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Power Integrations Powers Up 600 kW Solar Array

Power Integrations, a manufacturer of high-voltage integrated circuits (ICs), has powered up its $3.6-million solar array at its San Jose headquarters in the Edenvale Technology Park. The photovoltaic installation includes more than 2,500 solar panels covering a 44,448-square-foot parking lot.

At 600 kilowatts (kW), the system is among the 10 largest solar facilities in Silicon Valley, according to the IC maker. The installation will fully power one of Power Integrations’ two buildings, which houses the company’s chip-testing operation, as well as all parking-lot lights at the company’s headquarters.

The project is expected to cut more than 10,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions over the next 25 years. The installation’s smart design covers 280 parking spots, which provides shade for employees’ cars.

Power Integrations has a real-time data feed showing current and cumulative energy production from the array at the company’s corporate sustainability Website.

The project will remove an entire building off the grid, while reducing its energy bills enough to pay for the project in 12 years, says Power Integrations.

Three companies worked on the project: Solar Technologies on system design, Legacy Roofing for installation and Atlas Pellizzari Electric, which oversaw the construction of the project. The solar panels were manufactured in Memphis, Tenn. by Sharp Electronics.

Intel is another IC maker that is using solar energy to power its U.S. facilities.

In other solar news, the California Energy Commission recommended approval for BrightSource Energy’s proposed 392-megawatt Ivanpah solar thermal power plant in southeast California, reports Reuters.

The Ivanpah plant will cost about $1.1 billion, or about $2,800 per kilowatt, in comparison to about $900 per kW to build a combined cycle natural gas plant and about $1,800 per kW to build an onshore wind turbine, reports Reuters.

BrightSource says Ivanpah will be the world’s largest solar energy project, nearly doubling the amount of solar thermal electricity produced in the U.S. today. The company expects to have all of the necessary permits to start construction in fall 2010.

Previously, BrightSource received a conditional commitment from the U.S. Department of Energy for $1.37 billion in loan guarantees to help finance the project.

When constructed, the project is expected to reduce CO2 emissions by more than 400,000 tons annually, create more than 1,000 local union jobs at the peak of construction, and provide $650 million in employee wages over its first 30-year life

The power generated from these solar plants will be sold under separate contracts with Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) and Southern California Edison (SCE). Together, BrightSource will deliver more than 2,600 megawatts of electric power.

PG&E will purchase approximately two-thirds of the power generated and SCE will purchase approximately one-third.

To conserve water, the Ivanpah project will use an air-cooling system to convert the steam back into water in a closed-loop cycle. By using air-cooling, the project will use only 100 acre feet of water per year, approximately 95 percent less water than competing solar thermal technologies that use wet-cooling, according to BrightSource.

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