'Steel forest' in Uvalde to bring solar power to San Antonio

Via Scott Wudel, CPS Energy Newsroom

Out in Uvalde, a new forest is rising from the ground. How can a forest come to life and flourish in South Texas? When it’s made of silicon and steel.

The forest is actually a solar farm. It’s more of a ranch, really – it covers roughly 900 acres. Like other solar farms around the area, it’s designed to bring more renewable power to CPS Energy customers. The new farm will generate 95 megawatts (MW) of sun power – twice as much as any current farm now delivering power to greater San Antonio. It will be the largest solar farm in Texas.

OCI Solar Power, developer of four of the eight farms currently generating power for San Antonio, is continuing its commitment to provide 400 megawatts of solar to CPS Energy. These four farms are now producing 90 MW of clean power – with the largest producing 41 MW. The Uvalde farm, deemed “Alamo 5,” will eclipse the first four combined and will be complete later this year. Two more farms are on the way by 2017.

Roughly half of the Alamo 5 farm was built over the last eight months, despite the challenges of rocks, rain and rattlesnakes. Large steel assemblies, known in industry terms as “trackers” and manufactured by San Antonio-based Sun Action Trackers, line much of the acreage like steel tree trunks. Every day, more take root in the rocky terrain. In the end, there will be 9,000 of these steel trees, each holding a canopy of 42 silicon solar panels. Many of these panels were produced in San Antonio at the new Mission Solar Energy manufacturing facility.

Each tracker uses advanced technology – sensors to help the canopy of panels follow the sun’s arc both up and down and side to side, allowing the panels to generate more energy than fixed panels which only move in one direction. Inverters located across the site, made by KACO new energy, another New Energy Economy partner, convert incoming direct current, or DC, power from the panels to the alternating, or AC, power that customers use in their homes and businesses. When the farm is complete, a mind-boggling 378,000 panels will collect and convert sunlight into electricity. The 95-MW farm is expected to generate enough power for 17,000 homes. Read more

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