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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, May 28, 2010

Test will be solar technology's debut in Isles

BY Greg Wiles
Advertiser Staff Writer

A type of solar technology that's never been used in Hawai'i will be tested here to help power the Maui High Performance Computing Center.

Arrays of so-called concentrated photovoltaic panels are being installed near the center under an Air Force Research Laboratory contract funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Concentrated photovoltaic panels differ from the flat panels used in conventional flat panels in that lenses are used to focus light on photovoltaic cells.

The technology also differs from conventional photovoltaic in that it is typically mounted on devices that move the solar panels to track the sun's movement.

The test also will look at how concentrated photovoltaic panels compare to conventional panels and how they perform in a tropical environment. Up to an acre of land may be used to install the arrays.

"This initiative provides a basis for a grounded, research-based expansion of solar energy alternatives in Hawai'i and other high solar-isolation island areas," said Thomas Glesne, a program manager for Schafer Corp., which is leading an industry consortium for the Air Force Research Laboratory.

Other partners in the project include Maui-based Rising Sun Solar, which is installing the panels built by Emcore Corp. of Albuquerque, N.M. The Dowling Co. and Munekiyo & Hiraga Inc. are helping with site development and permitting work.

Output from the 100 kilowatt array of panels also will be monitored to see how it can offset power needs of the computing system.

The Schafer Corp.'s announcement of the project follows other news this week that Castle & Cooke Hawai'i Inc. wants to build the state's largest solar farm on O'ahu.

That project, on roughly 120 acres near Mililani, would generate up to 20 megawatts of electricity, or enough to power 6,000 homes. It would use conventional photovoltaic panels.