SAN ANTONIO - A multi-million dollar investment has transformed the Alamo 1 solar farm into a leader in the solar industry.
Built in 2013, the mile-long, 445-acre facility on San Antonio's south side will have grown from 165,000 solar modules to 200,000 by the end of the month.
The new bifacial panels, which have been installed in a test bed, are at least six percent more effective than older panels because of the way they catch the sun's rays.
"Not only are we collecting the sun’s rays on the front side," says Leslie Ann Garza, OCI Solar Power's marketing and communications manager, "but then they reflect off the ground and we’re able to collect some more on the back side."
The dual purpose panels are perfect for San Antonio, which averages 220 days of sunshine annually.
"We have a lot of sun throughout the year," says Michael Meza, an OCI technician. "This is pretty much instant power, when needed, It’s kind of like an instant ready-made power source to produce out to the grid to CPS."
The panels are made locally, at Mission Solar.
Alamo 1 staffers are also excited about the purchase of new trackers, responsible for moving the panels in the optimum position throughout the day to capture the sun.
"They help the solar panels follow the direction of the sun," Garza says, noting the new trackers will last long and are more reliable than the older equipment.
OCI is investing "tens of millions of dollars" in the new technology," she says.
"This is something OCI is commtted to, We have a great partnership with CPS. It's something we undertook, but we're proud to have done it," Garza says.
Alamo 1 supplies enough energy to power about 10,000 local homes, Meza says.
All of the improvements help make San Antonio a little greener. Garza notes sheep actually are used to keep the grass at a manageable level at one of their two other area solar farms.
"We’re really excited to be able to reduce San Antonio’s carbon footprint," Garza says. "Here at this farm, it reduces it about 7,000 tons.'
There's another benefit to having grass underneath the panels.
"It keeps the ground cooler," Meza says. "If the ground is cooler, that will keep the panel cooler, which will actually produce more, compared to without grass."
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