Oil production powered by sun

Chevron Energy Solutions has installed the first solar photovoltaic facility in California to help power oil field operations. The demonstration project represents the largest array of flexible, amorphous-silicon solar technology in the world.

ChevronTexaco announced yesterday that its energy services subsidiary, Chevron Energy Solutions (Chevron ES), has completed installation of the first solar photovoltaic facility in California to help power oil field operations.

At 500 kilowatts, the demonstration project is one of the largest photovoltaic installations in the United States and the largest array of flexible, amorphous-silicon solar technology in the world.

The new six-acre facility, dubbed Solarmine, resulted from the collaboration of ChevronTexaco and United Solar Systems Corp (Uni-Solar), a subsidiary of Michigan-based Energy Conversion Devices, Inc (ECD). The solar panels are manufactured by Uni-Solar and marketed under the UNI-SOLAR brand. ChevronTexaco owns 20 percent of ECD.

Located about 40 miles from Bakersfield in California’s San Joaquin Valley, the project is connected to the local electric distribution system and provides power to oil-well pumping units and processing plants in ChevronTexaco’s Midway-Sunset oil field.

The facility is comprised of 4,800 flexible, current-producing solar panels, each about 1.3 feet wide by 18 feet long, mounted on metal frames. Unlike glass-based photovoltaic systems, the amorphous-silicon technology-based panels can withstand direct impact and puncture without compromising their ability to generate power.

‘This project allows ChevronTexaco the opportunity to demonstrate the viability of a new solar technology for certain commercial and industrial applications, including oil field operations,’ said Jim Davis, president of Chevron Energy Solutions. ‘It also has given us valuable experience in the design and development of photovoltaic systems for the businesses and institutions we serve.’

Chevron Energy Solutions will review the facility’s output to learn how environmental factors such as heat and dust affect the technology’s performance.

‘The completion of this project is an important milestone in the development of thin-film solar energy solutions,’ said Stanford Ovshinsky, chairman and CEO of United Solar and president and CEO of ECD. ‘This facility is a good example of how this solar technology has quickly matured and become a viable solution for commercial and industrial situations requiring high-energy production.’