightfield in Bakersfield.

The interesting repurposing of the refinery site is the brainchild of Chevron’s Technology Ventures division, which evaluates emerging technologies.  "Testing competing technologies side by side means that we can better understand their potential application at other Chevron facilities,"   said Des King, president of Chevron Technology Ventures.

Even though oil and solar would not appear to mix — solar power is being developed mainly to power buildings, whereas oil remains the primary source of energy for the world’s transportation needs. In that light, Chevron can be seen as just another company with power needs. And that makes solar power just another example of  “Chevron's efforts to find ways to integrate innovative technologies into our business," as Bruce Johnson, vice president of Chevron's San Joaquin Valley Business Unit put it.

But there’s really more to the picture. Chevron is actively investing in solar power, and expects to develop and distribute commercial solar power. It is already involved in other pilot projects. It recently announced it will be designing and installing a 3.7 MW solar array at East Side Union High School in the San Jose school district. The company also is developing a concentrating solar photovoltaic installation at a Chevron Mining Inc. facility near Questa, New Mexico that is due for completion in late 2010, according to Chevron.

The Bakersfield demonstration, called Project Brightfield, will be one of the first, if not the first, major side-by-side tests of cutting edge solar tech. The project, which will include 7,700 solar panels on the 8-acre site, is expected to generate 740 kilowatts of energy. The power that will be directed onto the local utility grid and also used to power Chevron’s oil production operations at the large Kern River Oil Field in California. And perhaps more importantly, it may yield important information to steer development, because, as Chevron notes in the YouTube video on Project Brightfield, the world needs both the conventional and emerging energy sources. (The company-produced video doesn’t mention the fact that the world is running out of cheaply obtainable oil.)

The participating solar companies are  Abound Solar, MiaSolé, Schüco, Solar Frontier, Sharp, and Solibro and Innovalight (the crystalline-silicon producer).  Each company will be able to collect data about how its panels are performing, and compare it against a benchmark that has been installed on the site, a commercially available solar photovoltaic installation.

Chevron previously reused another company site for a clean energy venture, re-purposing a refinery facility in Casper, Wyoming, into a wind farm that generates 16.5 megawatts of power.

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