SCHOTT solutions no. 2/2010 > Solar Energy

The ground-breaking ceremony for the new SCHOTT Solar plant held in March 2008 was attended by the Governor of New Mexico, Bill Richardson (4th from left), the President and CEO of SCHOTT North America, Gerald Fine (3rd from right), and other guests of honor. Photo: SCHOTT/T. Bonanno

Great Location for Solar Valley

The U.S. state of New Mexico is placing its bets on renewable energy. And SCHOTT Solar with its solar manufacturing facility in Albuquerque will play a lead role.

Martin Frey

Americans love taking their ambitious visions and turning them into reality with a lot of pragmatism – and the renewable energy market offers the greatest potential for major projects. The state of New Mexico in the southwest of the ­United States is looking to take the lead in the field of solar energy in the U.S. By sending the message that he plans to turn New Mexico into a “Solar Valley” (see the interview), Governor Bill Richardson has defined the target.

For many people, the Albuquerque airport, also known as “Sunport”, represents their very first contact with this sun-kissed state. The irradiation conditions in New Mexico’s largest city, but also across the entire state, are simply outstanding. The state ranks second in the U.S. in terms of solar potential. And this makes for excellent prerequisites for installing solar power plants on a broad scale, regardless of whether they are based on photovoltaic or solar thermal technology. In 2009, SCHOTT Solar opened up a plant in Albuquerque and now manufactures the core components for both types of plants: solar modules and solar thermal receivers.
Installed PV modules on the plant grounds in Albuquerque. New Mexico is ­considered to be an ideal solar site, thanks to its qualified employees, excellent infrastructure and commitment to solar power. Photo: SCHOTT/A. Sell
Manufacturing is taking place in the midst of a market that is constantly growing. As the fifth largest U.S. state, New Mexico, with its 121,600 square miles of surface area, offers enough space to support great ambitions. This makes it much easier to realize solar projects in New Mexico, many of which are currently in the planning phase or already under construction. At the end of August, for instance, SCHOTT Solar managed to put a 1.1 MW solar installation, the state’s largest to date, into operation on top of the Bell Group’s company parking lot in Albuquerque. The 5-acre parking area is now covered with solar modules from schott Solar. Forecasts project a yield of 1.6 million kilowatt hours of solar electricity per year.
SCHOTT Solar manufactures “Concentrated Solar Power” (CSP) receivers for solar thermal power plants and PV components with a capacity of 85 MW on approx. 18,600 square meters of space. Photo: SCHOTT/T. Bonanno

Excellent location for the solar industry

New Mexico also offers companies who are interested in setting up operations an ideal environment for investments. Enough building land is available at affordable prices and robust transport connections offer important locational advantages. Interstate 25 in Albuquerque runs north-south and crosses Interstate 40 (historic Route 66) which runs east-west. The state is also well linked to the train system and airports. But one shouldn’t forget the “soft factors”, either. Already today, an estimated 150 solar companies are busy creating a climate of innovation in New Mexico.

Politicians have also realized how much potential this holds for the economy, especially Governor Bill Richardson. “SCHOTT Solar is a healthy example of the type of industry New Mexico needs to lead the nation in renewable energy growth,” he said at the beginning of 2010, while announcing the “Green Economy Executive Order”. In this directive, he calls on all of the government agencies to support the establishment of a “Clean Energy State” to the best of their abilities.
Photo: SCHOTT/A.Sell
Energy suppliers are required to reach these goals with the help of a broadly diversified portfolio that consists of one fifth solar energy. Add to this the fact that 1.5 percent of power generated will have to come from decentralized systems already 2011. This will increase to three percent by 2015. Most of this is expected to come from photovoltaics. Solar energy is likely to account for nearly 4.6 percent in 2020. The research institute GTM Research (Cambridge, MA) calls this the most aggressive solar objective in the U.S. This also fits in well with Washington’s policy on the climate in which President Barack Obama announced his intention to double the nation’s port­folio of ­renewable energy by the year 2012.

Cluster on research and development

New Mexico also offers companies in the solar industry a favorable environment with respect to research and development. The Sandia National Laboratories and Los Alamos National Laboratories are two internationally renowned research institutions. Sandia operates the National Solar Thermal Test Facility, where components and systems for solar thermal power plants are developed and tested, in addition to a Center for Photovoltaics that works closely with the industry. New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, located in the south, also has a research center on photovoltaics and other renewable energy sources. By the end of 2010, the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE will be looking to set up a test laboratory on solar modules that will also handle certifications. All in all, a veritable R&D cluster has formed in New Mexico.
A 1.6 MW system, the largest solar installation in New Mexico, is located on top of the Bell Group’s parking lot in Albuquerque. SCHOTT Solar PV, Inc. worked together with local suppliers and installation firms to install around 5,000 solar modules (also see photo above) on four acres of surface area. Photo: SCHOTT/K. Malone
Companies like SCHOTT Solar recognized early on the ­advantages that this location offers. Last year, SCHOTT Solar opened the world’s first manufacturing plant for both receivers and solar modules in Albuquerque. More than 300 jobs have been created so far in the south of the city, near the airport, and more than 100 million dollars in initial investments have been made. For SCHOTT Solar, commencing with manufacturing amidst the expanding U.S. market was clearly a strategic decision. As Dr. Gerald Fine, President & CEO of SCHOTT North America, puts it: “New Mexico represents an ideal location for solar manufacturing thanks to the state’s skilled labor, advanced infrastructure, and commitment to solar energy. The close ­cooperation between state, city, local officials and developers demonstrated to SCHOTT the clear commitment that New Mexico has made to becoming a leading location for the renewable energy industry.”