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Ecolite finds a place in the sun

Spokane Valley-based Ecolite Manufacturing Co. is slated to fabricate equipment for a new two-megawatt solar power plant destined for a California utility.

The product of an undisclosed arrangement between startup GreenVolts Inc. and Pacific Gas and Electric Co., both of San Francisco, the plant will sit on eight acres in Tracy, Calif., according to a PG&E news release. The project, the first commercial GreenVolts plant, will be completed in 2009.

GreenVolts’ technology, manufactured by Ecolite and scheduled for tests soon at an Avista Utilities site in Rathdrum, uses sun-tracking arrays outfitted with mirrors that concentrate sunlight onto solar cells. GreenVolts, which also has received unspecified financial backing from Avista, bills its systems as more cost-effective than traditional solar panels, potentially cheap enough to compete with natural gas as an affordable source of power to meet peak daytime demand.

PG&E also contracted with San Francisco-based Cleantech America LLC to construct a five-megawatt, 40-acre project near the utility’s Mendota substation in Fresno County, according to the release.

“These projects provide PG&E with a clean, reliable, and cost efficient way to deliver additional solar power to our customers,” said Fong Wan, a PG&E vice president, in a prepared statement. “By harnessing the power of the sun’s rays in a scalable way, we are taking a significant step towards reaching California’s renewable portfolio goal of supplying twenty percent of our customer needs with qualifying renewable energy by 2010.”

Ecolite CEO Ed Caferro said the deal represents some of several megawatts’ worth of bids out for GreenVolts systems. Ecolite already is adding 12,000 square feet, enough extra space to accommodate the order, he said.