A relatively new type of solar power called concentrated photovoltaic (CPV) technology is getting a $90.6 million boost in the form of a conditional loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Energy. The government backing will help with financing for a 30-megawatt facility near Alamosa, Colorado, which will be one of the largest concentrated-photovoltaics plants ever built.
The project is part of a surge in photovoltaic projects in the United States over the last few years. A total of 878 megawatts' worth of solar panels were installed last year, up from just 79 megawatts in 2005. This year total installation is expected to double 2010 levels, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. The industry is starting to approach the scale of the wind industry, which saw over 5,000 megawatts of capacity installed last year (down from over 10,000 the year before).
Concentrated photovoltaics is different from concentrated solar power, which is also known as solar thermal. In solar thermal plants, mirrors and lenses concentrate sunlight to generate the temperatures needed to produce steam that drives a turbine and generator.